Friday, November 5, 2010

Underoath Interview with Grant Brandell

The summer that I graduated high school, I found myself drawn to a certain album cover. "They're Only Chasing Safety," may have been the first album that I had purchased that included "scream" vocals, but it certainly was not the last. For over a year, that album was in heavy rotation in my car and on my very cool stainless steel Dell DJ, on top of being one of my favorite album to listen to with the windows down. It also acted as a gateway to appreciating other types of music, that I had previously not been exposed to. Over the past several years, Underoath has continued to release heavier music that breaks the barriers of hardcore by inventing brand new sounds outside of the normal spectrum of the genre.
With the release of their new record, "Disambiguation," quickly approaching (November 9th), I had the chance to speak briefly with bassist Grant Brandell concerning their fresh take on the writing/recording process and how they managed to generate a darker overall sound.

So how did you guys land on the name “Disambiguation” for your new album?
Grant: Well, the name (“Disambiguation”) came from the actual symbol that we have ( ᴓ). It has a bunch of definitions for, but that is one of them. Basically what we were trying to do originally was leave the album name just as the symbol, but obviously people need a name to call it by so we decided to go with that definition of the symbol. The symbol has so many different definitions, and so many different ways to define it. It kind of represents what we thought of our band in the regard that not one member makes up or group. People come and go, there are no original members now and the band seems to be it’s own thing. We thought that was pretty cool, so that is where it came from.
The album is coming out on Tooth & Nail and Roadrunner?
Grant: Yes, it is going to be released in the States and Canada on Tooth & Nail, and the rest of the world on Roadrunner.
How did you get hooked up with Roadrunner?
Grant: We met one of their agents over in Germany, when we were over there on tour. Tooth & Nail does a great job for us in the states, but there hasn’t been a big push for overseas growth. We wanted to try something new and we were in the works of renegotiating, so we brought the idea to them and it ended up working out well without hurt feelings. We are stoked to be on Roadrunner, because from what I have seen they always do a great job pushing a band.
How would you say the recording process for “Disambiguation” differed from previous releases?
Grant: Well we did this one with Matt Goldman, who did the last one too. This one was a lot more comfortable, at the same time extremely analytical. We pretty much analyzed every point, but in a good way. It would be stressful at times, but everyone was down with trying to go in the same direction, which we haven’t been before. With past members we caught a lot of bumps in the road with where the song should go, what should happen in the song and the overall vibe. I think this is the first time on a record that everyone was on the same page, to go wherever the song took them and not forced at all. It was defiantly stressful, but it was the most exciting vibe that we have had in the studio. It was great that we were able to create something new that was fresh and really stoked to be a part of.
Has having a new drummer brought change to the group?
Grant: It was kind of a big change; because our old drummer Aaron (Gillespie) did a lot of the singing too and now our signer Spencer does everything. So it was definitely a big change in that regard.
With Aaron’s departure, is anyone going to step up and do the clean vocals? Spencer maybe?
Grant: Yeah, he is going to be doing all of the vocals. I wouldn’t say that it was fifty-fifty, scream to clean vocals, but it is pretty close to that. He is doing a lot of singing, which is awesome. He has always been a good singer, but it just never came up because Aaron had such a great voice. He just kind of took the reigns this time and shocked everyone really. He did a great job.
How would you say the writing differed for this album, from than that of previous releases? Was it written before or after Aaron left?
Grant: There were a couple of ideas with Aaron, but it was actually very much like the theme/style like “Changing Future Dreams.” When we got Spencer in the band, we were like “We have a new singer, lets put the record out now. Let’s get it done because we haven’t put anything out in two years.” We had a writing schedule already booked for this album; we had studio time already booked. We wanted to release the record before it was too late. A lot of times with labels, if you try to release an album in mid-to-late November, it get pushed back to February. So we had all of this time booked and everything, and were on the last leg of a European tour that we were on, before we came home and started writing, Aaron ended up leaving. Literally, within a week from being back home, we called Daniel and he was down at the house. He just jumped in headfirst. He never played on a metronome, and he learned that. We wrote the whole record in a about a month and a half, and just crunched it out three to five times a week. It was definitely exciting and it felt the same way as when we were making “They’re Only Chasing Safety.” There was a new vibe there and a new direction to go. Looking back, it was kind of ridiculous that we were able to pull it off, and keep the same schedule that we had planned, which was already tight. As far as the writing process went, everyone was involved and even Daniel came with guitar riffs and such (he used to write guitar riffs for Norma Jean back in the day). In the studio, it wasn’t sold, until all six dudes were sold on it.
So when you guys approached a song for this album, you just brought in separate ideas and collaborated from there?
Grant: Yeah, pretty much. We are all on the same page, as far as everyone has an equal say. Obviously just because of musical purposes, Tim writes the most because he is the guitar player, whereas someone like Chris who plays the Keyboards, he has an equal say. If a part sucks, you have to tell the guy “the part sucks.” It is just cool to know that everyone is on the same page, and we have passed the “emotional/hurt feelings stage.” We realize that what we are trying to do is important, and that we are trying to make music with these other five guys, because you trust them and you care about their opinion. When they say something, you are going to listen and take it in.
In your past records, especially in your last release, “Lost in the Sound of Separation,” a great deal of the lyrics seemed to be faith-based. Is that trend going to continue in this album?
Grant: Yeah, we are still the same dudes. Spencer writes most of the lyrics, and he is the same guy. Kind of the same themes, like moving on with life, and different struggles. I think the big thing with us is that it is written more from a “Christian perspective,” not “Christian lyrics.” Things like dealing with situations, whatever they may be, and how God intertwines with that. How your views, beliefs, and feelings intertwine with those decisions. Spencer has been writing a majority of the lyrics since “Define the Great Line,” so I think that the style of the lyrics will keep the same path, but kind of a little darker this time. He is the kind of guy who has been through a lot of stuff, and struggles with a lot of stuff and at the same time has a lot of views and thoughts about being in the world. So that is all kind of mixed in there.
You had stated that Spencer’s lyrics were a little bit “darker” this time around. Do you think that extend into the actual music? Does the album have an overall “darker” vibe to it?
Grant: I think so, for sure. This album has some of the heaviest songs that we have ever written. I think that the “sing” melodies are a lot more minor and have a darker vibe to them. Even the stuff that could be considered the “prettier” stuff, still has that kind of dark/indie mood to it. There is very little on the record that sounds “poppy.”
What is next for you guys? Touring?
Grant: Yeah, we actually leave in November for a tour with A Day To Remember

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