Lead singer Josh Havens and bassist Brad Wigg of The Afters recently took some time out with Curt Lamm to discuss life in the music industry—from their start in Texas to all the angels and demons that come with being one of the biggest buzz bands in 2006.
What’s so unique about the musical scene in Texas?
Brad Wigg: For a while, it seemed like everybody was coming out of Texas. Great bands were popping up. There was a really cool club scene downtown and artistic community. But a lot of those clubs that have been there for years are shutting down. When we were coming up, there were tons of great bands to hear.
Joshua Havens: There’s definitely something here in the water in north Texas, because there are so many great bands. What has happened is that there have been some good venues that have opened up and allowed for bands to play in a great setting. And people discovered it and started coming out. Just having great venues to play at has really helped the music scene a lot. Almost a “if you build it, they will come and play.”
What are the differences between Blisse and The Afters?
BW: We’re still the same band. We didn’t change the name to make a statement, it was a legal issue, or we would have kept the name Blisse. The main difference is the size of our audience. When we were (in Dallas) before at a club called The Door, we were sort of like the house band, because we could always fill the house.
JH: We started off very indie; we were the definition of indie. We put together our own shows; we borrowed gear when we started off. We were really a garage band, because we met and practiced in a garage, and we built up this immense following just over time. The biggest transformation that we made is going from being a band that played in Dallas every weekend to being a national band constantly touring on the road. For a couple of years we never even really branched out of North Texas, because there wasn’t a need to. We didn’t want to rely on the idea of getting signed or having a label do it for us.
How is the new album going to be in contrast with the first one?
BW: We’re still writing. We’re supposed to go into the studio (soon). We have a good selection of new songs, because we’ve been playing them live this past year. We’re going to try to keep it in the same vain. We don’t want to do anything weird so we totally throw off anyone who has decided they like us. Keep it the same, but ramp up the quality a little bit.
JH: That’s what we’re finding out now, because it’s not done yet. A lot of the songs that we’ve been writing have come out of personal experience that we’ve gone through the last couple years. We had our entire lives to write the first album, and we’ve been writing this last album over the course of several months. We’re going to continue to work hard on it until we have an album that blows away our first one.
Where do you draw inspiration for your lyrics?
BW: Cereal boxes, movie jackets … you name it.
JH: I’ve always written about things that are important to me in my life. The last couple years have been a pretty turbulent time for my family. I lost my dad to cancer, and some other people in my family have been going through some really hard times. But in that, I’ve been able to really see how God has been so faithful to my family. There have been songs I’ve written about that faithfulness.
Who does most of the songwriting, and how does that work?
BW: Lately, it’s me and Matt; we’ve been on fire together. We’ll come in and start messing with some music, and one of us will get one line or one phrase, and we’ll start building a song around that, and we can coach each other along. Once we have an idea and a concept of what we want the song to be about, it’s a lot easier to make those words come together.
What’s it like, as an artist, to receive criticism on a song that means so much to you on a personal level?
JH: I totally recognize that what we do is a business, and the record label is going to take the songs that we write and market them. We’re going to write the best songs that we can in the hopes that somebody relates to them. Our music always comes back to a message of hope.
Where do you draw the line between inspiration from other bands and outright plagiarism?
BW: That’s hard. You try to write something unique and original, because there’s really not much you can do with five chords and six strings that somebody hasn’t already done. I don’t know if you can call it plagiaristic until you start getting into lyrics and melodies. That’s where you have to start deviating and try to be yourself and not trying to be David Bowie or Thom Yorke.
How has all the media attention affected The Afters?
BW: I don’t know if we’ve seen any real negatives from that. There’s the old saying, “there’s no bad publicity.” And this rings true for us. All the MTV stuff has been great, it’s done nothing but boost our audience.
What criticism has hurt the most?
BW: Within the Christian community there’s been a little bit. Every now and then you’ll get someone who asks why we’re on MTV. Everyone else has been so supportive and so happy that we are on MTV.
What’s the difference between being a “Christian band” and a band comprised of Christians?
BW: When I hear the term “Christian band,” that means propaganda. Someone has an agenda behind every lyric that they write. In a band comprised of Christians, they write about what they know and about what they believe and what’s important to them; not necessarily every song is going to be a “come to Jesus song.” There is a place for both of those things. Youth groups want their bands to have those (songs), and MTV doesn’t.
JH: It’s a question that hasn’t been defined. Because when you go into a store to purchase music you’re going to find a Christian music section, but it doesn’t just encompass praise music (but) … it is categorized by faith. I would hope that music would be no different than anything else for a Christian. You’re going to do it for the glory of God, because it’s important to you just like any other part of your life. We want to make music for everyone, not just Christians. We don’t want our music to be judged by our faith. We don’t want people to give us merit because of our faith or to discount us because of our faith. We want people to look and judge the music on its own.
Next week we’ll have part two of our interview with The Afters.