Former Underoath frontman, Spencer Chamberlain, is moving on from his past musical endeavours with Sleepwave. The relatively new band signed to Epitaph Records earlier this year and has just dropped their debut album, ‘Broken Compass’. It’s a different beast than Chamberlain’s previous band, and has a catchier, accessible sound. The duo, rounded out by guitarist Stephen Bowman, is now focusing on this brand new chapter in their lives. We spoke with Chamberlain all about the past year that he has spent in Sleepwave.
Hi Spencer, how are you today?
I’m good man, how are you?
Yeah, I’m good thanks. Is it fair to say that it’s been an anxious time for you guys with the album dropping just recently?
I am stoked that the album’s finally out. It’s been so long waiting to put something out, you know?
I bet, as you guys have been working on this for almost a year now. In the beginning, what was the first ever Sleepwave show like?
Ah, the first Sleepwave show? We had a lot of technical issues, which really sucked. I was filling in for Taking Back Sunday for a couple weeks, for Adam [Lazzara, vocals] as he had to go home, so I literally just got home right before we played that show.
How did you and Stephen put this band together? Did you know him while in Underoath, or did you meet him afterwards?
I met Stephen about ten years ago, if not more. We would just hang out each time I came back home. We loved music and the same bands, and that just turned into us jamming together, which eventually became Sleepwave. It wasn’t really a thought out process. Like, I write music all the time and I did that before Underoath, aside from Underoath, and obviously, in Underoath, as it was just a lot of fun for me. Stephen and I had written all of this music and we started demoing it all, and before we knew it, Underoath was coming to an end. So I took these ideas we had and make them into full songs. That then turned into a long process of demoing, signing contracts, and recording the actual record. And now here we are today.
Speaking of signing contracts, what’s it like being a part of the Epitaph roster now?
As far as labels go, they seem like a label that really believes in music and they sign bands that they actually like. It’s not really about the money for them, but they still have the same power as a major, mainstream label does. And that’s pretty cool I think, so that’s why we chose them.
In terms of your vocals on ‘Broken Compass’, you’re singing more now than you ever did in Underoath, where it was mostly screaming. Do you think that some older fans will be surprised by that?
I was a singer before Underoath, and I learnt how to scream after I learned to sing. I sang on each Underoath record, but I don’t think a lot of people realise that. There’s barely any screaming now, I mean, this isn’t Underoath Part 2. It’s a different band. I’m a music fan, and I love different types and styles of music this time and I wanted to express a different side to myself. I don’t think most Underoath fans even know I’m doing this yet.
For the album, you guys worked with David Bendith, who mixed Underoath’s ‘Lost in the Sound Separation’. What was it like to work with on something that wasn’t related to that band?
Well yeah, he mixed the Underoath record. But it was awesome as he makes real records. There are no shortcuts, he doesn’t use Melodyne, doesn’t edit much of the guitars, he doesn’t mess around. He can push you further than anyone can push someone (laughs), which is tough as he can be pretty hard on you. But he does it because he believes that you can accomplish great things.
He does have a pretty extensive list of bands he’s worked with too. After watching some live footage online, as well as the music video for ‘The Wolf’, and I can see that you and the rest of the band put on a pretty high energy set. Do you think that was a good aspect to retain from the other bands you’ve been in?
Yeah man! We’re the kind of band that goes as hard as possible. It’s a release, it’s rock music, it’s loud, you know? I don’t wanna go toa show and see bands just standing there, like at that point you might as well just listen to the record in your car. I wanna hear new things and see something actually happen at a show. It’s your time on stage, and that’s your release.
One thing I really liked about Underoath was that you guys always shared your music first and then your faith, whereas a lot of artists seem to do it the other way. Is there a similar mentality for Sleepwave?
Sleepwave is just a band. There’s no other name to attach to it. We’re not trying to be a Christian band, we’re just being us. I feel like putting something in front of your music is a bad thing. Like a Christian band, for example, that automatically makes it a non-universal language as there will be people who won’t listen to that band because of that word. So why make the one universal art non-universal?
