Frontman Aaron Gillespie talks about the concept behind the band’s second album Monster Monster, what it was like working together as a band for the first time, and what the latest is with Underoath.
So you’re new record came out yesterday. How are you feeling about it so far?
Pretty good, I think. I really love the record and hope everyone else likes it too, but you never know. It’s 2009.
This record is loosely based around this monster concept, which I understand sort of came about accidentally. Can you talk about how that formulated?
The title and everything was for sure intentional. It talks about how every person has a dark side in their life. It’s about getting it out there and talking about it, and that whole thing. It’s also conceptual accidentally because I kept writing about that theme. I planned on writing one song called “Monster Monster,” and then the theme carried through the whole record.
So the Monster Monster idea came before the “Monster” song?
It actually did, yeah, and not only that but the whole idea and the imagery came before any of that. The idea of the name Monster Monster and the imagery came before there were any songs written.
I like the artwork you did with the costumes and masks. How did you come up with that?
It’s the whole sort of theme about people hiding behind a dark thing in their lives and a façade. The idea was to have these big heads that we were hiding behind. I think it worked out pretty well.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the new Where the Wild Things Are movie but it has that same resemblance to it. Both are about how everyone has these monsters on the inside.
It’s crazy how coincidental it was because I didn’t even know the movie was coming out. Then I saw it and thought, “Oh, cool.” It was a really cool movie, and I love how it was so under-animated. It was extremely live action, which I thought was really neat.
What would you say this album means to you?
It means a lot of things, but most of all a plea for honesty for me putting myself out there and being real with the world. It means peace, and it means escaping from things in my life I don’t love. I hope it can mean all things to all people, and people can find their own thing there.
The first record, Southern Weather, was you writing everything and playing almost everything, and then this one was a collaborative effort. Can you talk about the differences between the two styles and how this one was able to come together?
It’s wonderful to have a band behind you and you’re all competing towards the same goal. When you’re recording a record by yourself, it’s kind of difficult because you can’t look behind yourself and go, “Oh, that sucks.” You have to trust your own ear, which is always deceiving. It was really wonderful to have a band writing and recording with such great musicians. I didn’t have to rely on my own skill. I’m not much of a guitar player, so it was really great to have guys who were established and ahead of me in that field.
The record seems to have more variety than the first one, too. Did having a whole band help work on that stuff?
It’s definitely not one-sided. I believe you feel variety from the record because there’s more than one guy writing the songs now, yeah.
I heard one of the things you wanted to do with this was have it be more of a classic rock kind of feel and you wanted to stay away from electronic elements. How did that play a role?
There’s amazing bands that are doing really niche marketing things, and I think it works. I’m not hating on the current music scene. I know every musician over 20 years old these days is talking about how the current music scene is bull, and how it doesn’t make sense and there’s too much Auto-Tune. I don’t care. It’s none of my business what you do with your own craft. But, for me, I wanted to create a record that would hopefully stand the test of time.
I’m not comparing myself to these bands, by any means. I know we’ll never be the caliber of these bands, something like Foo Fighters. For instance, Colour and the Shape was recorded in the ‘90s, written in the ‘90s, yet it’s so relevant today. It’s still relevant because the songs are timeless. Those kinds of records are the records that matter to me.
I don’t know that anyone will remember our current situation. That’s what scares me the most about being a musician today. Will anyone remember the Almost or Underoath? I don’t know. I really don’t, but I’m going to do everything in my power to hopefully try. That’s kind of the story.
Would you say you are more satisfied with how this record turned out than the first one?
I would hope so. I think I’m more satisfied. You always try to do things better than you did the first time. You know what I’m saying? I hope it’s better. If I’m more satisfied with it, I hope everyone else is.
But then you get into that thing of niche marketing, and buzz and current buzz and reactionary buzz, and that’s a part of the industry that I hate and don’t understand. I’ve felt like it was more important for me to go and make a record that was honest, as opposed to a record that just was what it was.
You recorded this in a converted farmhouse place in Nashville. What was that like?
We recorded it out in the wilderness, sort of 10 miles out. It was super nice to be able to be free from modern convenience. The setting I attribute to the vibe as well. It was wonderful to be holed up somewhere.
You also already had some familiarity with Aaron Sprinkle, having worked with him on Southern Weather. Did he challenge you to do anything differently this time around?
The record was really collaborative with him. He would be in the studio working hard with us, striving towards the same goal of making rootsier, more organic rock ‘n’ roll, and that’s what we did.
As far as your music background goes, was drumming the first instrument you originally picked up on?
Yeah. I’ve been playing drums since I was a little boy, like four years old.
Then I take it the singing came later.
Yeah. I didn’t start singing till probably my sophomore year of high school.
Is there a song on this new record that really stands out to you as the most personal?
There’s a song called “Souls On Ten” that is the most personal track to me. It’s a song about a couple, the couple being my wife and I, traveling in a car, going from place to place and finding love. That’s my most personal one, for sure.
As far as all encompassing of the record, I don’t feel like there is one. I feel like it’s sort of a whole piece of music, and you need to listen to the whole thing.
Switching gears a little bit, what is the latest on Underoath? Are you going to be starting work on a new record anytime soon?
Yeah, we actually are beginning to write, and then in two weeks we’re doing a B-market tour with August Burns Red and Emery. Then we’re going to Europe in the spring and taking most of the winter off. The two guitar players and the keyboard player all just had babies in the last three or four months. So it’s been very busy around here, which is why I’m off doing the Almost right now because they’re all with children. So, we start again on the 20th with the B-market U.S. tour.
Do you have any idea what the new stuff is going to sound like?
No, no idea. I never do going into that stuff, dude. It could be anything. There’s no way in hell of knowing what an Underoath record is going to sound like until it’s finished. You know what I mean? That’s the way that monster runs.
Since you’ve been doing Underoath longer than the Almost, what would you say the similarities and differences are between how the two function?
The Almost is more of an urgent thing. The Almost is more radio accessible, so there’s constant press, and constant this and constant that. There’s a lot of time to every record we do and everything we do, so it’s really niche marketed and really quick moving.
On the last record, “Say This Sooner” ended up being a pretty decent sized radio hit. Was that something you expected?
We didn’t expect it at all. It sort of built up into that. That song hit the radio for 50 weeks, so it was a really slow build. By the time it made it into the top 10, it was a super slow build. We would get one or two station adds per week. That whole thing.
Another thing with this record is that you guys wrote over the Internet, and then got together at the end to jam everything out. What was that like?
We wrote most of the record in a digital way. We met up a few times for a week, or two or three at a time, but then in the studio we actually would play every song and record it live before we began tracking. That way we knew that it worked and we liked it as a band.
What would you say are your future plans for the Almost?
Keep making music, man. Keep making quality music.
You’re in the middle of touring with the Used right now. Are you going to be doing anymore touring, or will you be switching back into Underoath mode after this?
We’re doing a spring tour, hopefully, and we’re going to Australia this winter. That’s the plan right now.
How do you like doing the dual band thing? Is being constantly busy something you enjoy?
I love it and hate it. Honestly, I’m blessed to be able to work right now, and that whole thing, but it’s hard. I miss my family. I miss my wife. It gets crazy, but I have no complaints. I’m not flipping burgers somewhere. I could be doing something like that, but I’m not. So, I’m pretty blessed and happy about it.
Originally appeared on Mammoth Press