After catching a mini-set from Underoath at a bash at the Key Club in Hollywood, I was intrigued. The Christian hard-core band was quickly garnering new fans of all persuasions. I was able to catch up with them for a talk just before their effort, "Define The Great Line" (Tooth & Nail/Solid State Records), hit the stores and at the very start of the "Vans Warped Tour."
Underoath's lineup includes vocalist Spencer Chamberlain, guitarists Tim McTague and James Smith, bassist Grant Brandell, keyboardist Christopher Dudley and drummer Aaron Gillespie. It was Gillespie who gives me his precious free time and we begin by discussing his childhood.
"I started taking interest in the drums when I was three. My parents put drums on my birthday cakes. I felt like that was my calling," Gillespie says. "I'm a drummer by trade. My mom played piano and sang, so I started singing when I was 13 or 14. I played guitar and went on from there."
The future, except for Underoath, is on hold for Gillespie, as the band began touring straight out of high school. If music hadn't grabbed him, he might have become a chef or a worship leader.
"I led worship at a church all through high school, at a church in my hometown. I think I'd be doing that," Gillespie told me.
He has recently finished a worship record on which he plays all the instruments.
"I cook every day at home," Gillespie shares his other passion. "I like to cook Mexican food a lot like strip steak and tortillas. I like to cook that a lot because it's a fresh summer kind of food and I'm from Florida, so summer's my favorite.
"I live a quarter mile from the ocean, so we have a lot of local seafood vendors and we have a lot of roadside mom and pop produce stands. I don't like Cubano food though."
"There's also a family owned seafood place in our area so we get a lot of stone crab and shrimp and fish," Gillespie continues. "My favorite thing is mullet fishes. We like to turn old refrigerators into smokers. It's very community. When I'm home we're always out in the front yard, tiki torches and grills."
OK, the big question-- grill or oven?
"I would prefer to grill because I like the summer so much," Gillespie replies. "I think it's just because I like that season. I love to cook anywhere. I find ways to make things in the microwave on tour. I just don't like to eat out that much. I'm so tired of eating out for so long, when I'm home me and my girlfriend, we eat at home every night."
On Underoath's Web site Gillespie claims to collect leopard print items, so I call him on it.
"Leopard items?" he stumbles. "Oh, that was just a joke. I'm a really big reader. I felt that I have a semi-neo-contemporary-modern style of writing I enjoy. I have a fear of airplanes and I've flown 15 times in the last month so I have to fly, it's my job obviously. I had a birthday party the other day and someone gave me a book called 'Ask the Pilot,' it was a nuts and bolts explanation of how planes fly and why they're in the air for so long and blah, blah, blah. I really enjoyed it."
Woah, this global trotting rocker has a fear of flying? I wonder.
"My thing with flying is I'm not afraid of heights, I'm afraid of being out of control," Gillespie explains. "If I get in a wreck on my scooter and I get badly injured or even kill myself it's my fault. If I get in a wreck on my scooter I'm an idiot. In a plane, if a plane goes down, I have nothing to do with it. It's a stupid error, the human didn't do something, the human didn't push the right switch."
We move on to how Underoath creates their material.
"We write together as a group all the time, always. Me and Spencer write the lyrics, the lyrics aren't so much a community thing, but it works out pretty good," Gillespie says. "One guy will come up with a guitar riff and we'll all show up to practice and jam on it. We don't have a specified formula or way of doing things. We're a jam band, we all play together."
"On this record I didn't have anything to do with the guitar writing, but I've played guitar for almost ten years now. I play other instruments," he adds.
I ask how Underoath copes with the challenges of being a Christian band in a secular scene.
"Jesus ate with whores and hookers and prostitutes and I want to blur the line between the Christian scene and what is not the Christian scene because all people need help and all people need to hear what we have to say or any Christian band," Gillespie responds. "Hopefully we can always play in this genre, I don't ever want to be in the Christian genre like just solely in the Christian genre where no one who's not Christian has heard of our band. I don't ever want to do that."
Gillespie goes on, "We write about every day life and what life's about and just how God has changed our outlook. It's about shedding a little hope in the world, but at the same time expecting the problems and dealing with them that normal people have."
Have their beliefs caused any strains while on "Vans Warped Tour" I question.
"No, never had a problem with that. Once you talk with someone and let them know how you feel and that you're accepting of them no matter what they believe it works out fine." Gillespie continues, "It's cool. The good thing about Warped Tour is everyone is so accepting here. If you're not accepting, you probably shouldn't be on this tour. The cool thing is we're accepting of everyone and everyone is accepting of us."
I remark that I can see how their music appeals to Christians and non-Christians alike.
"Our last record sold a pretty decent amount of records and very very few, about one percent, were sold in Christian stores," Gillespie assents.
I recall hearing that Gillespie's nickname is Pig, so I ask him about the moniker.
"I used to weight over 200 pounds a few years ago. That's where that joke comes from," Gillespie says frankly. Then shares his secret, "Going to Europe, not eating in Europe and just being busy."
The future includes a world tour with Taking Back Sunday and stopping in Australia, Japan and Europe, as well as headlining stints in Canada and the United States.
Returning to "Warped Tour," I remark that Underoath is one of the harder bands on the bill.
"Every Time I Die is probably the heaviest band here," replies Gillespie. "There's been a lot of bands here over the years that have been extremely heavy so I don't think we're the heaviest, but we'll see."
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