Interview: AfterPosted 03/22/2012 10:35AM by Decoy Staff as Interview
Hollywood-based After has a unique way of combining their classic rock roots with some grunge influences in the 4 songs of their recently released EP, Edges of the World. Attila Timar of Decoy Music just put some regular questions to vocalist/guitarist/keys Jose Freitas and what he got was stories on a classical music conductor father, a top producer with an incredibly tiny studio and a strange phone call from Layne Staley…
What made you pick up the guitar in the first place?
Well, with my dad being a classical music conductor, I grew up playing classical piano since I was 5 years old, all the way until I was 18. By the time I was 16, Nirvana was hitting hard, and I picked up an acoustic guitar to try and play those easy power chords, and with the piano experience, it was pretty easy. Then I bought an amp and an electric guitar and never went back. And, actually, never ever had a guitar lesson in my life.
With such a background do you approach rock music in general, and songwriting in particular, in a different way than a "regular" rocker?
Not intentionally... Actually, it took me a while to realize it, but when we recorded our first demo back in 2004 I was like: this shit sounds sooo out there. The chords I was writing were pretty .. hum .. sinfonic? Stacking different guitar chords and tones of vocal harmonies, I mean tons of vocal harmonies. I was growing up listening to big layers of strings, and watching my dad on stage commanding all those people was pretty intense. So yeah, I hear things in a dense way due to all that. The punk rock "don't know better" ethos is not for me. [laughing] I mean, I like the punk rock sound, hitting the drums hard, and tracking dirty ass guitars, but the chords and the writing are totally classical music influenced.
Please tell us about the current line-up of After.
The current line up of After is me on guitar, keys and vocals, Matt Denis on bass since about 2 years ago, best we ever had, super solid player and great friend, and now recently we replaced our original drummer Brian Santner. After a few years of constant hard work, he decided he wanted to settle down and raise a family, which we totally understand. So we now just added... Mr. Brian Sumwalt! Surfer dude from San Diego, killer player and great friend as well. I remember right after we jammed and we decided to have the new Brian in the band, me and Brian went to hang out and have a few beers, and he told me: yeah, when I was halfway through college, I told my parents I wanted to quit, head to South America for a trip, and I had no idea when I was coming back. That sold me right there. He was in the band.
Cool. Edges of the World EP has been out for some weeks, and you can also listen to it on www.afterishere.bandcamp.com
That’s right, hear it and make love to it, whichever way you want to enjoy it!
You had the chance to work with a platinum producer, how was this experience for you?
It was great, especially because I thought it was all about expensive and huge studios, but we get to his studio, and it was a tiny room for tracking, and an even tinier room for editing. It taught me that it’s all about the producer himself and his sensibility.
You had thought he would have a studio where even a lobby could take a few limos, right?
Yeah, I thought where the fuck are the hos and the coke and the limos? By the way, his name is Barrett Yeretsian (worked with Cristina Perri), and he has that versatility that allows him to produce pop, then jump to a rock record. And when he's on the ROCK mindset, it's not Whitesnake and shit like that, you know what I mean? It's Deftones, System of a down... no corny shit; he really loves to stack some guitars and make that snare pop.
Then he must have been just perfect for you. By the way, what is this thing with you calling your music progressive pop?
Well, our previous drummer Brian brought the prog element, and I brought the pop voice. Intricate drumming parts, allied to a voice inspired by Michael Stipe, U2 and guys like that, plus the keyboards, influenced by Genesis, Rush and Yes.
To be honest, I can hardly hear any Michael Stipe or Bono in your melodies... not that I mind…
Obviously we blend it all, and our reviews compare us to melodic hard rock bands, which we're totally cool with, because that's what ends up coming out, but the term progressive pop is going to be honored for the rest of our careers, it just fits so well. [laughing] Especially having in mind we're gonna explore more extremes like quieter and louder stuff within the same tune.
Let's see the tracks one by one. "Days Ago" kicks off with a riff that has an unmistakable Seattle feel. Now tell me how did you make Jerry Cantrell let you use this riff?
Dude, he was not happy. [laughing] The day we released it and posted it online, Jerry's agent calls me and just verbally destroyed me, asking me how the hell did I have access to his home tapes and all that, it was crazy... Then Layne Staley called me too, giving me shit... I was like, go back to the grave man, MY TURN!
