Jesus And The “F” Word- An Interview With Underoath’s Grant Brandell

February 21, 2011 by Chris Grosso

It was a brutally cold evening in New Haven, CT as my friend Ruth and I waited to board Underoath’s tour bus to sit down and chat with Bass player Grant Brandell. As we waited, I noticed the ceiling mirrors in the bus reflecting the guys engulfed in a game of Halo while eating potato chips. We cracked some jokes about the interview turning confrontational as the cold began to ware our patience. After a few minutes we were greeted by their tour manager Brent, who was a rather nice fella and got us on board to make with the interview. 

*Note- Animals As Leaders blew my mind during their opening set and Thursday was amazing as they played their Full Collapse album in it’s entirety!

The following was conducted on 2/20/11.

The Grant Brandell Interview

TIS: So you’ve been in Underoath for 9 or 10 years now, correct?

GB: Yeah, that’s right.

TIS: Can you tell me how your experience differs from when you first joined the band?

GB: Well when I first joined the band there was a lot of different members. Man, how to summarize nine years, it’s a long time you know?

TIS: Definitely.

GB: I think we’ve really grown up, that’s probably the biggest thing personally, as a band, and as people. It’s funny cause we’ll go on tour with bands like Devil Wears Prada etc, younger bands that are doing good, and I’ll hang out with them and see the funny things they get in quarrels about and I remember our band was like that when we were younger. I feel like we’ve kind of grown up and really know one another. We know how to get along and how to work together well, whether it’s musically, touring, business, whatever really, we just now how each other works and hit problems head on before they turn into anything else. You know what I mean?

TIS: For sure.

GB: So yeah, communication is definitely the biggest thing over the last nine years of our band.

TIS: So you mentioned line up changes and last year you guys enlisted the help of ex-Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davison after Aaron Gillespie departed. How’s that been working out?

GB: It’s been awesome. He fit right in and it was actually kind of weird how well we all clicked. I’d known him for a while but was never good friends with him. So he came down to write and stayed with me at my house and we became good friends right off the bat. Everything went so smoothly. It was almost like it was too good to be true. Aaron left the band and a week later we got home, and then a week after that we called Daniel and he was down writing with us and it worked out with us from that point on. We had a tour planned and recording & writing all scheduled so it was like ok, we have all this stuff really tightly timed, we’ve just lost our drummer so we’re going to get a new drummer and start from scratch,  but we didn’t. It all just worked out somehow.

TIS: So when he came on board did you guys have the majority of the material for the new album written already?

GB: Sort of. I’d say we scrapped 95% of what we had and just started over and it was cool. A big thing when you have a drastic member change, like with Aaron who was obviously a huge part of our band, or when Dallas, our old singer left, you kind of get people wondering, ourselves included, what the new stuff is going to sound like. So you kind of have a freedom to let it go wherever it will and try whatever. And that was awesome cause this was the first record in a while we were all on the same page. Everyone was open to going in any direction, at any point, and trying anything to at least see if we liked it whereas before, there would be a couple of dudes who weren’t into going in this direction or that direction, but with this, everyone was completely open. It was really cool.

TIS: So was the split with Aaron peaceful? Do you guys still stay in touch?

GB: Yeah. I don’t want to say it was dramatic. I mean it happened really quickly but it wasn’t like there was a big fight or anything. It was a sit down conversation and we see him every now and then and talk to him. He’s busy doing his thing and we’re doing ours so it’s all good.

TIS: Right on. So while Underoath isn’t necessarily strictly a “Christian” band, you are still sort of carrying the torch for metal/hardcore Christian bands right now along with others like As I Lay Dying etc. Do you feel a certain pressure or responsibility comes along with that to your Christian fans?

