Underoath got its start as a Christian metal band from Tampa, Fla. Ordinarily, you would be safe in assuming that such a provenance would guarantee niche popularity, at best. Underoath defied those expectations, becoming a much-lauded force in popular heavy music with a frequently dark, occasionally striking melodic style and memorable hooks. Over the course of seven albums in eight years, the band has displayed a nuance that sent its Christian albums up mainstream charts. Recently, the band parted with longtime drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie, creating worry and confusion among Underoath’s longtime fans. The Current caught up with guitarist Tim McTague to discuss the new band, its new album, and what it means to be Christian metallers.
What’s the significance behind the title of the new album, Ø Disambiguation? The making of the record, just everything about it felt very defining for us. The actual original idea for the title of the record was the Ø symbol; the record is actually called that symbol, and then Disambiguation. Again, the symbol kind of represents the greater Underoath, and not necessarily any members coming or going. When Aaron quit and Daniel came in, there were a lot of people who were extremely stoked, but there were a lot of people who felt like the band was over, due to one person leaving.
Listening through the band’s lyrics, they’re pretty bleak. What’s with all the hopelessness? There’s a lot in the world that is kind of a bummer. The problem with a lot of religious groups, or any group, is that they get together and just put a Band-Aid on it, and I don’t think you should do that. Even historically, reading a lot of the Bible or other religious books, those dudes had the worst lives ever. A lot of it wasn’t even because of their own trials, but from looking around the world and thinking, “Man, this crap is screwed up.” I think that’s where we come from. It’s really important to be a realist.
Aside from a few obvious detours, the new album is pretty straightforward and brutal. Is there any intention of ever lightening things up, overall? Nope. We don’t really have a five-year plan. The only thing that I would love to do, which I don’t think will ever happen as only half of us are in agreement, would be to record an instrumental EP and just have it be an ambient, Mogwaiesque record.
Was there any intention behind including those two very different tracks “Driftwood” and “Paperlung”? There actually was. We really like the idea of an `album` from start to finish feeling like an intended composition, as well as like a record in sequence. I think if you track any of our records . . . they’ve all had a sequenced journey flow to them. We structure records where the whole 10 or 12 songs flow the way a single, three-minute song will, with peaks and valleys and stuff. We’ve always been into ambient sounds, instrumental jams, and the way they fit into a song. And those songs just do the same thing, but for a whole album.
Do you still consider yourselves to be a specifically Christian band? What does that mean for you, and how has it changed? I think we do, as a group. We all view existence, creation, God, and things of that nature completely different. To say that we are a unified, canonized group of people — that’s not the case. To say that we’re on the same page as far as wanting to change things in a positive way, yeah. There’s not a 10-point motto for an Underoath belief, though, where I think in the past there was.•
Underoath with A Day to Remember
6pm Mon, Nov 22
1305 E Houston St