Interview by Chuck Prutzman
Underoath guitarist Tim McTague called into the studio on July 16th to chat about the band's upcoming record, the 2010 Cool Tour, and several other topics.
Chuck Prutzman [WJRH]: Continuing our coverage of the 2010 Cool Tour, we now have the pleasure of having Tim McTague of Underoath on the line. Thanks so much for taking time out of your day, man.
Tim McTague: Yeah man! No problem, my pleasure. How are you guys?
CP: Very good, very good. We're stoked on the tour; it's coming nearby in Sayresville and Philadelphia, that's next Wednesday and Thursday for our listeners. The tour is only a week in at this point, Tim, but how have you all been enjoying yourselves so far?
TM: Man, it's been awesome! We honestly have not toured with any band on this bill besides the Architects, oddly enough. We've been friends with As I Lay Dying for a few years and have known the Between the Buried and Me dudes for awhile, and some of the Cancer Bats guys, but we've never actually toured with any of them until this tour, so it's been a really cool thing meeting a bunch of new dudes and hanging out with friends we haven't really hung out with before.
CP: Definitely, and it's an absolutely amazing lineup. When word of it first rumored, a lot of fans didn't believe it because it's so stacked from front-to-back.
TM: Yeah, it's a real good lineup; all good dudes, and everything's just really cool.
CP: Over the last few years your tours have incorporated a lot more production elements, particularly as far as the video clips before and throughout your set, so what can fans expect from this time around on the Cool Tour?
TM: We have a pretty abrasive new light show. We have a new lighting guy, we have some new video clips. It's nothing super crazy; we're not the headliner, it's not our tour.
CP: Right, right.
TM: It's a collective tour with a bunch of companies and a bunch of bands, so we didn't have the luxury of going nuts, but I think that if you've seen us before, it will be at least on par or better than what we've done on the previous tours. But we have a lot of really, really cool ideas that we're gonna roll out later in the year once we release the new record, and we're really excited about what's going to come after that.
CP: Sounds good, man. You know, it's a subject I'm sure you're sick of talking about, but regarding Aaron's departure a few months back, fans are very interested to know how clean vocals are going to be handled. In the live setting, can we expect you and Spencer to assume all those duties, or perhaps you might rely on the crowd a bit more during the older songs?
TM: Nope! Spencer and I sing every word. We've actually had a pretty fortunate go at it. I've never sung more than a couple background vocals, and Spencer mainly screamed. And yeah, we both just worked hard at getting done. We've actually had a lot of compliments from a lot of people that are pretty honest with us and would tell us if something was off. We haven't heard anything but that there's definitely not a beat missing, if not potentially even better or more enjoyable, depending on your vocal style. Our music's really, really aggressive, and Aaron's voice is really, really slick and clean, so I think for some people they actually prefer the new back-and-forths between Spencer and I, because it's a little bit more aggressive, fitting with the music and the show. But yeah, I think that there's definitely something different about it. It's not something where either of us really do what Aaron did. I mean, Aaron is a really talented dude, and I don't think it's something that can be easily replicated, so we kind of just took it and made it our own and have gotten pretty positive feedback all the way through so far. So we're really stoked and happy with how the way things are turning out.
CP: That's great. Would you say there's a similar percentage of clean vocals on the new record, compared to the last two?
TM: There's actually a lot more!
CP: Oh, no kidding!
TM: Yeah. Spencer really stepped up his game this record and ended up just singing a ton, and it turned out awesome.
CP: Are you contributing clean vocals, as well?
TM: On the record he did them all, but there's a lot of parts with harmonies and things, so live we'll be splitting up the duties on overlaps and things of that nature. But yeah, it was definitely all him this record, and it turned out awesome.
CP: After Aaron's departure there was a lot of inevitable grumbling from fans, but alternatively there were a lot of people like myself who were then comforted by learning that the great David Davison, formerly of Norma Jean, would be joining you for at least the album cycle. So what was it like having someone new to collaborate with, and might we see him become a permanent fixture in Underoath in the future?
