Kind Of Like A Body Bag: 10 Years Of Underminded’s ‘Hail Unamerican’

Undermidned Hail Unamerican

After twenty-seven years on this planet I am convinced of two things being true without exception: Popcorn is always best when it’s freshly popped and every single person will stumble across a collection of albums in their life that change the way they view the world around them. This editorial is about the latter.

In the fall of 2008 I was attending college at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. My days were mostly made of class, naps, and countless hours spent updating my music blog. I thought I had heard every great record the alternative/Warped Tour scene had ever produced, and I was always the first person to claim to ‘know it all’ whenever it came to discussing the history of quote/unquote “punk rock.”

Everything changed one day however, when a close friend by the name of Grant Trimboli told me he needed to share something special with me. It was a warm fall night, which I remember because we were driving around in my beat up Mazda MX-6 with the radio cranked as high as it would go. There wasn’t much to do in the town our school was in, so whenever we had the chance we would pile into someone’s car and roam the surrounding countryside with whatever gas money we could scrape together. They were the kind of experiences that felt almost pointless at the time, but in hindsight they were some of the best moments of my life, and this night proved to be particularly memorable thanks to what Grant did next.

Five miles from campus, Grant and I are screaming along to the latest album from Chiodos at the top of our lungs when a guest appearance on “The Undertaker’s Thirst For Revenge” caused Grant to reach for the volume nob and gesture to get my attention.

“Do you know who this is?” he asked.

I told him I knew the band was Chiodos, but added that I had no idea who the guest on that particular track was, nor had I really thought to look it up.

“Oh man,” replied Grant. “You are in for a treat.”

Before I could begin to imagine what that response could possibly mean, Grant unplugged my iPod from the jack connected to my stereo and hooked up his own portable music device. He scrolled through the artists in his music library as the ever familiar sound of the iPod click track played through my speaker, then turned to me, and with a smile on his face, he said, “Hold on to your butts!” This is the sound that followed:

The moments immediately following that first encounter with the song above are still a blur, but I remember that in the midst of the track my fingers and toes began to have a tingling sensation. I didn’t know a single word or where the track was going to go from a structural standpoint, but I was head banging and moshing around inside that aging car as if someone had just transported me to Vans Warped Tour. Adrenaline poured through my veins, lighting a fire in my heart — and before it was even over I was begging for Grant to hit repeat one…or fifteen more times. If you were to ask him today what I said when the sound finally died off, his response would probably be something akin to “holy shit.”

We eventually stop playing “Kind Of Like A Body Bag” and moved on to listening to the album, Hail Unamerican, in full. I had no idea what I was in for, but given the awe-inducing power of the song I had just become addicted to I knew there had to be more that I would enjoy. “Pablo Escobar’s Secret Stash: Revisited” kicked things off with the force of a shotgun blast to the chest at close range. The passion for the music being played that each member possessed poured through the speakers with an intensity that was only matched by the deafening sound of Nick Martin‘s screams. It was clear the band wanted to move you, not just in the sense of starting pits, but also challenging you to stand up for what you believed in. That may mean taking a stand against the government, but it could also mean taking one’s fate into their own hands and doing whatever it takes to make their dreams a reality. I had no beef with the government, so I considered everything a motivator to do the latter. By the time “Burn The Metropolis” came to a close, I felt invincible.

When Grant and I finished driving around that night, I took him to his apartment and asked that he fill me in on the story behind the band that had just blown my mind in the car a short while before. He told me they were called Underminded, and though they made great music there were only two albums in existence. With Martin now working with other bands, such as Chiodos, the likelihood of another release seemed incredibly unlikely. I didn’t care at the time, however, I just knew I needed to experience that song again and again.

I could go into detail about the days and weeks that followed that initial encounter with Underminded, but anyone who has ever fallen for an artist based on a single song already knows the story all too well. Underminded were a permanent part of my music collection before the hard copy of Hail Unamerican arrived at my door. There was something about the raw passion that burst from every second of every song that completely knocked me off my feet. It was like every heavy record I had ever fallen in love with in my life, only slightly better because this one felt like it was speaking directly to me. The stories behind the songs were a mystery to me, but my heart and soul did not care. The driving, angst-laden sound of the material hit me in a place few works of art ever have, and even when I knowingly passed my fiftieth spin of the CD in a single month’s time I knew it would never be far from my regular music rotation.

Thanks to UTG, I was able to spend time with Nick Martin in 2011 while he and Chiodos vocalist Craig Owens were working on a side project known as D.R.U.G.S. The site was offered an exclusive opportunity to visit the band while on the set of a new music video, and I could barely resist jumping out of my skin with excitement when the email arrived. Our videographer and I drove across the state of Michigan during a warmer than usual Spring morning and met the members at a random house in suburban Detroit. There, for at least twelve hours, we were given full access to the band and their fans while the visuals for the song “Sex Life” were filmed over and over again. This meant Nick and I finally had a chance to meet, which we did, but oddly enough, the topic of Underminded rarely came up. It’s kind of crazy how it works out, but anytime I’ve found myself with access to an artist for more than twenty minutes things tend to turn from business talk to friendly conversation relatively quickly. Nick took me and the other UTG staffers under his wing and told us everything we needed to know about the video, the band, and – for lack of a better phrase – how to cut loose and have a good time. We were so worried about getting the right content we almost forget to enjoy the fact we were on set for a pretty kick-ass music video. In hindsight, I’m grateful Nick pushed us to get a little wild before production wrapped.

D.R.U.G.S. did not last as long as many thought they would, but Nick and I continued to stay in touch as he transitioned to other projects. I would never go as far as to say we are friends, but working in the industry has given us the opportunity to cross paths several more times over the years and we always find a way to share a laugh or two when those moments arise. I even found time time to tell him about my love of Underminded along the way, and though it may come as a surprise after reading the several hundred words of text that precedes this sentence, I somehow managed to not come across as a crazed fan while doing so. I cannot speak for Nick, but something told me he appreciated knowing that people still remembered the band that launched his career, even though some could argue he had moved on to bigger projects in the years since the group went on hiatus. He knows those songs are great, as do I, but the digital age has a funny way of making people forget to spend time with albums they love unless something like a ten-year anniversary makes headlines. I guess that is why I decided to share all of this today. To give people a reason to check out this record and to urge anyone passionate about hardcore music to study the work of Underminded.

Six years have passed since that life-changing car ride, and in all that time I am almost certain I have never gone more than 10 days without experiencing one of the many brilliant tracks found on Hail Unamerican. Whether it’s serving as the score to my workout, keeping me company while commuting, or simply playing in the background as I go about my daily life, Underminded’s unique take on the crossroads of punk and hardcore is there. It’s become a soundtrack for my life, and I have taken every opportunity that has come my way to share that passion with others. I know the album is a decade old this year, but this is one album that plays without flaw from beginning to end as well today as it did the year it was released. I didn’t discover it until it was almost half a decade old, and even then it opened my mind to new ideas that I may have otherwise never encountered. It also changed the very way I think about music and its ability to stick with people over time, but what may be its greatest feat of all is keeping me sane. Life is never easy for anyone, but the last half decade has found me making almost every major life change a person can outside of having a child. I’ve found and lost jobs, moved several times, left family and friends behind, fallen in and out of love, toured the country, started a record label, and raised a cat that I probably spend far too much time with. Through it all there were only a few constants in my life, and most of them resided in my music collection. Hail Unamerican was the truest friend of all, and I will carry the torch for its ability to change lives for the better until I die.

Written by James Shotwell

Hail Unamerican turned 10 on Sunday, September 7.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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