Standing the test of time with ease and grace, Christian Metal veterans, Underoath, have garnered a loyal fanbase that’ll go to bat for the band without hesitation over one hell of a journey and span of nearly two decades. As a prime force carving the way for a variety of Metal acts today, Underoath has toured internationally and shared a rewarding tale of perseverance, faith, darkness and love over seven studio albums that have eternally marked their place into Christian Metal history. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Underoath guitarist, Grant Brandell, prior to the show in Detroit to discuss being back on the road, what the band would like Underoath to be remembered for, going back home to Tampa after touring the world, tattoos and more.
How have crowds been receptive to the setlist so far on the ‘The American Nightmare’ tour? Is it a mix of your discography on this tour? Are you traveling back to the 1999 days of ‘Act of Depression’, ‘Cries of the Past’, ‘The Changing of Times’, etc?
We’re pretty much starting from 2004 when ‘Chasing Safety’ came first. The crowds have been really good. Honestly, we ask every night and probably 80-90% of people are seeing us for the first time, which is super crazy for us, but it’s also awesome. We are earning the crowd again and earning new fans, which is very cool. It’s funny saying that we are going to play an old song and everyone responds by saying that these songs are technically new to them. We haven’t put out a record since our 2010 release, ‘Ø (Disambiguation)’, so a lot of these kids were eleven or twelve years old when that album came out. It’s a cool thing because a lot of these kids have heard our name yet haven’t seen us or heard our music, so it’s a whole new audience to reach into.
Wow. You guys are truly building a whole new group of fans. When it is all said and done, what do you want Underoath to be remembered for?
Just being genuine as far as music. A positive influence. Being real. As far as live shows and how we interact with people, we have not let anything get to our heads and are just trying to put out the best music that we can.
Totally. Remaining human.
Yeah. Being humble. The band has been around since 1998 and most of us have been in the band for fifteen years, and to be able to do that in a Hardcore Metal band is pretty insane. I think that for a lot of us, the breakup period where we were gone for two or three years gave us a different appreciation for what we do now that we have come back to it.
Yeah, and you guys probably developed that gratitude for your journey over the time off while reflecting upon all that you have achieved and experienced. If you could bring yourself back to the year 1999 of being a kid who started a band and the release of ‘Act of Depression’, did you ever think that a run like this could be possible?
No. I don’t think that you can think past a year or two down the road when you are young. Being thirty years old seems like you are the oldest person ever when you are 21 years old. I think at the time, you are in the moment, and as you grow you become more reflective on the past which in turn helps you enjoy the present more.
Powerful. Going back to Tampa after the touring the world multiple times, has your perception of “home” changed at all?
Yeah. I think that it has for everybody. Home was more of a stopping point before when we were touring for nine months a year. But now, some of us have wives, houses, families, mortgages, kids, and other jobs, so home is more of a base now. The touring is more of the secondary aspect. When we got back together, we decided that we were going to do it, but do it in a sense where we weren’t killing ourselves. We are enjoying it. We are only touring when it makes sense because our lives and our priorities are at home now.
Absolutely. Imagine having to miss those foundational days due to being out on the road. So, is there ever going to be a follow-up to your 2010 seventh studio album, ‘Ø (Disambiguation)’?
We are open to it. There is no guarantee of anything at this point, but I think that for us right now, we are getting to the point where we are enjoying what we are doing and starting to ask what’s next. I don’t think that anyone is opposed to it, but there aren’t any definite plans at this point.
Your lyricism has been known to be metaphorically rich with expression toward your higher power. I’m not personally sure if that is a certain individual in the band’s perception or if it is a universal thing. Have you deepened your relationship with your higher power over the years of expressing your bond through your lyricism as a musician?
I am actually atheist. We are kinda split up now as far as what we all believe. Spencer writes 95% of the lyrics, and I think that he definitely believes in a higher power. As for Spencer, he has changed in a sense through expressing himself lyrically. As he was growing up, he dealt with a lot of things in his teens and early 20’s as far as addiction, and I think that his process of dealing and growing through it as become a lot more balanced, which is reflective within his lyrics. Spencer has reminded himself of where he was and how far that he has come through our lyricism.
Your lyrics have gradually become a lot more grounded over the years.
Grant – Yeah, definitely.
What is your perception of the current state of Christian Metal? Are there any Christian Metal bands that you are really digging at the moment and would like to give a shout-out to?
I don’t really listen to much Christian Metal, but for the few bands that I do follow, I love Lamb of God because they put out great music consistently. Deftones have always pushed the boundaries which I think is great. One record that I jam for awhile is the new Gorija record.
Dude, Gorija is so good live.
Nice. There is a mix of things that I listen to, and I think that that attributes to being out of the touring scene for awhile.
You are more than likely listening to music a bit more toned down at home these days.
Yeah. There is almost an overabundance of music out there, but now that I’m not surrounded by it as much as I used to be, I am listening to a lot of the stuff that I listened to back when we first started touring.
Awesome. Ever since you began, the music industry inevitability has gone through a massive change. What is the best change that you have encountered over the years?
I think the ability to connect to your fans through technology and social media is by far the best change ever. It can be daunting at times, but the fact that you can have a personal connection with a fan that you have never met is really cool, and you can reach way more people through social media as well. There wasn’t a way to reach that many people that quickly back when we started.
Another thing that I don’t think a lot of bands even think about anymore is GPS. iPhones.
You guys probably save so much time on tour from not being lost in the middle of nowhere.
Yeah! Even with Uber, it is common now, but before we had to call the promoters for directions, etc. Back when we started touring, you had to pull out the roadmap to figure out where you are going.
That would be a cool photo to see – you guys back in the day with the roadmap out seeking your next destination…
Right! Just lost and angry.
Are there any particular songs with personal meaning that you enjoy playing live?
Yeah. There are a couple songs that I really enjoy playing including “Illuminator” off of the last full-length record that we put out and “Emergency Broadcast :: The End Is Near” off of our 2008 release, ‘Lost in the Sound of Seperation’. Both of those songs are new and fresh to me because we didn’t get to play them as much before. They represent where Underoath is musically these days and where we might be going. It’s an interesting thing when you make a setlist because you have to cater to all fans and all albums.
And as you mentioned, you have fans that have been there since day one amongst the newer fans that are just being introduced to your discography.
Tell me about that full sleeve that you have on your left arm. It looks like a dreamy underwater scene. Where did you get that piece tattooed?
I only have two sleeves and I got them done by the same guy by the name of Mike Parsons who lives in Central Florida right outside of Tampa. He has done some of both Aaron and Spencer’s pieces. He has his own shop and he does some really great work. If I could just finish my other sleeve, I would be happy!
Well, you are well on your way. Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?
We are going to keep doing this thing. I think that a lot of people are unsure about that. We have found a place being comfortable being an active band again, and we are going to keep touring. Keep an eye out for us, and thank you so much for supporting us through a breakup and after almost twenty years.