TM: Yeah, um, one question at a time—it's great! We honestly couldn't be happier. I think this is the best we've ever played, the best we've ever sounded. The music we're writing is the best music we've ever written. I just really think that—with absolutely no disrespect towards Aaron—but we all, for the last few records, have been growing to like and appreciate different styles and different things in music. And there was always this really cool tension where we knew if we all liked it, knowing how diverse everyone's styles were, then it must be pretty cool, to get everyone on the same page. With Daniel coming in, we realized there was like this veil that was lifted from the creative aspect, and we were just opening up all these new doors with no resistance. He was just creatively throwing out guitar ideas, throwing out vocal ideas. Like really, really, really making stuff happen. So it's just been super, super good, we're honestly so excited. I don't think we would want our band to be in any different position with any other dudes at this point.
CP: That's great!
TM: Yeah, it's been really cool. And then there was a second part to that question, I forgot it?
CP: Yeah, just whether you think he might become a permanent member?
TM: Oh, yeah, yeah! I mean that's definitely something we're all discussing. This is our first tour together, and anyone who's toured or been in a band knows, like, jamming out for a few weeks and a few months and recording a record is only half of the commitment that needs to make a band work. We just have all been friends for close to ten years now, and we all are just in no rush. We're just taking it slow, just making sure that everything feels right before we jump into a commitment. But we honestly at this point, like I personally can't see us playing with anyone else. And I know Daniel's 100% down to sticking it long term, we're just for safety's sake for both parties, just making sure he's super comfortable once the tour ends, and that there's nothing that comes up on any side that could potentially be a non-productive situation. But at this point, honestly, I have absolutely no reservations, no reason to think that he won't be playing with us for a really, really, really long time.
CP: Great! Besides his drumming, Daniel was always very involved artistically with Norma Jean's projects, so I imagine it would be interesting to collaborate with him in that regard, as well, because I know you have a big hand in those projects.
TM: Yeah! There's two main friends of mine, but Daniel is one of the main dudes that actually got me into film, and Super 8, and processing, and projection, and things of that nature live and really introduced me to that stuff. So I mean yeah, it's really cool to kind of be in this position where we could potentially be collabing on crap together, him being the dude that kind of inspired me to kind of open that door and explore it, and always just being forward-thinking and wanting to push the envelope. I think it works out really well, I think we're all really happy with it.
CP: Fantastic. Going back to the new record: Define was obviously a huge departure from the earlier work, and Lost in the Sound built on that with what I'd consider kind of an atmospheric or experimental element, so with that progress in mind, what can you tell us about the new album?
TM: Man, I just can't wait for you to hear it, I guess. We've just been so, so, so excited about it. It's like I can't wait to just grab my friends when I see them and show them what we've been working on. We're all just really happy with it. We're super pumped, we're super proud of it. And we're not sure if people are going to love it or hate it, but everyone that's heard it thus far has said that they definitely think that it's definitely the best record we've ever done, including one of the dudes who helped us produced it, Matt Goldman, who's been a part of every record since They're Only Chasing Safety. He came up to us when we played Atlanta on the Cool Tour, when we'd been gone from the studio for three or four days, and he was like, "Yeah, I wasn't sure. I knew the record was really good but I wasn't sure if—you know, how the record was going to match up to everything else, as far as it potentially being the best. And when I took a few days off and opened it back up today, really listening to it with fresh ears and taking myself out of the project, it's undoubtedly the best thing that this band has ever done." So we're above and beyond excited just for people to hear it. I mean, I can't really explain it; I don't want to say it's like the best thing that anyone will ever hear. It's just something for us, like the best record we could have written.
TM: It's a lot more progressive. There's a lot of different tunings. There's songs that sound like they could be, you know, on a Meshuggah record, and there's parts that sound like they could be on like a Radiohead record. There's just a lot of mixing, melding, fusing, experimenting going on, and I think it really worked out well. And yeah, we're just super happy with it and hope that everyone who hears it gives it a good listen and really connects with it the way the people we've showed it so far have.
