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.
Here’s part two of our interview with The Afters. Click here to read part one.
Is there a tension between marketing and advertising yourselves as a band? One night you might be playing in a church and the next you’re opening for Vertical Horizon.
BW: We have two hats that we wear. The audience at (non-Christian) venues can be turned off so quickly by what you say. We have to let the songs speak for themselves and which songs we play. And in the same sense, these people go and buy our record, (which is) steeped in Christianity. Hopefully that will bring them closer to God as a result of that and not necessarily us preaching from the stage or the pulpit.
JH: No, because from the very beginning, we just wanted to be the band that we were and to be honest. We have no agenda; we’re not trying to tell people what they should do. We’re just being the band that we are and sharing our personal experiences. (From the beginning) we just wanted to play for whoever wants to hear our music. I really found that people appreciate honesty.
Who is your dream tour-mate? Who would you kill to tour with?
BW: There are a few bands. One is this guy out in California. His name is Bleu. His music and his band are amazing. I would love to do something with that guy. And there’s another band from out there called The Daylights—incredible guys. We’ve been friends with them for a while, so we’d like to do something with them someday.
JH: I would love to tour with Paul McCartney. Coldplay would not be bad either.
After all you have been through, when did you first know that The Afters could be more than just a hobby? When did it just click?
BW: It waver s. One day you’ll be thinking, “we can make this happen.” And the next day you’ll think this train is going off the rail, and we’re never going to make it. There’s still no real certainty that this is ever going to turn into a mega-career. I have to take it one day at a time and one month at a time, and right now, I have to take it one album at a time. (Touring with MercyMe) and playing stadiums with 15, 000 people was a really cool thing. Right after that we went straight back to our Ford Econoline van with a trailer. It’s kind of a reality check that we’re not there yet.
JH: [It was] the moment that I quit Starbucks. We all have families, and we worked. But then we had the opportunity to go on tour with MercyMe. Just before the tour we all put in our two-week notices at the same time, and I remember on our last day of work there were text-messages flying around, “I just made my last tall vanilla latte.” That was the last time we worked day jobs.
If you knew in the beginning what you know now—the difficulties of touring and daily grind of the life of a musician—would you still have gone through chosen this life?
BW: I don’t know, and I’ve asked myself that a lot of times. Sometimes I think I would have made a very happy geologist.
JH: Absolutely. I definitely feel like this is what I’m supposed to do with my life, and I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. I love my job even though it’s definitely hard at times. Being in a band is like being self-employed; your first couple of years are going to be hard.
Do you keep up on the news and what’s happening around the world?
BW: We try. It’s a lot harder when we’re on tour, because all we’re doing is working all day, and then get to the hotel and just crash at night. You come home after a month and a half of touring, and your whole world’s blown up, and you don’t know what’s going on. As much as we can, we try to keep up with what’s going on.
Will anything in the next album relate to anything that’s going on around the world?
BW: Not really, we’ve never been a band to write out of our political angst or anything like that. That’s not what our particular forum for The Afters is for. There are other bands can do that. I don’t think we could pull it off.
Do you get along well together?
BW: We get along great when we’re not in close proximity to each other for any real length of time. When we go out for weekends or two or three days here, everything is great. But you know how it is; it’s a missionary trip. You’re around the same six people for a month at a time. It’s like a family: we love each other and hate each other all at the same time.
JH: We’re like a band of brothers. We love each other, and we argue, and we fight, and we get along. We go through all of that. Ultimately we try to have good communication. That’s the key to everything: communication. It definitely helps that we’ve been friends for so long. Even before the beginning of the band, we were friends first.
What would surprise people about you as an individual?
BW: I’m a science fiction nerd. It would either be that, or I really like to cook a lot.
JH: I own every Michael W. Smith album that has ever been put out. I have a giant collection of garden gnomes.
What are your days-off like?
BW: As a band, we played golf for the first time. Our drummer Marc is pretty good; he’s got this crazy long drive. We want to do more of that. When I’m alone, it’s being at home, hanging out, watching movies. Going to eat with (my wife) Jessica or taking (my son) Elijah to the park. When I’m off the road, it’s all about family.
Is there an instrument that you currently don’t play, but wish that you could?
JH: Sitar. I always wanted to buy a sitar and learn to play.
Have you ever looked out from stage and seen anything amazing?
JH: What blows my mind is anytime we play somewhere (and) everyone knows the words to the songs. There’s nothing that give me a rush more than playing our songs and looking out over the crowd and seeing everyone singing along. Those are special moments.
How many of you guys are married?
BW: All of us. All of us have kids.
What’s it like to deal with temptation on the road?
JH: Well, obviously we’ll never be alone with a female fan—just stay out of any compromising situation. And we’re in love with our wives.