GB: Well for me personally, it’s a really hard struggle lately just because I’m in a weird spot myself, somewhere I haven’t been in my whole life. I’m reevaluating things… trying to figure things out and I have a very hard time with very legalistic Christian. It’s borderline bum out, turn me off to Christianity for me. Like the other day I was on my Twitter and I have both Christian and non Christian fans following me and I posted something using the “F” word and I had at least three kids tell me I wasn’t Christian. So it’s stuff like that to me that’s so ridiculous, but that’s how a lot of Christians out there feel. If anything, I feel now more than ever, as a band, Christian or not, if you’re gonna stand up for something, at least be right about it. I personally don’t think that’s what being a Christian is, so I’m not going to follow that. If someone tells me that, I’m not going to say they’re right. I mean maybe that’s not the best word to use, but it has no effect on my personal relationship with God. It’s kind of a weird thing really. It’s more intense to me lately than it ever has been, just because there’s a lot of inner turmoil with me right now regarding it. It’s a real bum out but it’s like anything else in the world. You have people on extremes of both sides.

TIS: Yeah absolutely. So I know you guys tour with bands from outside of the Christian faith, but are you actually fans of them, or open to bands of other faiths in general?

GB: Well I grew up listening to punk and ska. Fat Wreck Chords bands like NOFX & Strung Out. I have friends in bands that have both pro & anti Christian lyrics and that’s the thing with our band and how we’ve always been. We haven’t always been in the Christian “scene” the majority of our careers, so it’s like if you respect someone, regardless of whether their beliefs are different or not they’re going to notice that and respect you back and hopefully that’s how it works, at least that’s how it should work. So on that level I’ve never had a problem with it. I’ve never had a problem listening to other bands who disagree with my beliefs because I get it, it’s your thing. As long as you’re not oppressing it on me, I’m not going to oppress it on you and we can respect each other and just get along. There’s a lot more to talk about you know?

TIS:  Definitley. So what are the top three things you absolutely have to have on tour?

GB: Hmm, a toothbrush for sure, a cell phone/Ipod and hmm…I don’t really carry anything weird anymore. Umm, socks! I can’t wear shoes without socks, it’s the grossest thing ever to me. I feel like I’m just wearing wet spongy things and I hate it. I’ve had tours where I’ll literally have a new pair of socks everyday just because I can’t handle it.

TIS: Haha, wow. So can you tell me about one of your most, and least, favorite memories from your vast touring career?

GB: Well the worst tour experience is easy. It was our first tour in Europe.  It was the beginning of February and it was a three and a half week tour. We were in a bus that was supposed to bunk 18 people and there were 21 of us. It was freezing cold and we were playing the dirtiest hole in the wall places for the entire tour. If 50 – 100 kids showed up it was a good night. While we were there we would basically get to the club at 4pm and have the show at 8 or 9 and everyone would be inside, but the streets would just be empty. Everything closed at 5 besides Kabob shops which I hate, so I couldn’t eat anything and also there was no sunshine. Everyone got really sick and it was just a really bad experience. It’s funny because I hated Europe for a long time and no one understood how, but it’s gotten better every tour since. Now I know where to go and when etc.

As far as best tour experience, it would probably be Soundwave in Australia. It was like being on Warped Tour with 20 bands instead of 100 bands, and they were all awesome bands, all our friends. You’d play these shows, and stay in the same hotels together and just hang out. It was only a week long, but it was awesome. The shows were amazing.

TIS: Cool. Who else played?

GB: New Found Glory, Inner Party System, Less Than Jake, Anberlin. The headliners were NIN and Alice in Chains, which ruled. I think Face to Face and Saves the Day were on it too. Literally everywhere I walked, there were friends from bands.

TIS: Sounds very cool. So does Underoath draw influences from outside of the punk/indie/hardcore scene?

GB: Well, we’re not really influenced to much from the hardcore scene. I think our band listens to less hardcore than any “hardcore” band out there. For this past record, I know we were listening to Circa Survives album and the new Deftones record Diamond Eyes. Spencer likes a lot of the older rock stuff like NIN and Alice in Chains. It definitely influences his vocal melodies. As far as the Indie scene, we all love the Get Up Kids and umm…what’s Indie anymore? Hot Water Music.

TIS: Yeah, Push For Coin is still an amazing album. So in close, do you think Jesus is cool with Star Wars?

GB: Man, I hope so. I hope he follows Darth Vader on Twitter because that guys Twitter is awesome. It has the best random Tweets! Oh and that’s the original Star Wars because the new ones sucked.

TIS: Haha, of course. Thanks so much for your time man.

GB: Absolutely. Thank you.

Visit Underoath Online Here!

Click Here To See Pictures From Underoath’s Set!

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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.