Underoath Band Overachieves On Tour

This next series of articles are about how musicians and businesses connected to live entertainment are rebuilding their brands as fans return to live events. Underoath is a band which has been around for 25 years. The band was founded in Tampa, Florida in 1997 and played until 2013, then reformed in 2015 and went back to playing live shows aside from some quiet time during the pandemic.

Underoath is known as a post hardcore band with some elements of emo and metalcore. They play loud, fierce, and fully engaged. Their business strategy is much the same. I spoke with Tim McTague, their lead guitarist just as the band was heading into the last 10 shows of this tour in support of their new album Voyeurist which was released in January 2022.

McTague described their touring schedule as typically four nights on, with a night off followed by 3 more nights on. That’s a grueling schedule. They’re playing rooms which hold 1,500 to 3,000 people. That allows for excitement to build in the room. In fact, the day we spoke the band was preparing to play at The Fillmore in Silver Springs, MD.

This band built its audience old school. They ground out the shows, then broke down the stage, jumped onto the bus and drove through the night sometimes arriving directly the next day to their next venue. Their bus has the capacity for 12 to ride or sleep, so there are six band members on board, and six crew. It keeps you lean and focused, unlike now when Tik Tok or YouTube moves someone from their bedroom to private jet travel, then often right back down again.

Underoath plays approximately one hour, twenty minutes as they are a hard rock metal focused band which would otherwise be pummeling their crowd by playing longer. The crowd gets a full show, as there are as many as three acts on the bill before Underoath takes the stage.

Voyeurist, their new album is conceptual, playing with the concepts of observation. It’s the next progression by a band which has over the years morphed as they broadened their variety of style and structure. This was produced by Underoath themselves. They just set up shop and made their record. The songs were built together, in real time, while they worked live in studio.

Underoath’s sound has gotten more complex given the tools in the hands of Christopher Dudley whose prowess on keyboards allows them to produce a variety of sounds from strings to fills. By rounding out the sound, the music gains complexity. The band wanted to be sure the new record was not sterile. They wanted it to be engaging. Voyeurist reflected that everyone around the world during the pandemic were always just on their phones because human interaction was difficult. As a result, everyone became voyeurs of a sort.

The band set up cameras and live streamed their work. They then created a website in which those who wanted to listen to a song had to consent to having their camera accessed and those images broadcast. In a sense, the band became the observers, and the audience became the observed.

Similarly, the band has always had video elements as part of their live show. As technology improves, the LED back wall can produce more of an immersive feel. Adaption of sound and visual elements makes Underoath’s show feel more intense and immersive. This change from straight banging on the instruments may, in part may reflect the band members maturing, as they are now all in the mid-30’s with families.

Tim McTague is an enthusiastic interviewee. Below in both audio and video formats is our conversation:

Underoath does not set out in a live show to replicate their recorded music. They believe if you want to hear the album the way the album plays, stay home where it will identical every time. Live shows are for becoming part of the event as the band members play live to a crowd and in response to the energy brought to them by the audience. Underoath does not want their live shows to be compared to their records. Instead, they use live shows to maintain continuity with their fans.

This is a band which is much more complex and artistic than the stereotype of a metal band allows. Their creative aspirations are fascinating to contemplate and engaging to watch over streams or live at the show. During our interview while we discussed all the conceptual ideas behind the Voyeurist album, Tim McTague said “no one has the time to get the whole story.” I believe there is a way, but it involves going to the show and listening to the music. Once that hooks you, you’re in the Underoath community and well on your way to finding a higher connection where the sound and the concept melds a crowd of relative strangers into a unified collective of fans with a common appreciate for their art.

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