Unearth’s Trevor Phipps + Buz McGrath Open Up About the Highs and Lows of Touring These Days
Unearth's Trevor Phipps and Buz McGrath are the latest guests on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program, chatting about the band's new album The Wretched; The Ruinous and what still inspires the band 25 years into their career.
The Wretched; The Ruinous is the first new album from the long-running metalcore group since 2018's Extinction(s) and features returning drummer Mike Justian, who originally split from the group back in 2007 and, for the first time, does not feature rhythm guitarist Ken Susi, who exited earlier this year.
It's the tandem of Phipps and McGrath that keeps things running strong and, in the interview, they discuss how their common background has forged an ironclad friendship that is necessary to keep a band thriving, especially on the road.
Read the full interview below.
In writing new music for The Wretched; The Ruinous you stepped outside your comfort zone, especially you Buz. How did unfamiliarity challenge and actually heighten your creativity?
Buz: I'm only as creative as how much time I have to put into it. I sit with the guitar in my hand for a long time and eventually something interesting will come out. I just had more time to put into it this time around and maybe I got to sift through some of the ideas a little bit more carefully.
The lyrical message of "Mother Betrayal" is an ecological warning. Why is aggressive music an effective way to communicate such important information?
Trevor: It's such a dire circumstance that we find ourselves in. Throughout human history, art has really echoed what's going on in society. That's what you're seeing a lot with music. People are seeing what's happening and we're just screaming at the top of our lungs for change before it's too late.
It's our first real concepts record and it's about the climate crisis that we're in and me projecting what's going to happen in the years to come.
Unearth, "Mother Betrayal" Music Video
Unearth are celebrating their 25th anniversary, which is significant not only for being a band, but being together as friends. What's unique about the relationship between the two of you both creatively and personally?
Trevor: We all came from different bands. I sang for a band that was from about the same area of the band Buz was in back in the late '90s. When I first heard the music that that Buz was writing for Unearth, I was like, "I've never heard stuff like this before. This is what I want to hear." And from that point on it just got better and better.
Buz really has grown as a guitar player and songwriter immensely over the years and everything that he brings to the table, I just want to hear more. I really enjoy writing and singing over those riffs and performing those songs live together. We have a very similar idea of what a good show is and that's just a band putting out all of their energy onstage, moving around, engaging the crowd and just having a lot of fun.
Buz: The hard part is getting a group of people who have the same vision and want the same goals. It's clearly hard because Trevor and I are the only two remaining original members.
People come and go along the way and visions change, but that's for any band. If you're starting a band, you have to think to yourself, "Would I plan a heist with these people?"
Phipps is on the short list for heist guys.
Trevor: We're from the same area of the state in Massachusetts, just north of Boston and two towns over. We're about the same age, we listen to very similar music and we have a lot of the same friends. We're cut from the same stone. That really plays a big part in it.
Mike Justian is back playing drums and he's from the same town that that Buz is from. He's also cut from the same thread and it really does show onstage.
READ MORE: 10 2000s Metalcore Bands That Should've Been Bigger, Chosen by Unearth's Trevor Phipps
Personnel changes are not uncommon for long standing bands. What changes most in a band dynamic when someone from the beginning, such as rhythm guitarist Ken Susi, is gone?
Buz: Sometimes it's something as simple as family and the way you want to live your life as you get older. What we do can be stressful sometimes. We're not millionaires and we travel rough. It's not for everybody for long periods of time.
Trevor: We want to keep going and sometimes the changes are for the better. Right now we have a group of five guys that have the same mindset that Buz and I have. It's been a lot of fun these past 10 months playing gigs and touring with these guys. We have big tour schedule going all all the way to July with very few breaks in there.
Unearth, "The Wretched; The Ruinous" Music Video
What do you like most and least about touring right now?
Trevor: Seeing the world is my favorite part. Besides getting to perform with my friends, getting to see the sites like we did this past summer... we were in the south of France on a beach. In January we were in Australia on a beach. Then we were in Tokyo hanging out in Shibuya City. Being a world traveler and getting to see these things with my friends is a big reason why we keep doing it.
What I don't like is the grind of getting worn out. You can get sick easily, you can miss home. I have two kids and Buz has a kid as well. You have to weigh the good with the bad and 25 years in we keep going, so we must be getting enough good out of it.
Buz: My only priority on tour now is to be comfortable. I just want be comfortable. Can we have days off, please?
That's not a lot to ask.
Buz: We get to travel to these awesome places and I'm like, "Well the only reason that you're here is because you have to play this show." I'm hanging out in this cool place and I'm like, "Oh, we've got to go play the show."
Thanks to Unearth for the interview. Get your copy of 'The Wretched; The Ruinous' on CD or vinyl and follow Unearth on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here. Head to the Unearth website to view all upcoming tour dates and get tickets here.