The Under are a three piece progressive rock trio from Boston who chug through their craft with precise abandon. Their music embodies a finely engineered train cutting aggressively down a mountain and into a forgotten Valhalla past. I recently had the opportunity to speak with the Under’s vocalist and guitar player Daniel Costa about his time with the band and their influences. The Under play O’Brien’s in Allston on 02/21.
Visions of the Unexcused: Your songs volley between some pretty epic peaks & valleys. Is this part of the “winding composition” you speak about in your Bio?
Daniel Costa: Yeah, pretty much. We have a tendency to write songs in such a way that they become these auditory journeys, so to speak. The potential for grandiosity in music is pretty limitless, so as a band we strive to tell a story with our compositions. What’s funny is that it’s not something we set out to do consciously. It just sort of happens on its own. It’s kind of the only way we can write.
Visions: You also mention that your style of writing “left many a bandmate in bewilderment”. You’re obviously locked in step with Jason Walker (bass) and Randy Odierno (drums), can you pinpoint why the three of you click so well?
DC: I think for a band whose individuals have such broad tastes, there is a ton of overlap. Therefore, a lot of the music is generated where our tastes intersect. Nevertheless, I’m sure that there is also stuff on the periphery that gets in there as well, consciously or otherwise. I think another element is simply time. With a good amount of the songwriting being generated at rehearsal, things often come together very organically. When you combine that with the overlap in music preferences, you start thinking very similarly. Before you know it, you’re playing as one. It’s pretty nifty.
The potential for grandiosity in music is pretty limitless, so as a band we strive to tell a story with our compositions.
Visions: When listening to your debut album Mercurial I was having trouble cornering your influences. To me The Under sound like a prog-rock metal hybrid – something like if Rush, Soundgarden, and Motörhead had a baby. Who would you say the The Under’s biggest influences are?
DC: You kind of nailed it with the prog rock/metal hybrid. I think anyone familiar with Rush can hear the influence in our sound. I think the tendency to write in peaks and valleys comes from their approach. I also cut my teeth on many a Soundgarden tune when I first started playing guitar, so it’s no surprise when someone hears that in the music. I was always attracted to their unique brand of melodicism. The other guys are also big fans. We’re also big thrash metal heads, and as far as we’re concerned, Motörhead are the forefathers of that movement, so they’ll have an imprint, for sure.
I think many of the classic rock/metal bands also drive much of what we do. Bands such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, and Metallica figure quite prominently. Then there are some more progressive acts that make their way into the equation such as Voivod, Don Caballero, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Emerson Lake and Palmer, a few others. Speaking for myself, I’ve always been a huge Jeff Buckley fan, so a lot what he did finds its way into how I write. I’m sure I’m leaving out quite a bit of stuff. When I’m affected by something strongly, its influence usually weaves its way into my writing.
Visions: What’s the process of writing with The Under? Do you start with music or lyrics?
DC: Songs just about always start with a few guitar parts I have laying around. Sometimes Randy, our drummer, will come up a with a riff or some crazy drum part over which I’ll write something and things will blossom from there. The vocals usually start coming along once things become more crystallized. I’ll start hooting and hollering some melodic nonsense over riffs until something sticks. When a melody has become somewhat clear, then I start to craft lyrics that fit that scheme.
Visions: Can we expect any new recordings to be released soon?
DC: Yes, we plan on getting into the studio in March to churn out 7 tunes, which I guess amounts to a full length. Most of those songs can be found in our current live set.
Visions: Your dream guitar is?
DC: I think I already own my two dream guitars. I play a 1998 Gibson SG Standard and a 1985 Les Paul Custom. I suppose if I had two dream guitars, they would sound exactly like these, except with a bit less weight. I sure wouldn’t mind having a Les Paul Custom Black Beauty, however.
Visions: What can people expect to see out of The Under at O’Briens on 02/21?
DC: I think the first thing that people will notice is that it will be very loud, though I think this is a night where we’ll be in good company. Once they get over that, then I hope they’ll hear a unique mishmash of things they dig and things they haven’t quite been exposed to. Sprinkle that with guitar solos, high vocals, and crazy rhythms, and we hope it will be a performance that they’ll remember for a while.