[laughing] And you didn't dare to tell Jerry that it was through his girl, right?
Nah, my cover would be blown. Don’t wanna fuck this one up, she’s too hot. We got this thing going on... She introduced me to Creed and I never was the same since ... I owe her ... I'll be her sex slave for a while, I hope..
[laughing] But then this track goes on with some highly infectious tunes. Actually, I think you have a very strong pop sensibility, but in a real kickass way.
You know, rock is what you want it to be. Stack the guitars, pound the drums, yell your voice, and you're rockin’. But pop helps shape the whole thing into a little candy.
Let's see the next one, "Bones." Or is "Them Bones"?
That's "Bones"! Poppiest chorus! I owe my life to Seattle, for sure. And "Them Bones" might very well be one of my top 5 songs of all time.
That’s probably my absolute favorite song off your EP, at least musically. Because then you have "Edges of the World," with a real strong lyrical content. I could really relate to this one. What was the inspiration for this one?
I’m glad you do. "Edges" is the ballad, the dreamy song about procrastination. It talks about recognizing the need to make it and to succeed, but tonight, I'm staying home getting high and touching the edges of the world…
To me it's like a mix of Pink Floyd's "Time" and Queensryche's "Someone Else?", lyrically, of course.
Yeah! Floyd’s "Time" is totally about missing the boat.
Well, that's why I mentioned the Queensryche's song, which is about realizing the need to make a change.
I thought that was more about suicide…
I always thought it's about taking the final step to change your life.
Yeah, it makes sense, might be about NOT letting yourself sink and embracing new opportunities. Geoff Tate is the MAN! I went up to Seattle a few years ago to work with the vocal coach that had taught Geoff Tate, and it ended up being a total survival trip, because I went in January, in a greyhound bus, so it was all snow from halfway up. We got stuck in the snow and everything.
Snowblind in Seattle.
But it was worth every minute and I caught bronchitis up there too, but his teachings were so great, I’ll never forget it.
Choosing a classic from The Doors is anything but an obvious choice these days. What made you stick to "Riders on the Storm" and how much did your version stay true to the original version?
Well, we tried a different canvas to paint material all together. That's obvious. The original song doesn’t have a quiet/loud dynamic at all, dreamy the whole way through. But the original lyrics are so intense that we couldn’t help but try to intensify certain parts of it: "There's a killer on the run, his brain is squirming like a toad," or, "Let your children play!" These are words of unmatched wisdom and we thought some intense stacked guitars would do it justice.
It was a great idea - that guitar solo after the psychedelic mid-section really wakes me up every time.
Aw, man, it’s such a blast when we play it live; it brings people to the floor when we do that solo.
You have an extra song on your Facebook page called "Decency." How would you describe this one for those who have not checked out your FB page yet?
Yeah, it’s the b-side of our first attempt to release the "Riders" cover. It was just a single with a b-side. The recording sounds thin, but we love the song! We're gonna re-record it with our new line-up for sure. It’s a song about being an artist and not being made to settle with anybody emotionally because it’s all taken over by music and its lifestyle. We can’t wait to re-release that one.
What is the Hollywood music scene like these days?
It’s a far cry from its apex in the 80's. Since 90's grunge ridiculed it, it got less glamorous throughout the years. But the fundamental elements for a great scene are still there: the clubs have stellar sound, the shows that rock are still packed with lines outside, the recording industry is one of the strongest in the world, it’s just and all around rock town. You might not do too well playing your twin reverb and doing Kings of Leon covers, but if you crank up your marshall stack and belt your head off, peeps will dig it and support it.
Then it’s time for a late night ocean dive in Santa Monica, passing out a bottle of wine.
Proud of this place.
If you had had the chance, on which record you would have liked to play?
Bass on Blood Sugar Sex Magik by Red Hot Chili Peppers from 1991. Or if I would of had the chance to "add" parts to a record, I would've loved to add some dreamy keys here and there on Around The Fur by Deftones.
Any final message for those reading this now, almost checking out After's music, needing just one final push?
Come dig our sound, cause you need to be prepared when we get to your town! Think of Incubus being molested by Black Sabbath and then Fu Manchu shows up and takes a dump on everyone! (with Bjork watching, rolling joints next to Filter, while Massive Attack films it).