In the Meet The Band spotlight this week are the UK black metal group Underdark. Our Bodies Burned Bright Upon Re-Entry is their full-length debut album. Vocalist Abi Vasquez and guitarist Ollie Jones introduce us to their band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Underdark.
Ollie Jones: when mine and Adam’s (Kinson, guitar) previous band was winding down, we fancied starting a band that sounded more along the lines of Envy meets black metal. Dan (Hallam, drums) and Stig (Waterfield, bass) joined quickly afterwards, with Abi joining us in early 2019 and since then, it’s been a wild near six year journey!
Describe the song writing process for Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry.
Abi Vasquez: The music was already written by the time I joined the band, so I was writing lyrics over it, which is kind of a strange way for me to write, but I think it came together pretty well.
Ollie: For me, I’ll sit with an unplugged electric guitar and record ideas into a voice recorder app. I’ll write the whole song that way (or my parts at least) writing using distorted guitars tends to scramble my brain and I lose focus.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Abi: One-taking everything. Nah for real, the enduring memory I have is listening back to one part where it’s really obvious that I rolled an r and thinking “holy shit this is my voice, I don’t know anyone else that sounds like this,” which to my mind set the tone for the album overall.
Ollie: Recording with Misha at Holy Mountain Studios. It’s a fantastic studio and Misha was great to work with. Also I’d never had a kimcheese (grilled cheese and kimchee sandwich) until I visited Lanark Coffee, next door to the studio. I couldn’t get enough of those!
Was the process affected by the pandemic?
Abi: Yes! Would have probably been out much sooner otherwise, and we’d be on our fourth or fifth tour by now.
How would you characterize the album’s style/sound?
Abi: Good question. A friend of mine said it’s like if Joy Division was a black metal band, which is cool. We’ve been thinking of it sort of roughly like a marriage of pg99, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Deafheaven.
What lyrical topics do you cover?
Abi: I have a couple of political ones, issues that weighed on me domestically and globally, but the others are quite personal stories – one about struggling with opiate addiction, one about a friend’s suicide attempt, and one about mental health and my fear of burnout.
How did you come to sign with three different labels for the album release?
Abi: We spent ages shopping around to decide who would be best to work with. At one point some labels with international pull were in the conversation, but we decided to broker something with three more local labels in different global locations. We know or at least have some awareness of the people running each, and it felt right to work that way.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Abi: Honestly, I haven’t thought that far ahead. Now the world is opening up a bit again (fingers crossed), I kind of see it as a means to play a bunch of sickass shows and meet some cool people.
Ollie: Like most bands at our level, we were hoping as many people as possible would hear the album, enjoy it and that we’d get to play some great gigs off the back of it.
What has been your most memorable Underdark live show?
Abi: Due to the pandemic I haven’t been able to play many shows with Underdark as yet, but the time we played Stuck On A Name with Dawn Ray’d was great. Loads of mates there, great vibe. Best venue in Nottingham.
Ollie: Probably Bloodstock. I’d been going for years as a punter so seeing the festival from the other side of the barrier was surreal.
What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
Ollie: We’ve got a lot of shows booked and announced so far, taking us up to the end of the year. We also have some tour plans in the works for next year as well. We’re aiming to hammer out as many live shows as we possibly can to make up for lost time.
How did you get started in music?
Abi: I started out by booking gigs in Leicester, that’s how I ended up meeting most of the guys who later went on to form Underdark.
Ollie: I’ve been playing in bands since I was 16. My first band was really terrible nu-metal band. I’ve gone from playing indie, post hardcore and even a pub covers band.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
Abi: I learned how to do this style of singing by listening to swoop hair metalcore as a teenager. From there, I bought Pig Destroyer’s Terrifyer because the album art looked cool and I fell in love with extreme music.
Ollie: My earliest inspirations were probably Glenn Buxton from Alice Cooper and Adrian Smith but I’m more influenced by Stephen Carpenter from Deftones, Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai. I tend to get a lot of inspiration from films. The Witch and The Wicker Man are the first two that come to mind.
What was the first metal concert you attended?
Abi: Some grotty local grind show. I was always broke as hell as a kid so I didn’t really get to go to big gigs. I remember a band called Toecutter played, they were sick.
Ollie: Cradle of Filth supported by Medula Noctre at Rock City! My parents would have been livid if they’d have known where I was at the time.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Abi: The new Nothing Clean record slaps.
Ollie: I’ve been really enjoying Grave Misama’s latest album.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Abi: Thank you to everyone who’s pre-ordered the new record and supported us in any way shape our form. Endless gratitude on our part.
(interview published July 31, 2021)
Watch Underdark – “With Ashen Hands Around Our Throats” Video