THE AFTERS: LIVE ON FOREVER
From Moses to Job to Jesus, the most intrepid heroes in scripture knew
trouble that multiplied like a plague-but always led, in the end, to mighty
It's easy to assume such stories of trial and triumph are just for the
Bible or the
history books. But miracles still happen, even when adversity hits hardest.
Josh Havens, guitarist and lead vocalist of The Afters. He relates how the
latest effort, Live on Forever, began during a season of tragedy.
Just as the band regrouped to record, Havens witnessed the wife of a close
contract cancer. Drummer Jordan Mohilowski (who produced the new album) had
brief health scare, and a close companion in his church-part of the worship
was hit and killed by an impaired driver. She was a young woman, Havens
had unlimited potential.
But Live on Forever still took shape as a celebration of
faithfulness, protection and
promise-one that shimmers with strong rhythms, undeniable energy and
compelling pop hooks. The album finds Havens in strong, soaring voice as he
listeners to find shelter and strength in God.
"If any theme has emerged, it would be 'inspiration and motivation,'"
"Look at the titles we've selected: They reflect themes of 'rise up, get
up, God has
your back, you're not in this alone.' We thought, 'Let's encourage people
and let this
be a weapon for people's faith: something they can hold onto.'"
Havens himself felt a deep need to hold on after another loss struck: The
longtime soundman, Anthony Martinez, saw his newborn daughter die in
"I remember going to that funeral and seeing a way too tiny casket," Havens
"And I thought, 'What is heaven going to be like?' I will never understand
tragedies like that happen in this life. But we started a song about heaven
'Live on Forever.' As Revelation says, it's a place where there's no more
more crying, no more suffering."
And as a sonic sanctuary for the hurting and the hopeful, Live on Forever celebrates
a triumphant message in a convincing musical fashion. On the title track,
answers his spiritual questions with a clear answer delivered in clarion
word "forever" rings with an echo to reach cerulean skies as it joins a
beat to topple the anguish and struggling: "Heaven is real," he declares.
Yet for all the assertive, punchy rhythms and anthems that drive this
band's fifth with the Fair Trade label-Live on Forever also
showcases textures and
timbres across an appealing spectrum. "Sunrise" lives up to its name, its
unfolding gradually to reveal a vista of tight harmonies, while "Time of My
recalls the Cure's "Close to Me" with its irresistible, uptempo dance beat.
Ask Havens to pick out a song that sums up the spirit of the album, and he
"Battles." "It was the last song we wrote and the fastest we wrote," he
don't typically write songs fast; we'll change lyrics and melodies and
craft our songs
carefully. But 'Battles' poured out, the music and lyrics, in one day."
A cascading march rhythm rises up as Havens praises God for his
"Time after time you're my refuge/ You heal every scar, you're guarding
It's followed in thrilling fashion by a thick bed of keyboard arpeggios and
whiplash accents that smash out the chorus: "You're going before me, and oceans are
parting/ You're fighting my battles."
"It's about standing up against fear and knowing God is always with us,"
explains. "It's one of the takeaways we hope people get: 'Don't give up to
captures the theme of the whole record and stands out as representing what
want it to be."
Listeners who pick up on that track's spirit-and the overwhelming energy
marks Live On Forever-are certain to resonate. What they might not
is how the season of trials came to a seemingly supernatural end.
Havens shares how, half a world away from his home in Phoenix, he caught a
glimpse of heaven's reassurance. The place: downtown Amsterdam. The
dinner between shows with band members and spouses-including soundman
Martinez and his wife.
For their baby daughter, the Martinez couple had chosen an unusual moniker
an unusual spelling: Pieper. Against all odds, it also happened to be
exactly how the
intimate restaurant they dined at spelled its name.
Still, no one was prepared for what happened at the end of the meal.
"We were talking about baby Pieper, and as we got up to leave, we noticed
only thing on the walls-the only thing-was a framed document, an award for
hospitality. And the date on the award-the only date in the place-was
birthday. Her mother just started bawling."
Havens sums up the reassurance all took home that night: "We thought, 'This
where God's angels fly: right in the middle of the loss.' God gives us
little glimpses to
show us he's here."
So it was with the songs The Afters wrote and recorded in the days to
follow. It only
takes a spark of God's love to ignite a creative flame, and in turn, a
torch to light the
path for all. As Havens declares on the joyful "Eyes of a Believer": "So put your gloves
on and pull out the fighter/ And never let anyone put out your fire."
"We worked on this record for almost two years and over those two years, it
real season of loss," Havens recalls. "But in the end, Live on Forever is about moving
us to trust God, to stand up against fear. It's an 'ante up' record, an
people's lives: 'God you are with me in all this. I'm not alone.'"