Lead singer Spencer Chamberlain talks about raising the bar on the band’s newest album Lost in the Sound of Separation, making music just to have fun, recreating the live sound in the studio, and not being too afraid to ask for help.
You have a new record out now called Lost in the Sound of Separation, which I believe is a line from the song “We Are the Involuntary.” How does that relate to the record as a whole?
I just felt like it was right for the record. It kind of ties everything together. It’s kind of a long story, but the line basically means that in my life, or anyone’s life, I feel like you have a lot of different people telling you what to do. People are always going to express their opinions on how you should live your life, be it your friends or your parents, or the television or the news.
Then, you got your own opinions and what’s going on in your own head. For us being Christians, we have what God wants us to do with our lives. Being Lost in the Sound of Separation is like when you get all that stuff happening at once, it just sounds like noise. So it’s like that struggle of weaving in and out of what you shouldn’t be doing, you know?
Some of the lyrics on the record are pretty dark but there’s always some hope given. Is that what you were trying to communicate?
There’s not really any intention or goal, really. I just kind of write all the time. I write about my own life and what I know best. I’m not making up stories. What I know best in this world is myself and the places that I go through, so I just write them down and over time eventually make them into songs. That’s just the way I live my life.
I have a lot of issues and struggles, just like every other human in the world, but I always feel like there’s something else because I do believe in God. So there is going to be that sense of hope in some of the songs. It’s normal for me, I guess. It’s not really like, I should make this a little bit more positive, or whatever.
The band has taken big stylistic jumps with each record, and this one it seems you build a lot off of what you did before on Define the Great Line.
Yeah, definitely with Define the Great Line we figured out what kind of music we all agree on, and what we like to write together and enjoy playing. I don’t think the style is a huge jump on this record, but we definitely went way above and beyond in many different levels, like challenging each other. There’s definitely stuff we wrote on this record that we wouldn’t have been able to play two years ago.
We messed with a lot of different time signatures. We tried to stay really open minded. There’s songs on the record that are the heaviest things we’ve ever written, and then there’s a song or two that’s the most mellow thing we’ve ever written or done. Not for any reason, but we just tried to make an album. We don’t want kids to download their favorite songs. We want people to hear it as one piece, I guess. It was more of an effort of making an album. We tried not to be in any sort of category, like oh, you can’t do this because you’re a heavy band, or you can’t do that because of whatever.
We just tried to really write the best music we could write, and I feel like we’ve done that. We raised the bar on all ends of the spectrum – lyrically, vocally, musically, production wise. I feel like it’s definitely a huge jump, whether people really realize it or not, for us. People who are musicians could probably tell, but maybe average people would just be like, “Oh, it’s kind of like Define the Great Line.” But there’s definitely a lot of changes.
As far as the songwriting process goes, you don’t really believe in b-sides or anything like that. How does that work out?
Yeah, we don’t have any b-sides. There’s six of us in the band, so we go into the studio with exactly everything we’re going to record. Nothing less and nothing more, really. We’re not the kind of band that takes six months off and writes records really fast. We work really slow over a long period of time.
We started writing this record probably a month after Define the Great Line came out. We’re always writing and we’re always progressing. When the six of us agree on something, that’s kind of it. There’s no need to write 40 extra songs just so we can pick the six or seven we agree on. That’s not really how it works for us.
You worked with the same producers again [Adam Dutkiewicz and Matt Goldman] that did Define the Great Line. Did anything change this time? How did it compare with your previous experience?
Not really. We picked those guys because they’re our friends. We’re comfortable with them and it’s fun. Going with a real big-time producer, it’s kind of like their project. With these guys, particularly because they’re our friends, they respect us. They know what we’re capable of and what our potential is. They enjoy what we do and they back what we do a hundred percent. They’re just really good at getting the best out of our performances and getting the best sounds out of our gear, or whatever it is we’re using. They don’t help us write our songs or anything. We’re not that type of band. Having a seventh dude putting an opinion on what the six of us already agreed on doesn’t really work for us.
So, we found these dudes with Define the Great Line and it worked out as good as it did for us sonically and mood wise, just being in the studio and always being happy. Having a dude tell you to redo it because he knows you can do it better and he believes in you. It’s not like some Joe Schmoe behind the boards, expecting the biggest paycheck as possible. Why not do that again? We’re not trying to recreate anything, but it works really well for us and it’s really comfortable.
I don’t know if you’re in a band or not, but the studio can be a high stress situation. It can be very comfortable. It can be very uncomfortable. We definitely worked with people where it was very uncomfortable before. This was just like it was right last time, so why change it? Why go somewhere unfamiliar and have to worry about, man, am I even going to get along with this dude? If I don’t get along with him, and I don’t respect him or he doesn’t respect me, or both, you’re not going to get the best out of me on this recording. That’s just a big risk to take in my mind.
I’d much rather work with dudes that I can go out to a restaurant with and laugh and have a good time. Or hang out with on a day off from the studio, and then go and work the next day and it’s all the same thing. You’re laughing and you’re having a good time. I think you can tell when you hear the record the difference once we joined with them. Everyone at their peak potential and not anything really compromised, whereas before it was a little more uncomfortable and not that way.
It also seemed you did a little bit more singing this time. What kind of things did you want to do vocally with this record?
