After a nearly 3 year hiatus, THE AFTERS return this month with their sixth studio album 'Fear No More'. LTTM spoke to the band to find out what they've been up to, the stories behind the album, and their thoughts on honesty in music.
How is life in The Afters?
It’s never been more fun to be in this band. While we do a lot of things in the States, we get to spend 3-4 weeks a year abroad. It’s so much fun to get to travel the world together, and it’s gotten so much easier to do so as we get to learn more about each other. We’ve become a lot like family, so it’s kind of like traveling with your brothers, which is a lot of fun.
Tell us about your new album 'Fear No More'?
This new album came from a place of wanting to be honest, which is something we are actively working toward in our writing and in our lives. As we continue to get involved in our churches at home, we have found that people are far more broken than we realized, ourselves included. And being open and honest about that will allow for God to work in the church to build his kingdom. When we isolate ourselves, we aren’t allowing God’s plan of community to work in our lives. Isolation can often cause separation from God - but when we realize others feel the same fear we do, we can begin to build community. It’s our hope that this album will encourage Christians to be honest about the brokenness and anxiety they feel so God can do a great work in their lives.
What is your favorite song on the album?
It’s always been true that our favorite songs are always the new ones because it’s crazy to see the way people respond to the new songs that they haven’t heard before. “I Will Fear No More” and “Well Done” are our two newest songs, and because of that we have a natural inclination toward them.
If we aren’t doing something for the kingdom of God, we will quit today and do something else. We didn’t feel that way when we were 20, or even 30. But we can’t get any time back - and we aren’t ok with how quickly time flies.
Does making a new album worry or excite you as a band?
Writing a new album is both worrying AND exciting! The writing of the songs is one of our favorite parts about this job. Taking an idea and making a song out of it is so cool because God has created us in his image, and since he is the ultimate creator, we are made to do the same. The way WE [the band] create is through music. So, we love that we get to write. But the hard thing about going into a new record is all the insecurities of making something new. We always wonder, “Do we have another song? Do we have more to say? Is anybody going to care?” So, we get excited AND we worry that we won’t be able to share anything new. Ultimately, this is God’s work - we just do our best to write what he’s given us.
Do you think artists should be more honest in their music?
We absolutely feel that artists should be as honest as possible in their music. We personally have been working toward using more honesty in our own art, and we work to carry that over into other parts of our lives. Unfortunately, we sometimes see that the Church has become a place we don’t talk about our sin. It’s where we go to get our inspiration and then leave as broken as we came. This has also informed our music-making. We don’t want to hear “I’m stuck - and I can’t lift myself out of this sin.” A lot of artists are trying to write with more honesty and tackle difficult issues, and it’s a very hard thing to do, but we need to do it. The church has begun to get our culture from the people we see making music, and a lot of people get their theology from their Christian music. Our charge to other songwriters, is that people LISTEN to what we say, and we have an important responsibility to say things that are true.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
Since you didn’t put any stipulations on this - I (Matt) would love to write with Rich Mullins. We’ve been told that Rich was the most humble guy and lived with complete honesty and “walked the walk.” We know that Rich was broken like all of us and struggled with depression, but when he wrote songs he didn’t shy away from that because his ultimate goal was honesty - and it was so powerful. I’d love to write with him to see what’s in his heart when we sit down to put words to music.
How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?
Our style is somewhere between pop and rock. I (Matt) grew up listening a lot of stuff…my mom would listen to Stevie Wonder and Al Green, and then my dad listened to the Beach Boys. Growing up as a family we listened to a lot of Keith Green, Rich Mullins, and Amy Grant.
I didn’t realize how much music could have an effect on someone until my friend played a record from The 77’s called “Sticks and Stones.” That record influenced the way music impacted me - I started realizing that God uses songs and music to speak to people. And in that moment, He used that record to speak to me. For a long time, I was angry with God. “If you’re good, then why did these bad things happen to me?” Through hearing others’ pain through songs, I realized I wasn’t alone.
How would you define success in your career?
We define success by the kinds of stories we hear from those God has impacted through the music we make. We decided a long time ago that if all we’re doing is entertaining - then we need to find another job. When we go into writing a new record, we always think, “What’s really going on in our lives, because that’s what’s happening with other people.” And if we continue to do that and minster to people at the same time, we are successful.
What is your favorite album of all time?
That’s a hard question. I can’t pick a single one, but some of my favorites (in no particular order) are: The Boy with No Name (Travis), Joshua Tree (U2), A Rush of Blood to the Head (Coldplay),
Favorite artists of all time?
There are a few artists that inspire me from a guitar standpoint: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - there was something about Mike Campbell’s guitar playing that was really inspiring to me. Coldplay and U2 - Jonny Buckland and The Edge…I was always amazed at the sounds they were creating, and the emotion they evoked through them were really inspiring.
I love Gavin DeGraw’s voice, Stevie Wonder’s soul, and The Beach Boys’ harmonies and chord progressions.
I believe that God made these artists to create as much as he has created US to create. They’re doing what God has made for them to do. We can see the fingerprints of God in a lot of things, including through people who are lost.
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
Sufjan Stevens’ did an album called Songs for Christmas, which consists of a room of people singing Christmas songs. It’s a humble record, and the production is very casual. There’s a version of Holy, Holy, Holy that makes me cry every time I listen to it. I can remember lying in the back of our 15-passenger van and just weeping because it’s so beautiful. That’s the last song I’d choose to listen to.
What does the next year hold for Inspiration The Afters?
While the new record promotion will be a very large part of our lives for a while - we want to start writing the next record right now. This is new for us - we usually get through one record release and take some time before thinking about the next one. But the nature of this album has inspired us to keep being open and honest about our lives. It’s a lot like carrying a burden in the dark, thinking people will judge you if you expose it to the light…but when you do, they accept it and appreciate it. It’s so encouraging. This record has been so well received; we feel the need to continue to write songs in the same transparent way. We want to do more of that, and we’re itching to keep doing it. We feel like we should’ve done this a long time ago.