Massachusetts based Unearth has literally been torn out of the cold, dark ground and launched to a warmer and brighter new place. Formed seven years ago, Unearth has endured a gruelling hard road to get where they are today. Having played with an innumerable amount of bands in an equally incomprehensible amount of tours and gigs, the band is now finally beginning to hit their creative sweet-spot. With their latest album having now sold over 200,000 copies worldwide, Unearth is quickly bringing their acclaim up to speed with their furious sound. Why the sudden growth spurt you ask? Only one phrase can explain it: relentless ball-breaking dedication! Now, as the band is hitting the apex of their entire genre, they are slowly preparing to re-enter the studio and finish writing their next disc. Currently winding down a long stretch of touring, Unearth is wreaking havoc almost daily as they tail Metal giants Slipknot on their extensive North American tour. Recently the band rolled into Toronto to blow some Canadian fans away and luckily I managed to hit up lead singer Trevor Phipps for some Q & A. For a brief while we discussed the band’s last album, the importance of touring, and the group’s future plans. Here’s what Trevor had to say….
You guys recently signed a deal with Metal Blade Records. What was it that attracted you to this record label and when was the contract made official?
Trevor: The contract was made official a while ago, I think it was November 2003 or October 2003, so it was a long time ago. What attracted us to the label was that they had been around for over twenty years and they had a lot of you know… credibility as far as signing real metal and hardcore bands for such a long period of time and they haven’t once tried to really branch out and get the whole big time rock vibe… or pop vibe at that. They sign what they like and we like that in labels. And they promised to really focus on us as a band… as one of their main priorities and so it made a lot sense for us.
Soon thereafter you guys hit up Zing Studios and with help from producer Adam D (Killswitch Engage) began working on your newest album. How was the recording experience overall and what was it like working with Adam?
Trevor: We’ve always worked with Adam. Up to that point we had a full-length called the Stings of Conscience and an EP called Endless that we worked with Adam. So, we went with him ‘cause it was… we were used to working with him and he’s great at what he does. He helps out a lot as far as you know… helping us with certain harmonies with the guitars and just kinda giving us constructive criticism as to what he thinks are the strongest points of songs. Other than that we’re friends with him, we’ve toured with Killswitch. He’s actually… he filled in for us a couple times on drums… actually one time in Canada. We did a cross-Canadian run… along the Eastern section of Canada and he played drums for us before we found Mike Justin. So it was great just to hang out and chill with him, and tell jokes, drink beer, and eat chicken wings every day.
Had you worked with a different producer, do you think that your record would have turned out as well as it did?
Trevor: I’m sure we would have picked somebody capable of doing it. It may have turned out a little bit different, that’s why you choose producers just to try to get their flavour into the mix as well. But, we’re happy as hell with the record, we’ll always stand behind that record. I think next record we might go with someone different ‘cause Killswitch is always so busy and the band wants to just kinda take a different approach. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love “The Oncoming Storm.” We’re very happy with that record.
In late June of 2004 your most recent disc “The Oncoming Storm” was finally released. How do you feel about this album and how has it done so far?
Trevor: It’s done great. Like I said before, we all love the record. I think worldwide we’re around 200,000 records shipped, which is something like mind-boggling for us. Just growing up we were kids that loved metal and hardcore and the fact that it’s sold that many around the world is just amazing. We’ve gone to travel the world; we went to Japan, Australia, all of Europe and Canada a bunch of times. It’s just mind boggling.
Unearth has to date played on so many tours and with so many bands that to list them would be ridiculous. How do you always find a spot on big-name tours and gigs?
Trevor: A lot of times the bigger bands… or the promoters for the tours pick the bands. Like, we got picked for Ozzfest 2004; we got picked for Sounds of the Underground this past year. This is our second time we’ve been picked by Slipknot to go on tour with them ‘cause last January we did ten dates across Canada with them and they picked us for that too. So, a lot of times the bigger bands’ promoters just pick the bands and we’ve been lucky enough where a lot of the higher-ups like our band, so it’s kind of fortunate for us. But we didn’t get to that point by people just liking us. We fought; we scratched and got to a decent point where people actually heard our music. Like years ago when we were on Eulogy Recordings we took every crap tour under the sun. We’d drive thirteen hours for thirty dollars in gas to play in front of fifteen kids. And we’d go on full U.S. tour and it was like that every day. So it takes a lot of effort and hard work and dedication to get to the point where the bigger people in the industry can actually hear your band.
Your live shows are supremely energetic. In fact it’s your shows which oftentimes bring you new fans. What is your take on the importance of a solid and heartfelt live act?
Trevor: If it’s not heartfelt then what’s the point of doing it, you know what I mean? Like I said, we just all grew up loving metal and hardcore and just going to shows and playing in bands when we were kids. That’s what we all enjoyed the most about it just giving… like if we saw a band that really just gave their all, just went off and had a good time it made us have a good time too. You know seeing bands like Pantera and like VOD; they always had a great time. They just were up their partying and just ripping it. And that’s what you know… we want to do.
Some bands rely on the quality of their recordings (or a marketing team) to attract fans. What do you think is the best way for a new band to gain a thick fan-base?
Trevor: I say just tour. I think that the best way to do it if you’re a brand new band and just want to get your name out there is to get a fan base in your local area, set up a show, book a bigger band if you can afford it. If you can just charge the ticket price at the door to make the money back and break even. Get a fan base in your home town and trade shows with bands from others areas, maybe a state away or a few cities away so you kind of build fan base in the region instead of just your home area. And that’s what we did and I think that’s the best way to go about it… just create this ground swell of knowledge about your band and just go from there. It’s a long process; we’ve been a band for seven and a half years… so it takes a long time.
Touring and playing shows seems to have always been Unearth’s point of focus. What is it about being on the road that is so important to you?
Trevor: I mean… we play Metal and Hardcore so you can’t depend on radio and TV to promote your band. So if you want to stay alive and do this for a career you need to be on the road. It’s the only way to spread your name and get a bigger fan base. Plus it’s fun. You have to love it to do it. We actually lost a couple of members because they didn’t wan to do it, our old drummer and our old bass player years ago. They didn’t love to tour. You have to love it. I mean your gone eight months a year and I feel it’s better than working a nine to five everyday… which we all did…. I finished school and everything. Some people actually enjoy that more, that’s what our old players did. But we prefer this. I mean one day I’ll end up being nine to five again, but for now this is… I’m living a dream right now.
Speaking of touring, how did you land a spot on this North American Slipknot tour?
Trevor: They asked us again to play. We had a great time with them… we actually met them at Ozzfest 2004 and then they asked us to do the winter gig across Canada this past January. And they were looking for bands to support them on this run and we put our name in the hat, we were like, “we’d love to do it” so they said, “hey. We love you guys.” So it worked out.
How has the tour been for you guys so far?
Trevor: It’s great. The crowd’s… the Slipknot fan base are very energetic and very… it’s a great crowd to play to ‘cause they actually open their hearts to the bands… they actually open their minds. I think a lot of the fan base are younger and more open-minded. I’d love to tour with slayer… a lot of my friends have toured with slayer… but their fan base is a little bit older and they’re more just there for Slayer. Kids who go to Slipknot shows are here for Slipknot, but they’re here for the show and that’s exciting to us.
To end, what does the group have planned after this tour?
Trevor: After this tour we go home, we have to finish writing our record and then we’re probably gonna record in March/April and cut our new album sometime next summer. We’ll do maybe a couple of shows here and there in like the Northeast and maybe our first tour back might be next May in Europe… I think that’s the kind of penciled-in plan. But our next North American tour will be probably June or July of next year. [ END ]