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In the second part of our interview with Aaron Gillespie we chat about how much the industry has changed over the last eight years, his current musical inspirations and what he took away from his first visit to and performance in South Africa.
NG: The current musical climate is vastly different from where you guys left things off, in terms of the prevalence of music streaming, vinyl sales figures, and the somewhat decline in the popularity of rock and its heavier sub-genres. Did any of these things influence Underoath’s songwriting and releasing decisions?
AG: I think that any time you get into that world, it’s dangerous. You know, you start to do things out of an impure place. Obviously we’re in different times, but we just wanted to do what we love and be true to how we felt at the time. So I don’t think so, no. But it is a really exciting time, it’s a very different time, which I think is very cool.
NG: It is indeed. It’s quite a challenging time for a lot of musicians, but the excitement for the new material has been palpable!
AG: Yeah, it’s been really interesting because I didn’t know what to expect, like you were just saying, with the climate being so different, especially for rock music. I didn’t know if it would be the old fans being the only ones who cared, or if it would create a splash on the internet… it’s been above and beyond what we could expect. We’re really excited, man. I feel really great about it.
NG: Who would you say are your current musical inspirations, both personally and for the new album?
AG: Ah, it changes so much. With the record, we went through a lot of Nine Inch Nails and things like that. For me, I’m really into alt-country music and singer-songwriter stuff, you know. It always changes. I think as a musician, you’re always looking for something to inspire you, whether that’s a piece of art or another piece of music, or literature, or journalism. For me, it’s been a lot of singer-songwriter type music, and I like storytelling a lot.
NG: So, the Underoath tour bus playlist is something that you guys like to do. Which artists or songs are on it right now?
AG: I really like this band called Sir Sly. They have a track that’s on that playlist actually, called “&Run”, that I’ve just been listening to over and over again! I’m one of those people who have this horrible habit, when I find a song I love, I’ll just burn it to the ground and play it constantly, which I wish wasn’t my habit. I should listen to it one or two times and then come back to it a couple of weeks later, but whenever I find something I just keep going.
NG: Underoath performed in South Africa in 2008 – still my favourite concert experience to date. What were the standout moments or memories for you while being in the country and performing here?
AG: Oh man, I was trying to remember, certain memories aren’t clear because it was 2008. We stayed on a game farm in Pretoria and it was crazy. There were lions, and it was so loud because they would feed these animals at night. In the States you can see these types of animals of course, but it’s more controlled; it’s less of a wild setting [Laughs]. It was just crazy that we stayed in this hotel for a few nights, and at night you could go stand on the balcony and watch these giant, magnificent animals eating whole sides of cow, you know. It was wild. And for me as a musician, as an American, it’s pretty special when you go somewhere that’s so far away from where you’re from, and people connect to it. That’s something that I’ve never gotten over. I think it’s very easy to be kind of desensitised to that if you’ve had success, but I’ve never been able to get over the fact that we can go to other places and people care. Especially somewhere as far as South Africa; to be able to come there and have people excited about it. It’s a pretty special thing, and it’s something that I don’t ever want to take for granted.
NG: For sure! You guys definitely left your mark. It’s been ten years, and it’s still a topic of discussion amongst people who are fans of the band and of the genre as a whole.
AG: That’s awesome. I would love to get back out there. It’s been a decade, so it would be really great.
NG: I have to ask, is South Africa a potential stop on a future tour for you guys anytime soon?
AG: That’s not my part of the business [Laughs]. We get presented with things and then decide from there, but I think we would all love to. It just hasn’t come up yet. I think on this album cycle, it would be awesome to get back down there.
NG: When you guys were here, you performed on the big wooden outdoor stage at Sundowners, and since then the stage has unfortunately been taken down.
AG: Oh man, I remember that! We were so tired; that was my one regret I had about our South African tour, that we didn’t get any sleep. The way that it was done, we had like three or four hours of sleep a night and then we had to travel. If we get to come back, I really want to try and get to see some more things and spend some more time there, as opposed to just rushing through it.
NG: Definitely! Well, it would be amazing for you guys to potentially perform again at the same venue, on an all-new and improved stage! It would be quite a momentous occasion.
AG: Yeah, dude! We’ve gotta do it. Hopefully that’s on the cards in the next couple of years.
NG: Aaron, thank you so much for your time. It’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you, and I really can’t wait to hear the album! Keep well.
AG: Cheers to you, man.
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Listen to the album on Apple Music.