You read the headline right. Seminal hardcore band Underoath are returning to Australia in February next year to perform their two most popular albums – Define the Great Line and They’re Only Chasing Safety. Renowned for the intensity of their live performances, this is a show you do not want to miss. We had a chat with Keyboardist Chris Dudley to get the low-down on what to expect from this tour, how the band approach the Christian influences of these albums, and what Australian Underoath audiences are really like.
Underoath’s last tour of Australia, at Soundwave 2012, was marred with problems from the get-go. Technical problems in Brisbane reduced their set to three songs, and multiple issues cut their sets short in other cities. However, those 2012 shows were among the most intense that Underoath have ever played. Keyboardist Chris Dudley put it into perspective:
“The intensity of our performance at Soundwave was our frustration from coming all the way out here, and then not being able to play. So, we just put it all on the wall for 15 to 30 minutes.”
At the end of these shows, Spencer often made a promise to the crowd that they would be back and make it up to Australia. When Underoath announced their split in 2013, it seemed those promises would never be fulfilled. Even when the Rebirth tour was launched in 2015, it only included US dates, so again it seemed we would miss out.
But Underoath always had intentions to come back to Australia this way: “We’ve been planning this tour ever since we got back together… the set we’re playing is the longest set we’ve ever played, ever.” Chris began to get an inflection in his voice at that point. He’s clearly enthused about the prospect of coming back to a country that’s been the source of so many wicked live performances. However, is that intensity going to hold over what will ultimately be a 2 hour set?
“We’re all feeling better than we ever have…”, Chris laughs – it seems the two years off have been a positive move for him and the band, “…everyone we’ve ever talked to, even people in other bands and people coming to the show give us huge compliments about how much we put into each show, especially at our ages!”
This is an interesting point. When They’re Only Chasing Safety was released the band members were in their early twenties. Nearly 10 years of constant touring, releasing another three albums, plus two live DVDs clearly took their toll. Underoath disbanded just shy of They’re Only Chasing Safety’s 10 year anniversary. That must have influenced how the band approached some of their more popular songs.
“…we used to have to do Reinventing Your Exit and It’s a Dangerous Business in each set out of obligation – we don’t feel that way anymore. Doing full albums live, we place them in context and do more of the technical stuff and the heavier stuff that we couldn’t do before. We’d always have to smatter in new material and then go ‘alright guys, here it is’.”
Both They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define the Great Line have very strong Christian undertones. Chris says that at some points you can really tell the albums were written by guys who were in their late teens and early twenties. While it’s something that the band acknowledges, it seems fans don’t mind at all. People still come up to the band after their shows to tell them that songs written back in 1999, 2003 and 2005, changed their life – that they wouldn’t be where they are today if it wasn’t for Underoath’s music.
Chris says there can only be one explanation for this – and it isn’t one the band can take credit for: “Overall, God uses anything we have done in a positive way. We don’t feel like we have done anything – we just wrote songs and put out records, and did what we feel we should have been doing…”. It is obvious that Underoath never set out to be like For Today or any other band with an evangelical focus. They just wrote the music they felt they needed to write, and God took care of the rest.
Underoath’s experience with the Christian music scene hasn’t always been positive. Recently, drummer Aaron Gillespie came under fire for swearing on an episode of the BadChristian podcast. Another incident at a “Christian music” venue resulted in their set being cut short. These things could potentially have really coloured the band’s approach to the Christian music scene. But Chris explains that these experiences haven’t negatively influenced any individual band member’s faith, or their approach to Christianity in general. Rather these experiences have positively reinforced their personal approach to music.
“The most important thing with us is being honest in our music, shows, and dialogue”, he explains. “We want our fans to have a good time. We’re not just ‘bars out – break everything’ – we’re more ‘have a good time, don’t hurt anyone, if someone falls down, pick them up’.”
In fact, it’s the connection with fans that resulted in a Nashville show turning out the way it did. Chris tells the story of a kid who drove over 500 miles for the gig, and met the band at the pre-show meet & greet. The kid explained how much Underoath’s music meant to him. “… he got kicked out halfway through our set for crowd-surfing, and Spencer got pretty upset about it. We decided to cut our set short and see as many people on stage as possible.”
Chris highlights a discrepancy that exists at the moment between some bands and today’s Christian music scene, which helps to explain the bands reaction to the Nashville crowd-surfing incident: “Some people in industry circles don’t take kindly to words, opinions and the like, and they want to distance themselves from it.”, when this comes to the fans – there’s a definite reciprocity between the fans who love the band and their music, and the band who love the fans and their response to the music.
“The vibe on these shows is really different from a usual Underoath tour. It is way more positive than it has been… there’s lots of smiling and lots of people stoked to be there.” Returning to Australia after such a long time, it seems this will be even more than an atypical Underoath show. It will be a one-off, once-in-a-lifetime event.
Underoath are playing:
Brisbane – Friday, 10th February @ Eaton’s Hill
Sydney – Saturday, 11th February @ Enmore Theatre
Melbourne – Sunday, 12th February @ 170 Russell
Adelaide – Wednesday, 15th February @ Governor Hindmarsh
Perth – Thursday, 16th February @ Metropolis