Boston based experimental trio, The Under returned this year with their sophomore 5-track self-titled EP which places the band on another level of heaviness. Singer and guitarist Daniel Costa answered our questions about the band’s music, and more. Read on!
“The Under” EP is very diverse. Describe the thread you feel that holds it together.
I think what keeps it all together is that we have a basic, no frills approach to our sound. Every song on the EP is double tracked with an SG and a Les Paul going through the same Marshall with nothing else going on but the drums, bass, and vocals. I think part of the mission of the band is to have no real musical agenda other than to express ourselves freely and keep it as sonically straightforward as possible. If we can sound diverse through that framework, then we’ve done our job.
What’s your creative process like?
It’s a pretty organic process I would say. I normally have a few riffs and arrangement ideas in my back pocket since I tend to play guitar almost every day. Once I show them to other guys, the songwriting process starts belonging to everyone. They start to contribute with their ideas and we’ll jam for a few weeks until we have an entire song. I also record every practice so I can further work and refine things away from the jam space. As we fIesh the songs out I start singing randomly over parts and slowly those melodic ideas start sticking until they become lyrics. Randy our drummer also has a catalog of beats he’s written, so sometimes we’ll start writing a song based on something he wants to work on.
What were biggest challenges you faced when working on the EP?
Our original bass player Jason had left the band prior to completion, so Ben had to step in and learn the material before laying down tracks. It’s an uphill climb to learn and record these crazy arrangements, but he did an absolutely fantastic job. The vocals were also challenging because trying to put forth the best performance usually means having to hammer things out over weeks to make sure I’ll be happy with the result. I think the human voice is the least cooperative of all the instruments.
Have you managed to make any new discoveries during the creative and writing processes of the EP?
Our band has always had a very similar writing approach to our music and that didn’t change with this particular recording. Speaking for myself, if I did make a discovery it’s that I’d like to start writing more tunes with strong vocal parts already in mind. We tend to be more of an instrumental band, so the music almost always comes first.
I found the artwork of the EP pretty interesting. What do you try to express with it?
Our good friend Kyle Tompkins, who now runs a guitar pedal company called Blackout Effectors, used to do all our artwork for fliers and CDs. He’s been really busy running his business and playing in his own bands, so I plucked the artwork from an old flier he did. I liked it because it features these disparate elements in a striking way. It merges beauty, ugliness and trippiness which is a great representation of our music.
“The fusion of intelligent guitar work, dizzying rhythms, and impassioned vocals provide an aural page-turner for those who seek substance in their music.” That’s one hell of a description. Elaborate on it.
That statement is just a flowery way of saying “get ready for this crazy whirlwind of a musical experience.” Our music forces you to engage with it because to really enjoy it, I think it demands your attention. But if you’re someone who loves music that is busy and involved, I think you’ll find it very rewarding.
What are bands or musicians influenced your job at the most?
I think as a band we channel a lot classic Rush, Sabbath and Zeppelin but with a strong injection of thrash, punk, jazz, hardcore and indie/experimental rock. ELP, Slayer, Black Flag, Don Caballero, Genesis, Iron Maiden, DRI, Metallica, Jeff Buckley…all those bands and many more get some sort of subtle shout out in what we do.
What does an Under concert look like?
It probably looks very boring, haha. It’s really just three dudes trying to grind out these crazy songs. When I’m not singing or playing something really busy, I find some time to whip the mane around and make some guitar playing faces. Based on the last video I saw, I think Randy might be the most interesting guy to look at. He’s like an thundering octopus on the drums back there.
What do you guys do in your free time?
Well, I think I speak for the other guys when I say there is never a lot of free time. So, if we didn’t spend those moments working or thinking about music, it would be a very different sounding band I’m sure. Some people like to hike, some like to travel, some like to play sports….we write and play rock ‘n’ roll.