“I just got the first sales numbers in, and they are huge!” Red Light Management’s Randy Nichols told Pollstar via cell phone from a Hot Topic store in Atlanta. Underoath was there, making an instore appearance before flying off to give a free concert in its hometown of Tampa, Fla., squeezed between Warped Tour dates.
Nichols’ excitement was understandable. The album release capped off one of the biggest weeks in Underoath’s career: Five days earlier, the band kicked off its third Warped Tour
and its first on the main stage.
“Oh man, it’s awesome!” Underoath guitarist Tim McTague told Pollstar from Warped’s backstage area, two days into the caravan. “Being on the main stage is just so amazing, and it’s something we’ve worked really hard for.”
McTague’s only lament, if one could even call it that, is that doing press for the tour and the album release, performing, and spending all-important time with fans hasn’t left Underoath much of a chance to get out and meet many of its fellow tour mates.
“We get to watch bands every day but basically you get up and eat, you play, sign autographs for the fans and then you’re just exhausted. But it’s definitely awesome,” McTague said.
It should be old hat by now for the unabashedly Christian hardcore band, which caught the attention of Warped impresario Kevin Lyman three years ago. They’ve been back ever since.
“We got a little heat in the beginning but we’re making a lot of new friends and people are really growing to respect what we do,” McTague said. “Not so much about the Christianity itself, but respecting us and our Christianity and that we live our lives a little bit different than most people.
“We treat people with the proper amount of respect and love and courtesy, and they have no choice but to treat us with that same love and respect back, you know? Some people seemed a little standoffish at first, but now we all hang out and everybody’s having a great time.”
The attitude fits right in with the DIY ethos that Underoath embraces, rather than another element that agent and Flowerbooking President Susan Dawursk identifies.
“This is a band in a scene right now that has grown up on a steady diet of what they see on MTV and read on the Internet,” Dawursk told Pollstar.
“There’s a trend in which there are bands that think they don’t have to do any work to get where they need to go. But this is a band that quite frankly reminded me the most of artists I grew up with like Minor Threat and Fugazi
the true DIY bands that were touring before rock venues really even existed for this kind of music, and just doing it. That’s what these guys have been about in a major way.”
And nobody can say that Underoath is afraid of hard work. In addition to the exhaustive Warped Tour, Dawursk and Helter Skelter U.K. agent Paul Franklin will have McTague, drummer Aaron Gillespie, keyboardist Chris Dudley, bassist Grant Brandell, guitarist James Smith and frontman Spencer Chamberlain on the road and trotting the globe for the rest of this year.
And then there’s the Hot Topic gig. According to Nichols, the “lifestyle” chain made a deal with Underoath for a nationwide tie-in including CD and merchandise prominently placed in stores, instore appearances by the band and what is believed to be the first nationwide CD listening party that wasn’t in clubs or record stores.
While Red Light isn’t exactly known for its roster of hardcore bands, it does have a deserved reputation for its relationships in the industry regardless of genre
and Underoath’s success presents an opportunity for Red Light to move into the hardcore market.
Nichols was already working with Underoath before being hired by Red Light.
“I joined Red Light about a year and a half ago because of the grassroots marketing that they do to develop bands,” Nichols said. “It’s so similar to what I do with punk rock and hardcore bands.
“It’s about building a real fan base, having people kill for these bands, but not by having radio or MTV overexposing them. We’re building real fans one by one. That’s what Red Light is about, and that’s what I am about,” Nichols continued. “I thought I’d be able to learn something from them about how to develop bands, and Underoath and I decided to go there.”
McTague agrees that the band is all about the grassroots. Dawursk and Nichols “get” what the band does, as does indie label Tooth and Nail, which the band renewed its contract with despite major label interest.
The same loyalty goes for the rest of the band’s team, too. Underoath was courted by several potential managers after its last record, They’re Only Chasing Safety, came out to rave reviews. They stuck with Nichols, who was introduced to the band by Dawursk.
“We were pretty self-sufficient and booked our own tours in the early days,” McTague said. “We tried to get on tours and then got Suzanne, and then got Randy at Red Light about six months later. It’s been a complete night and day transition.”