Afterimage – Executing TemperanceTuesday, 30th June 2020
Forming at college and gelling together through a mixture of college house parties and outside New England gigs, Afterimage developed an engaging progressive rock/metal sound that incorporates a mixture of jam band, metal, and progressive influences old and new. The vocals are soulful, passionate, and commanding – the music equally reaching an emotional range from softer textures into explosive bombast, and track to track encompassing everything from Rush to Tool, Black Sabbath to Pink Floyd when it comes to launching points. Their latest EP Temperance captivates the listener, pulsating through an in your face, right from the floor production approach that has similar qualities as to what one can expect if seeing their live performance.
We reached out to bassist Casey Daron, who was more than happy to fill Dead Rhetoric in on the band. You’ll learn more about the development over their four years together in college, special moments performing across New England, the tarot card imagery that is a part of their visual cover art, a fair amount of talk about Rush, as well as discussion regarding Jim Henson and the Muppets.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your earliest childhood memories surrounding music – and how did you make the progression into picking up an instrument and starting to perform in bands?
Casey Daron: My earliest childhood memories are of my dad playing the Speed Racer theme song – it was covered by Everclear and I loved the high energy of that. I must have been two or three at the time, it was very early. I didn’t start playing music until the fifth grade when I started playing the trumpet. At that time I was into the antithesis of rock, I was into The Muppets and loved playing the Muppets songs on the trumpet. It really wasn’t until high school that I started to actively listen to rock music. Thanks to the influence of my dad, I taught myself guitar my freshman year of high school and I started a ska band my senior year of high school.
Upon graduating and starting school at Keene State College, I knew I wanted to continue playing. I found some music majors and asked them if they wanted to start a band, they said yes. I found a guitar player that was far better than me so I picked up the bass. Afterimage started from there.
Dead Rhetoric: Afterimage started in 2016 as you all went to school together at Keene State College. Can you discuss how you all met up and the evolution of the band from your college party group start into writing those first originals – did you already have an idea of how you wanted to blend together your various influences to make your distinct progressive-oriented hard rock/metal style?
Daron: My freshman year I was a music major, and there was a brand new dorm building that was built at Keene State. Each wing of the dorm building was grouped with different majors. I was grouped in with all music majors, so finding the musicians was easy. Early on, we started… there was a Battle of the Bands on campus, and that was all that we were going to do. I got some friends together, the first incarnation had Brandon Curcio our guitar player, had a different singer, an additional guitar player and Andy LeCuyer was on drums, and myself. We did that battle for fun, we didn’t win but another band that competed owned a house and they threw parties there all the time. They asked us to play, write some originals and play. We took it a tiny bit more seriously and evolved into the lineup that you have today – and that was a month after the battle of the bands.
Early on the sound actually was very different. It was more jam band and classic rock influenced, which I enjoy but at my core I’ve always been a metalhead. I wanted more of that aggression in there, so as we evolved we understood that we would all pull from our different influences to make that new sound. I would always try to bring in those metal riffs whereas Brandon our guitar player would incorporate Pink Floyd, Phish, and the Grateful Dead while our lead singer Griffin Romprey he loves the band Tool. It grew out of that, we have a grasp for our sound now more than we did four years ago.
Same for the shows – we just started playing parties and we realized that we could start playing outside of Keene. We booked our own shows, and it’s all been independent ever since. We are now all very dedicated and serious about it.
Dead Rhetoric: Your first EP in 2018 the WEMF Sessions is a live recording from a radio broadcast – how do you feel about those first originals and releasing them in this format compared to hitting the studio?
Daron: Yes, well actually a lot of people don’t know this but we had another EP before the WEMF Sessions. And that was kind of a studio… it was recorded in our basement and it sounded like demo sessions. We got rid of that quickly, the quality and the songwriting. WEMF Sessions fell into our laps because we got asked to play on the radio show in Boston. And they told us they could record it for us for $50, and we said yes. Really, the only reason we released that is we had no content out there other than our demos we recorded the year prior. I appreciate the music and the work, it was where we were at the time. While I’m not thrilled to play those songs live anymore, I still think it captures a moment in time and shows how we’ve grown since then. The song “Blood Moon” off the EP, we still play and that was one of the songs we wrote that was progressing to our new, heavier style.
I really would have loved to start in the studio, but we really didn’t know what we were doing. As we grew, we realized that’s not how you want to start, but it is what it is.
Dead Rhetoric: Temperance is the latest Afterimage EP. How did the recording and songwriting process go for this set of material – and where do you see the major differences between this effort and your debut?
Daron: We all (have) graduated – but when we were together at Keene State we were practicing two to three times a week and we were always working on new cover songs or always writing. The songs that you hear on the Temperance EP, some of them are over a year old – the songs weren’t all written in one week long time period. Some of them were written over the span of year. We selected the songs for the EP that we did because we felt they shared a common energy. Lyrical values that we felt encapsulated what we wanted to present right now.
