Underoath's Spencer Chamberlain talks about breaking up, reuniting, making new music and more
When he walked off stage on Jan. 26, 2013, Underoath singer Spencer Chamberlain could not bring himself to go home.
“I went to a hotel by myself, and laid in bed and slept until they kicked me out of the room the next day,” he said. “I couldn’t go back to my house. It was full of Underoath gold records and cool tour posters and stuff. I legitimately went to the Hilton down the road and got a room, and I didn’t even go out, didn’t even celebrate, didn’t do anything. I just sat in bed and laid there and slept.”
Three years makes a world of difference. On Wednesday, the Christian metalcore group will officially reunite at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, a hometown show that sold out almost instantly, before embarking on a nationwide comeback tour. It’s where Underoath — one of the most successful bands ever to call Tampa Bay home — will spring back to life, performing their albums They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line in full.
After three years, Chamberlain said, the fraying bonds that led to Underoath’s dissolution have healed. The time is right to reunite. And so far, everyone is into it.
“It seems really healthy to me for the first time,” Chamberlain said. “We learned to remember why we were all in a band together in the first place, which was because we loved each other. That stuff took a little bit of time. And where we’re at right now is a really healthy spot, possibly the healthiest spot since the first day I even showed up.”
That Underoath’s first ending was rather messy wasn’t entirely out of character for the band. Since founding in Ocala in 2007, the band has undergone several lineup changes; by the time of the final show in 2013, no original members remained.
But the lineup that coalesced in the early 2000s was the one most fans remember and revere. Their seemingly narrow niche in the music world — a band with Christian roots playing metalcore, a pummeling blend of metal, punk and emo — did not keep them from mainstream success. They played multiple stints on the Vans Warped Tour, received two Grammy nominations and saw two albums, Define the Great Line and Lost In the Sound of Separation, debut in Billboard’s top 10.
Becoming successful and tirelessly touring the globe, Chamberlain said, was what ultimately led to Underoath’s undoing.
“We never had a real break — and we over-toured, maybe, in my opinion,” he said. “We got to the size of a band where we didn’t have to stay on the road 10 to 11 months out of the year. That’s what we were taught; that’s what we thought you had to do. I think people just got tired. The guys started getting married and having kids, and it’s just a lot. We just wore it out. We wore each other out. And we needed to step back.”
After that final, emotional 2013 show at Jannus Live, Underoath’s members immediately went their separate ways. Guitarist Tim McTague runs local coffee roaster King State Coffee. Founding drummer Aaron Gillespie — who left the band in 2010, but returned for their final show — had a new band, the Almost, and became the touring drummer for Paramore.
Chamberlain, on the other hand, fell into a funk. It was the first time since age 12 he’d gone more than a month without performing.
“That’s just a hard thing to adjust to,” he said. “Living a normal life at home and having the same routine and seeing the same faces and being in the same city every day, it about drove me insane.”
Chamberlain started a new band, Sleepwave, that released an album and toured extensively. He did a run of shows as the guest vocalist for Taking Back Sunday. And as fulfilling as all that was, it just wasn’t Underoath.
“I talked to Aaron about it with the Almost, and it was like, 'Did it ever feel like it did with us?’” Chamberlain said. “And he said no. There’s just something different. I think it’s because we grew up together. We started this thing together.”
Within a couple of years of the breakup, the band was back in contact with one another, prepping a documentary about their final shows, and talk of a reunion soon followed.
“We had to learn how to make amends and forgive each other and be okay with each other’s differences, and the only way that was going to happen was if we took a step back,” Chamberlain said.
Last month they spent 10 days rehearsing in Tampa; they’re now in the midst of final preparations with a full crew before Wednesday’s gig. On Sunday they’ll play a small “surprise” show at Crowbar in Tampa to work out any remaining kinks.
Many of the dates on their reunion tour are sold out, and Chamberlain hopes they’ll tour Europe and Australia next year. Beyond that, he knows the inevitable question: Is a new Underoath album in the works?
“I think it would be ridiculous to pretend that we’re not going to start writing music,” Chamberlain said. “Right now, it’s pretty important to not put pressure on that. The focus is on the tour, and having all the original people there, and vibing, and learning to communicate again, and being happy.”
-- Jay Cridlin