What is it like wearing so many hats: musician, artist, father and husband?
BW: It takes a toll when we’re gone. It becomes easier to snap at people, because you don’t have what’s most important to you. There’s two different dynamics. There is the time where everything’s going great on the road, and you call (home), and the house is on fire, and the kid has one leg less than when you left—everything is a mess, and you feel terrible, because you wish so badly than you could be there and help make things right. And there’s the flip side where everything has turned to crap on the road, and you call home and everything is wonderful and great, and you miss the comfort of being home when it’s like that. It pulls and tares. It’s hard to be gone from your family for any length of time.
So what advice would you give someone who is thinking about trying to make a living as a musician?
BW: If someone’s single, and they have the chance to go be a musician, and make it full time, then do it. If someone has a family, I would seriously advise them to reconsider. We were all under different assumptions of what this was going to be like. We were looking at it thinking we would be home a lot more, that more money would be coming in by now, and we wouldn’t be working as hard as we are. We’ve all had a pretty big wake up call as far as what it means to have a career in the music world and how difficult it could be.
JH: People come up to me all the time and say, “I’m trying to decide if this is what I should do with my life. Am I really called to do this? My wife isn’t so sure about it?” The first thing I tell them is that (they) need to ask their wife if they’re called to this to. Because God’s not going to call (them) and not call their wife. Because it is hard to be away.
There was an article in Reuters a while ago that said The Afters would take the torch from Switchfoot as the next big mainstream Christian band. Any thoughts?
BW: We hear that a lot. Switchfoot shot themselves in the foot by walking away from the whole Christian market. They were a Christian band for years and developed a huge following, and now they won’t play Christian venues or festivals. They left a lot of people feeling like their girlfriend broke up with them. There are a lot of people in the Christian industry that are kind of wanting to walk away with their relationship with Switchfoot because of that. They feel like Switchfoot has kind of walked away from them. With us, we got mainstream publicity first. We came out as a band that was signed with Epic as well as INO—Epic being the mainstream label and INO being the Christian side of the coin. So we had no crossover to do, because we had already jumped into two different pools. There’s not as much danger of us losing favor as there was with Switchfoot, because they just kind of backed out.
JH: I try to stay away from ever predicting what’s going to happen to us in the future. I have nothing but respect for Switchfoot; I have a lot of admiration for those guys. I love their music and even to be mentioned in the same sentence as them is an honor. We’re just going to keep on doing what we do; we’re going to keep making the best music that we can and try to continually make better albums. Something we do have in common with them is that we’re all Christians in a band, but we make music for everyone.
Fast forward two years down the road. Will you be just as happy to play a church venue as you would a non-church show? Will there ever be a time when you’ve outgrown your roots?
BW: We will always be willing (to play Christian venues).
What is touring really like?
JH: Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day? Touring is Groundhog Day with different people. If you don’t like traveling, then touring is not going to be your thing.
What was the first show you paid to see?
BW: Hmm … it was so long ago. As a young teenager, maybe pre-teen, I saw Mylon Lefevre.
JH: I was young, and my sister took me to a Petra concert. I was raised listening to contemporary Christian music.
How do you convey hope to those who reject the idea of a loving God?
JH: It all comes down to the fact that the God I believe in is a God of grace and forgiveness. That’s what really separates Christianity from other faiths. God is loving and grants grace. He’s involved in our lives and listens when we talk to Him. Ultimately, good will prevail. We embrace fans that come from all different walks of life; we have fans from every faith that come to shows. I understand they believe different things, but all I can do is talk about, and all I can share is about what has happened in my life.
I’m never going to be somebody who argues with someone else about the faith, or tells somebody else what they should believe. I can only speak as to how God’s impacted my life.
With everything going on today—Katrina, Iraq, Lebanon—where do you think Jesus might hang out if He appeared on earth for a day or two?
BW: That’s a tough one. I guess you almost have to think of Him as a parent thinking of His kid. There’s times where you want to strangle your kid, and there’s times when it’s not possible to love them any more than in this (same) instant because they’re so darn cute and they make you so proud. There has to be that going on, too. Things that hurt so bad and at the same time there are things that make him so proud. You have to go where the hurt is first and take care of that. He would probably do the same things He did when He walked here: Hanging out with the poor and destitute and the people who are hurting so bad—the people who needed love and the people who needed food and needed to be healed. That’s where he would go first. There’s nothing to indicate He would change that because the world has become larger.
JH: It would definitely be with the people we wouldn’t expect. He would probably be with the terrorists or be with the poor and those who need Him. I doubt He would be at the churches, and I doubt He would be with the rich. Just like when He came before, He was with the sinners and with the people who the churchgoers looked down upon.