If we were to write this interview last year, we’d be talking about an up-and-coming Christian hardcore band paying their dues. But now it’s 2005, and Underoath is one of the biggest names on Vans Warped Tour 2005, switching back and forth between main and side stages. A lot can happen in a year. Is it a miracle? No way, say Underoath’s Aaron Gillespie (drums and vocals), Chris Dudley (keyboards), and Tim McTague (guitar). These boys have done their time.
“Last year we did the whole tour, and none of our times got posted,” says Chris, who, despite telling us their tale of woe, is all smiles, long blond hair and perfect white teeth. “So we spent a few hours every morning, flyering and passing things out to kids. We worked super hard last year.”
Chris says he’s happy to inspire the other bands who saw them at last year’s Warped in the same spot they’re in now. “Yeah, it’s good to be where we are at and look back and remember when we were dragging our stuff in the mud. It makes you really appreciate it. Not like we’re all cool and look what we’ve got. Now it’s like bands are saying, ‘Dude, that’s awesome!’ Cuz we are doing the exact thing they did last year. We prove that if you work hard and bust your butt, things can happen.”
“I have never worked harder in my life [than Summer 2004],” says the lanky, red-haired Aaron. “But it’s probably been the best time in my life, too. It was rough. Everything went wrong. Our bus broke down like every ten minutes. Have you seen the movie, Sandlot, where everything went wrong, but at the end of the movie he goes, ‘nothing compares to that first summer’? That’s what it reminds me of. I always think of that when I think about last summer.”
“We would get up early, I mean really early," says affable, easy-going Tim, who’s working on his own set of perfect teeth with braces. The guys say they consider Tim the leader of the band. Tim’s “the most crazy on stage, and he stands out the most with the kids,” says Aaron. These are leadership qualities most of us missed in college's Management: 101.
“We would all have stacks of cards we would pass out,” says Tim, “and have to go back and get more and go back and pass them out. Since we didn’t have set times that we played, we would have to hand-write the times on each card, for each date,” he moans.
The band says they haven’t had a week off since January, but they don’t seem to miss free time much. The Underoath guys were made to perform. When they’re not touring, Chris says they eat a lot, practice for the next tour, and work on their next CD, to be produced by Matt Bayless, for which they have seven of ten songs done.
“Last year when I was playing,” says Chris, “I was like, holy cow, these shows are crazy!” And they were on a smaller stage. This year, we are on a bigger stage, and I still have the same feeling. [In both cases] I still walk out on stage and am like, wow, I never thought we would be here.”
“My mom is a freak,” chuckles Aaron. “She thinks this [success for the band] is the best thing since Christmas.”
The guys say their families have all been supportive, if not a little bit psychic:
“At one show, I was away from my mom for like an hour and a half,” says Chris. “And she became friends with this group of kids. A lot of people come up and ask if she is my mom. She’s all about showing me off. It is really cool. They are all really supportive. Back a couple years ago, when the band was struggling to make ends meet, my parents helped us out a lot. My mom has always been like, ‘you guys are going to be really big.’
“And a couple years ago, before we had any records, we played a show in Idaho. This guy was like, ‘dude I think you guys are going some place.’ He made a bet with me that we would sell over 100,000 copies and if he won I had to buy him this football jersey that he wanted that cost over $200. I thought, A.) it wouldn’t happen, or B.) if it did, I would have enough money to pay for it. And so, with the last record, I called him and sent it up to him! A year earlier, we were playing in Florida and we saw this band on a bus. We were like, ‘ah, that would be amazing if we were on that.' And my mom said, ‘Next year this time, you will be on a bus just like that.’ Everyone laughed, ‘ah that’s Chris’s mom!’ And here we are a year later. I am glad I didn’t make more bets like that.”
Despite all this success, however, the band is well-grounded in their belief, in their music, and in their egos. “We still get nervous everyday,” says Tim.
“Even now, on the main stage, we worry that there won’t be people,” says Chris with total sincerity. Judging by the reception and enormous crowd at the St. Louis Warped set, this worry is for naught.
The band says they don’t have much trouble with being mobbed or bothered by fans…except for a certain girl in England…
“Warped Tour is cool cuz kids aren’t for the most part, like, oh oh! [he does a crazy, out of control fan impression],” says Chris.
“There’s so many people walking around. Everyone is walking around, so it’s not that big of a deal,” Aaron adds.
“There is automatically, like, a stigma though, from that fence where you flash a card, and then somebody with a walkie-talkie waves you in, versus [being someone that the guard] stops. That automatically makes kids assume someone is higher up or better than those stuck on the outside of the fence. That’s where a lot of kids come from. That is something we kinda try to not let happen. We are no better than anyone else. If you can’t tell by the bean bag shirt. [He motions to his apparel, a worn retro T]. We try to not shut kids off. Give them an autograph or picture if they want. We’re like, dude, your girlfriend made you cry; so did mine. We’re all the same,” says Tim.
Aaron muses about the whole autograph-thing: “I don’t understand why someone would want my name on a paper. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I know how I am. I know what I do when I am on the bus and at home. I know that I am not that cool of a person. It’s kinda weird. But yeah, it’s flattering.”
Tim, however, says we shouldn’t believe Aaron’s modesty. “Aaron, he’s kinda high maintenance, rock star-ish,” he teases. Aaron shrugs with a playful, ‘who, me?’ look.
“There was one particular girl from in England that scared the *&%$ out of us,” Aaron continues. “She lives in Mince, England. You wake up on the bus in the morning…and she’s standing there.”
“I feel really bad, cuz she is really nice,” says Chris, who Tim describes to us as the ‘people lover’ and ‘a big teddy bear.’ And Chris’ sad defense of this girl is proof. “But then she grabs you and touches your hair…” He wears a momentary expression of horror and total violation.
“She’s out of this world,” laughs Tim.
Underoath have been a band since high school, and have several changes in sound as well as band members before meeting the success of today. They say that occasionally old fans have a problem with some of these changes.
“We had this one CD that was very metal,” says Aaron. “Every once in a while this one kid wanted to hear a certain song from that CD. Just the other day, he had a sign with this song title on it, he wanted us to play it. He was actually angry that we didn’t play that song. I tried to explain that we couldn’t play that song. It’s not us anymore. I’m sorry. That stuff is kinda weird sometimes.”
Unfortunately, Nighttimes.com didn’t get to meet the rest of the Underoath guys. We asked Chris, Tim and Aaron if they’d tell us what we missed:
The guys say that their guitarist, James Smith, is the silent type. “He is the prettiest one of the band; he’s a loner, vintage-meets-Abercrombie,” jokes Aaron.
“He doesn’t try to be, he just wakes up and is,” adds Chris.
“Grant [Brandell, bass] is just goofy,” laughs Chris. “He is sloppy. Not sloppy like, ‘look at my room--it’s messy.’ His whole life is sloppy. Grant’s out of tune. He’s kinda like Pig Pen [from the Peanuts].
“As soon as he comes out of the shower his hair already looks greeeezy, laughs Tim.
“Spencer is the elitist of the band,” Tim continues. “It is a good lead singer-trait to have. He sets it all apart.”
What would Underoath like nighttimes.com to take away to their readers about this band?
“We are a freakin’ jammin’ for the Lamb. We do our best to rock the flock every night. Strings for the King. I am a lyricist,” laughs Aaron. “And we thank God for it every day.”
Look for Underoath to tour with The Used this fall. You can check out their entire tour schedule at www.underoath777.com.