That’s a good outlook to have, but on the topic of faith, I didn’t pick it while listening through ‘Broken Compass’, but are there some – if any – religious themes running through the songs?
No, not really. This record is just about me, about my life over the past two years.
I remember reading early interviews when you first started the band and you said that you were living rough and being practically broke after Underoath. So how are you guys feeling about putting all of this hard work into Sleepwave, even though you may not see much money from it?
Well, this is the future for me. We’ll be doing this for as long as we can, as we won’t do anything half-assed. Yeah, it has been a lot of hard work and it was hard to give up everything to start over. It is tough for sure, man, but you’ve gotta be okay with it.
For sure man. Sleepwave definitely has a catchier, more accessible sound than your former band, is that because you were tired of playing heavy music?
I listen to some kinds of music; there was no way I was going to do a metal band again. I do like metal, but that’s not all I like and I’m not gonna pigeonhole myself in that genre forever. This was the perfect opportunity to start again, so why not do something fresh?
Exactly! Obviously, the band isn’t just you and Stephen on the album nor in the live setting, so how did you go about finding the other musicians?
They’re all friends who believed in the songs I was writing and wanted to be a part of it. Especially when they are all good players who want to tour and want to give up their lives for what I wrote, it’s pretty awesome.
With you touring all over the States lately, are there plans for any overseas ventures?
We are going to Europe in December. Hopefully, will be on next year’s Soundwave, we’re not sure yet, but we hope that happens.
That’ll be your first time back here since Underoath’s slot on the 2012 line-up right?
Yeah, that’s right. Australia is one of my favourite places to tour outside of America, it’s always great. The flight over really does suck, but once you get over there it’s just great!
Earlier today I got round to watching the video for ‘Through The Looking Glass’. I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about the video and the song itself?
The video was shot all by us, which the label let us do, which was cool. That was the first time that I ever did something like that. The character in it, it’s like she’s shedding skin with the white dress and the black dress, the good and the evil, you know? The song though is about being held down, being held prisoner by the situation that you’re in.
Do you think that shedding skin, that that’s a good analogy for Sleepwave, this new chapter in your life?
Oh, yeah man. Sleepwave is a whole new chapter. I’m not trying to get away from what I did in the past, but I’m not just one thing. This is me now, this is my future. The record is definitely a struggle about losing everything you had and then picking yourself back up again.
I was wondering if you could tell me where the logo for the band came from?
Well, there are two logos. A friend of ours, Aaron Marsh, made the one with the S and W attached. The logo with the waves in the box was something I drew on a napkin one time. And he just took it and made it better, cleaner, and that’s where we’re at (laughs).
It always seems like all the best song and band ideas come from people drawing them on napkins, handkerchiefs or tables or something.
Yeah, it’s actually pretty funny when you think about it.
Well, with Sleepwave only being together for over a year now, having already being signed, and now having a debut album out, what does the near future hold for the band?
I’d have to say touring all the time, make as few records as possible and travel the world.
Finally man, I really wanted to know if you keep in contact with the rest of the guys from Underoath?
Yeah, I do actually. I talk to Aaron once every couple weeks, Chris about one a week, and Graham every couple weeks. Me and Tim always talk as he does a lot of Sleepwave merch, so I talk to basically everyone.
That’s good to hear since some bands break up and then they never talk to one another again.
Yeah, that would be pretty brutal.
And that wasn’t really what Underoath was about, though, was it?
Yeah, like we never all really agreed on breaking up, but there’s nothing you can do when it’s equal say for everyone. You can’t force people to play music that they don’t want to play anymore, you know?
Yeah, that’s very true man. Thanks for your time today Spencer, I wish you all the best with Sleepwave.
Awesome, thanks for your time brother.
‘Broken Compass’ is out now via Epitaph Records.