Just a few years removed from playing in the Saratoga Springs High School jazz band—an ensemble that also included Figgs co-founder Pete Donnelly—drummer and Saratoga native Scott Underwood followed a high school buddy out to Durango, CO, in search of, well, something else. “I just wanted to hang out with him for the summer,” says Underwood. The time out west turned out to be nothing short of an epiphany for the Saratogian. “That was one of the most liberating moments of my life, because I saw this completely different lifestyle,” he says. “There were people who were just sort of enjoying their lives.”
Before he left for Colorado, Underwood had put in some time at a few Capital Region community colleges, but nothing had really clicked. He did, however, have solid drumming chops and a knack for connecting with fellow musicians, and those proved to be his ticket to success. With Saratoga now in the rearview, Underwood befriended bassist Charlie Colin and formed an art-rock band, which ended up garnering some local success and getting some interest from a big-time producer. But Colin ultimately tired of the scene, and after reconnecting with some former bandmates who were playing in a folk-rock trio in San Francisco, decided to join up with them instead. It turned out they were in need of a rhythm section, and Colin and Underwood presented the perfect solution. So pretty much on blind faith alone, Underwood followed Colin out to the Bay Area, and they were soon in a band called Train.
The rest, as they say, is history.
After becoming one of the area’s premiere bar bands and locking down a steady gig at the Fillmore West, Train recorded and self-released their eponymous debut in ’98, which began moving a sea of units, thanks to soon-to-be-hit single “Meet Virginia” (it peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100). Following that early success, Train went on to reach superstardom, touring the world, winning Grammys and crushing the pop charts with earworms like “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me),” which won a pair of Grammys; “Calling All Angels,” which was co-written by Underwood; and “Hey, Soul Sister,” which won them another Grammy, was recently certified diamond (i.e. it’s moved a staggering 10 million units). They even launched their own brand of wine.
But after nearly 20 years in the fold, Underwood left Train in 2014, soon after settling in as a record producer at his own Thunderwood Sound, helping up-and-coming bands record music and find their voice. Between then and now, no fan has heard or seen Underwood in anything resembling a rock band.
That all changed this past March, when Underwood teased that he’d joined a brand-new modern rock quartet, HU3M3N, which features Wes Geer, a former touring member of Grammy-winning band Korn, on guitar; Clinton Calton, a veteran guitarist in OC punk royalty, D.I., on bass; and industry newcomer Matt Bartosch on vocals. If you’re expecting “Train meets Korn,” think again; the band’s sonic output is more the lovechild of U2 and The Cure, their music rife with spacey vocals, ethereal keyboards, shoegaze-y guitar work, chunky bass lines, and of course, a hefty helping of backbeat courtesy of Underwood’s signature heavy-handed drumming technique. As a quartet, the band has now released a pair of singles, including the dreamy “Artificial,” which arrived in April; and most recently, a cover of Radiohead’s “Planet Telex“—the opening track on the Brit-pop behemoth’s 1995 album The Bends—which was produced by Geer and mixed by Schenectady native Amir Derakh of ’90s goth rockers Orgy (you might remember their aggro-industrial cover of New Order’s “Blue Monday,” which got heavy rotation on MTV at the time).
Despite Underwood’s history in Train, the “new band” thing took some getting used to. Last July, amidst the global pandemic, Underwood met Geer in his adopted home of Corona, CA, through mutual friends, and the two hit it off immediately. “We were shocked we didn’t know each other,” says Geer. “I had this idea to remake this Radiohead song [‘Planet Telex’], because it seemed perfect for the times. We also had this new project, HU3M3N, that we wanted Scott to play on.” So Geer sent Underwood some of HU3M3N’s recordings—they had already produced videos for the tunes—and Underwood was impressed. “The feeling I got was: That’s really cool, and I’m jealous, and I hoped that they’d ask me to be in the band,” says Underwood. His wish came true—but somewhat surprisingly, he was more than a little hesitant to accept the offer once it had been made. Having spent nearly two decades recording and touring with Train—and being exposed to all of the requisite band politics and strong personalities that came with it—Underwood wasn’t sure he wanted to jump into another band situation after all. “I was terrified, man,” he admits. “I have such superstar band trauma and PTSD from the whole [Train] thing.” But he eventually warmed to the idea and went all in. “I’m really doing this for the pure joy of doing it,” says Underwood. “I’m enjoying being in a band more than I have in decades.”
Although HU3M3N has just two officially released songs to its name—including a third, “Love & Destruction,” which Underwood doesn’t appear on—the band is hoping to have a full setlist soon, and could begin playing some live gigs. (Underwood says he’d love to bring the band to Saratoga.) But Geer says he doesn’t want to rush it. “It’s a new world now, where it’s not necessarily like, put out a physical album and go out and tour,” he says. “So we’re being open to the new-school way, which is to create the content, and then go out and tell the story with some gigs and streaming stuff.”
Working in their favor, too, is the fact that both Geer and Underwood have had the luxury of playing in big-time bands already, so they don’t have unreasonably high expectations, as a greener band might. “We know how difficult it is to make it to that level,” says Underwood, “so we’re not delusional. It’s really refreshing to be in a band that knows what we’re up against. We’re realistic. And look, part of that reality is, anything can happen.”