|The unlikely origin of the Texas-based rock quartet The Afters is steeped in caffeine.
Josh Havens and Matt Fuqua were working together at a Starbucks in Mesquite, Texas while playing for other bands. On slow nights, they entertained customers and themselves by playing a few acoustic songs. "I'm sure we weren't supposed to be playing music on the clock, but the customers liked it," Havens jokes.
They wound up playing an acoustic show together at a church conference, and were surprised when people came up to them after the show asking where they were playing next. "We thought it would be fun to play a show and then go back to our bands," Fuqua explains. "Instead we were overwhelmed with incredible feedback from people. We decided to keep playing together and see where it took us."
The road led to a series of acoustic shows at The Door, a legendary Dallas club. "We wound up with 300 people at our first show and the crowds got bigger every time we played," Havens recalls.
Agreeing to shift from acoustic to electric, Fuqua and Havens began looking for a drummer and bassist. Naturally they found what they were looking for at Starbucks. Dodd and Wigg, also employees, joined to play drums and bass respectively. The band's powerful performances earned The Afters a loyal following and for two years the band packed The Door consistently.
Wigg explains, "We were able to draw people in at our live performances initially through our onstage charisma. Especially Josh. He has that sort of dreamy, wistful look of innocent vulnerability while maintaining a degree of confident charm. But when you break the show down to its elements there's a great deal of variety to be found. Josh sings, I sing, Matt sings, we have pop songs, we have really dramatic rock-your-face-off songs, we have sweeping, melodic ballads. There really is something for everyone."
In 2000, The Afters went into the studio to record a six-song EP. They sold all 2,000 copies in a few weeks and earned enough money to return to the studio to cut their debut, WHEN THE WORLD IS WONDERFUL. Independently released in 2001 under their original name Blisse, the album sold more than 25,000 copies and became a staple on Dallas rock radio.
The band knew it was onto something, but it was a show on Halloween 2002 that convinced Dodd. "That was when I knew I was finally going to be able to quit Starbucks," he says with a laugh. "We were on stage and all of a sudden the parts clicked into place at the same time. It felt like nothing could stop us."
Two years later and with a new moniker, The Afters signed with Simple/INO Records to record their follow-up, I WISH WE ALL COULD WIN. Based on the strength of the album, Epic Records agreed to sign The Afters and release the album in the winter of 2005.
I WISH WE ALL COULD WIN, the major-label debut from The Afters, balances muscular power chords with soaring melodies and simple acoustic moments with majestic orchestration to create an epic soundscape.
"Our music is about finding common ground and looking past the simple labels that people use to divide the world into easily defined subcultures," says Josh Havens, guitarist and vocalist for the Texas-based rock quartet The Afters.
Produced by Brown Bannister and Dan Muckala, the 10 songs on I WISH WE ALL COULD WIN were recorded during summer of 2004 in Nashville, TN.
"Dan and Brown have completely different styles of working, but they both were able to capture the energy of our live show," says Fuqua. "Dan is experimental and will go along with any crazy idea just to see what happens while Brown is calculated and knows exactly what he wants. It was great working with them because we had the best of both worlds."
The album's first single, "Beautiful Love" opens with a crescendo of guitar, piano and drums before Havens' nimble voice and a chorus of ringing guitars break through the din. The song was written, Havens says, while his wife was in Mexico on a humanitarian-aid trip. "Shortly after we got married, she left to help build houses for people who were living in shanties. I was back in Dallas strumming on a guitar thinking about how people say 'love can change the world.' It's usually a cliché, but my wife was living out that ideal. That night I wrote 'Beautiful Love' for her and all the magical things that can come from love."
The hopeful message in "Beautiful Love" taps into a theme that runs throughout the album with songs like "Love Lead Me On," "Someday" and "Until the World." "We're all in this world living our life, trying to do our best and trying to figure out why we're here," Havens explains. "Essentially, the album is about running the race of life. At the end of the race, there are winners and losers. With these songs, we explored a utopian outlook where everyone wins and everyone lives for something greater than their own desires."
In the studio, The Afters fully realized the vision they had for "Wait"-one of their oldest songs-by adding a string section to accompany Wigg's voice and acoustic guitar. "That song reminds me a lot of my dad who was a musician and the reason I got into music," says Havens whose father recently died. "He was such a big inspiration to the band. He was always there supporting us and challenging us to try different things musically. I think he would have liked the way this one came out."