CP: That's exciting, and it's big words saying it's your best, because I remember you saying Lost in the Sound was the first records you wrote after actually being proud of the previous work, referencing Define The Great Line. So this is definitely something to look forward to. So obviously there's a—
TM: Yeah, I think it's a lot easier to think what you're doing now is better when you feel like you've outgrown your previous efforts. Like for us, we definitely look back on the last two records and go, "Man, we think those records are definitely records that we would want to release, you know, if we had it to do all over again." Whereas, like, I think, They're Only Chasing Safety and The Changing of Times, those kinds of records were really good for the time and place that we were musically, but looking back we would never look back at those and go, "Man, that was a really progressive time in our musical careers," aside from just progressing as young kids and figuring out who we were. We're comfortable with who we were on Define The Great Line, that really sets a platform for us to have a new sound, confidence. I think that we went into Lost in the Sound going, "Man…," like a little nervous. Going, "Man, we still think that Define The Great Line is a really good record for our band, and we want to make something better than that and that's going to be kind of weird." And the same for this record, and honestly we weren't sure. Like, as it was coming together there were points where like, "We don't know, this could be weird, this could be different." Like we got to a point where it was just a creative tunnel vision, and there's so much stuff going on that like, we just went for it and just said, "Screw it, let's push the limits. And let's trust our instincts, trust ourselves." And now stepping back from it and coming back to it, it's very much like exactly what we—I couldn't have imagined it being any better for what we wanted to do.
CP: That's amazing, definitely exciting. So obviously there's a long way to go as far as mixing and post-production and everything, but when do you think we might get our first sample of the album?
TM: Um probably October, maybe September.
CP: I guess we can expect a late winter release date, then?
TM: Yeah, we're shooting for like a mid-to-late October release. We'll probably have it all mixed and mastered by the end of August, so we'll probably roll out a single or two in the coming months for sure.
CP: Fantastic. Closing up, with Lost, fans had several different options for purchasing the album. You had a vinyl release, and the deluxe box set which had a bunch of different cool stuff in it. So are you guys planning anything similar for this release?
TM: We're not right now, I mean we want to. We haven't had those conversations, and I think that like it's a weird thing, because now every band has a box set, a deluxe this, a limited edition that, and I think those things are really special, but when everyone does it, it's kind of a weird thing where it's no longer special, it's just the new normal. I remember six years ago, bands would release their record with, like, extra artwork and bonus content and a movie that's only within the package, you know. And that was such a cool thing and a big deal and forward-thinking idea. Flash forward two years later and every record from any band ever is being released and then six months later re-released with—
CP: With three remixes.
TM: With an extra video. So it's like that kind of became not as special anymore, and then when we were brainstorming on the last record we wanted to do something cool and special for people that really, really liked us and supported us and wanted to have something different than just the standard record. And at the time we had all these ideas, and Trent Reznor ended up doing that huge box set, as well as In Rainbows, Radiohead had a huge box set. And it was all at the same time we were like brainstorming similar ideas, and we were just like, "Dang, let's try to do this!" You know, and we just went for it, and we felt it was really cool. But I don't know if we would want to do the same thing again, like I think we're really just going to rack our brains and try to come up with something. I'm sure we're going to have, like, a deluxe version of the record and things of that nature, but hopefully we'll have something really special for, you know, some people who really think that the record's really special and want to have something beyond the norm. So as far as what that is, I have no idea. We may just end up doing something similar to the last record, but for now we have our hopes and sights set high.
CP: As a fan, I would just advocate for a vinyl pressing, probably speaking for a lot of people. But I'm sure that's down the road, too. Anyway, The Cool Tour hits our area this Wednesday in Sayresville, New Jersey and Thursday at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. Tim, thank you so much, it's been a real honor.
TM: Dude, thanks for having me, hope to see you guys there. Hope to hopefully meet back up and chat once the new record comes out!
CP: That sounds great, dude, talk to you soon!
TM: All right, man, be well!