I’m always trying to be better at what I do. I’m a guitar player as well. My entire life I’ve been playing guitar. I have the same mindset of, well, I’m never going to be the best guitar player or the best singer, and that always makes me want to be better and do more. I’m always learning more. I’m always practicing. I’m always trying to conquer new feats. I sing a lot on this record, a lot more than people actually realize. There’s a lot of things where you can’t tell if it’s me or Aaron, and a lot of times it’s both of us. Me and Aaron have gotten really good at singing together.
When we figure out what works live, if we can’t do it live, let’s not do it on the record. So everyone’s like, “Oh, if it’s singing, it’s Aaron,” but that’s not true on this record at all. Sometimes it just makes sense for me to do it. Sometimes rather than me doing it, it’s him doing it because it sounds better or best supports the song. When we’re practicing, it’s like, “Man, there’s no way I’m going to have enough breath to do both.” So it’s like, “Aaron, you should sing this line,” or vise versa. He’ll be like, “There’s no way I can play this drum part and have enough breath to do this, so let’s switch that there.”
We both say, “Let’s make it to where these songs are right live.” If I’m singing a part and there’s a harmony, it’s Aaron doing the harmony. Or if he’s singing a part and there’s a harmony, it’s me doing the harmony. We did it the same way we do it live on this record, which is a first for us. We try to give kids something real, and that was definitely something we thought about before we went into the studio.
You guys are definitely one of the most intense, energetic live bands I’ve seen. You mentioned how you want to carry that from the recording into the live performance. How do you think you’ve been able to be so successful with that?
I don’t know, man. As far as getting it right in the studio, it’s just all about having fun. If you enjoy what you’re doing and believe in the song that you’re playing, writing and recording, you should be able to get that across in the studio. And live, it’s just natural. That’s what we thrive off of – playing for people. It’s fun. We have fun doing it. Go until you can’t go anymore.
We’re lucky enough to be doing this at all. We’ve all been dreaming about doing this for our entire lives. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who feel the same way that don’t get to do it. So that 30 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes you’re on stage, or however long your set is, if you don’t give it your all, you don’t deserve to be up there. That’s our mindset.
What kind of toll does all that screaming do on your voice? Is there anything you do to keep it fresh?
There’s a lot of technique to it. I had a vocal coach and I’ve been very well trained. It’s all just about warming up, knowing what you’re doing, and knowing your voice inside and out. Just like knowing the guitar, you need to know what scale you’re in or what key you’re in and where to go. It’s the same thing with your voice, singing and screaming wise. There’s a lot to learn and there’s a lot to be taught.
I take it very seriously, so I don’t ever lose my voice. The only occasion where I do is when I have the flu or something, but that never really happens. It’s all about taking care of yourself. Getting enough sleep. Drinking lots of water. I do warm-ups everyday, whether I want to or not. You got to know what you’re doing. If you just get up there and scream, you’re definitely going to hurt yourself and lose your voice.
Do you have a favorite song from the new record?
I kind of love them all. We’re all really proud of this record and really pleased with it. It depends on the kind of mood I’m in. There’s not one song on the record I’d change, so I can’t really just pick one, you know?
The last two songs are pretty different for the band. How did they come about?
We just wanted it to be an album. If you just downloaded that one song, you’d be like, “Wait, this isn’t Underoath! What the hell?” We don’t want kids to just pick one song and then be like, “Oh, that’s my favorite song.” We want it to be an album. 11 songs of just in your face, brutal whatever, doesn’t really make an album. So, in the middle it kind of slows down for a minute. There’s another song that’s mid-tempo. Then at the end, it really chills out and gets super dramatic to that effect of a full story. A full closure. That was the whole goal, so that’s why we wrote those songs that way.
I was watching the DVD included with the album and it looked like you adlibbed the last part on “Desolate Earth.” What’s the story behind that?
No, not really. It was originally going to be instrumental. When we got done writing it, those lines popped into my head and I wrote them down. I actually went up to Chris and went, “Dude, what do you think about this? This is just the way I feel when I heard it.” He’s like, “That’s awesome.” So I ran into the vocal booth, tracked it, and that was it.
I think it ends so well with those words and stuff.
Yeah, it turned out really well. I was pretty stoked about it.
You released “Desperate Times, Desperate Measures” as the first single. What is that song about and what does it mean to you?
It’s kind of a long story. I tried to paint a picture as a story. It’s definitely a song about being in situations where you should stop dwelling on it and ask people for help. Ask your friends to be there for you. If you read the lyrics, it’s more of a visual story of a dude in a cellar locked down there, kind of weak and dying. He tries to scream out for help but no one can hear him because everyone’s upstairs. There’s a line, “I hear them talking but can’t make out the words.”
It’s that struggle of getting to the point where you need to ask a friend, or ask God or your parents, or whatever you feel is right, and be like, “You know, maybe I’m not as together as I should be. I need to stop being ashamed of it. Can you help me out a little bit?” That kind of scenario.
I’ve noticed you’ve been doing a lot of foreign touring recently. What is that like for you?
This time we just got home and it’s the best it’s ever been. It’s starting to get the same all around the world, which is awesome. It used to be really bad for us, but now it’s gotten to the point where we can get the same amount of kids anywhere in the U.S. and anywhere in Australia, Europe, South Africa or wherever we are. Everywhere around the world is being really good to us right now, so it’s awesome.
Over the last couple years it seems like the band’s personal lives have received a lot of focus, particularly the Warped Tour incident. What do you make of that and has that been hard to deal with at all?
It’s all right. Whatever. People want to hear about certain things. You can’t just pretend like nothing ever happened. Everyone asks about it a lot, which gets kind of annoying, but whatever.
Originally appeared on Mammoth Press