Another thing about these songs is there’s a lot more emotion in them compared to the earlier works. Before we would write a song, and throw lyrics on top of that. They weren’t always cohesive. On this EP, we made sure the tone of the song reflected the lyrics as well. And the recording – we pulled a Black Sabbath because when they recorded their first album, they did it in a day. We recorded everything in two days, working to the bone twelve hours a day. I’m not necessarily sure it was the best thing to do, but it’s cool that we were able to pull it off in a short amount of time. That being said, everything went smoothly and the product I’m very proud of.
Dead Rhetoric: And how did you decide upon the cover art for the EP?
Daron: When we came up with the imagery, we were having the hardest time. Over the past four years we’ve always argued what we wanted our band imagery to look like. One day we were at a practice and I said, ‘what about tarot cards- they are cool?’. And that was the same night that we wrote the song “Temperance”, at that point. We then started looking at different tarot cards, and we found the temperance card, which we thought was really cool. Temperance is the removal of toxicity, and we found that a lot of songs we had written over the past year exemplified that. Trying to evolve as a person and remove the toxicity from your life.
The artwork itself, it’s influenced off the temperance card. The singles for “Thy Will Be Done” and “Zeitgeist” are also influenced off tarot cards as well – the singles are the classic reference whereas the Temperance cover, we wanted to break free so the angel is breaking out of the tarot card. It’s trying to reflect how we are trying to break free from the past and our toxicity.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been able to play numerous live shows across New England – including opening for diverse acts like Morbid Angel, Secrets, and Hank Von Hell of Turbonegro among others. How would you describe Afterimage when it comes to your live performances – what do you hope to get across to the audience and what have been some of your most memorable performances to date?
Daron: We just want to be as raw and energetic as possible. We try to bring new things… we just want audiences to be captivated and we want them to feel a part of it. Nowadays bands like to just go up there and play, and we feel like this should be a performance. We want them to feel our emotion and we want to make it as wild as possible. Some of the most fun shows we’ve had have been small house parties. We played a show in Lowell in February – we had this running joke about milk, and how the band loves milk. So we brought milk jugs on stage and started chugging them, and people were disgusted and confused, but that’s exactly what I wanted them to feel. After watching our set, they would be a little bit confused about what they just saw.
What’s funny about the Morbid Angel show is that was early on into our career. We were just transitioning into our heavier material, and we are not that heavy to that degree. We were the openers for the day, we played our songs, they are proggy with a Black Sabbath vibe, and people were receptive. It was cool to play the Worcester Palladium. The band after us, the singer is immediately into the pig squeals. A sharp contrast to us – the experience was cool. We’ve found with a lot of our shows, we don’t really fit the bills. We have elements of Tool and Rush, and it makes things interesting for the bills that we’ve played.
Dead Rhetoric: How does the band balance out the challenge of developing strong hooks, grooves, and melodies while also injecting the intricacies and technical/progressive shifts that take place? Would you say at this point there are specific elements that make for an Afterimage song?
Daron: It’s hard to say. We all come up with different ideas, and sometimes they don’t necessarily seem like they would fit together, but we find a way to make them fit. I find that Brandon comes up with a lot of the licks and the grooves that are really cool. I love writing riffs, the classic Black Sabbath and Metallica type of riffage. A lot of time we’ll present our ideas to each other and see where it takes us.
One staple that we always found ourselves falling into is where is the breakdown going to be? And that was early on into our transition into writing heavier material. We always wanted to have a breakdown, but you’ll see in a couple of the songs on Temperance EP we were into a breakdown method.
Dead Rhetoric: Another thing I notice is the songs are in more of a radio-style format, where no song is over five-minutes. Is that also a conscious decision, or can you see yourself writing some epic songs in the future?
Daron: That’s an interesting observation. We do constrain things to under five minutes, that’s only because we find that… a lot of my influences, I love Rush, I love Dream Theater, I love Tool, and they have these really long songs. And while I appreciate them, sometimes those bands will riff on an idea, and you get it and understand it, but they riff on that for a really long time. We like to have that prog influence, but we want it to be accessible to anyone that is listening. Prog is a niche genre to get into, and I understand it’s not easy for everyone to listen to, so we try to bridge that gap. We want an everyday listener to think something we do is cool, and that there can be weird things in there without being super long.
On that note, “Kingdom Come” and “Thy Will Be Done” started out as one song, nine-minute epic that we ended up splicing into the two different parts that you hear on the EP.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you say are the biggest challenges that the band faces to move up the ranks in terms of popularity and a footprint with what you are doing?
Daron: I think the biggest thing is exposure. Because there are so many bands out there today trying to make it, and a lot of talented bands – but, also a lot of not so talented bands. A big thing in the local music scene are these bills with nine bands on the bill- and people get tired of watching bands they don’t know. The marketing and exposure (are) really hard for local bands, and that’s something that we’ve tried really hard to work on. I do a lot of the social media marketing, and create a lot of our advertising and videos. I look up to what the professional bands are doing and try to replicate that the best that I can. If you look like a professional band, people on a local level will think that you are one. Reaching audiences across the nation is hard. We’ve been growing in New England, and we are still around 2,000 likes on Facebook. We have the quality music that I think people would enjoy, we just need a bigger platform to present it to.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s probably fair to say that the band’s name comes from the Rush song on the Grace Under Pressure album. What are some of your favorite memories, songs, or albums surrounding Rush? Did you ever get the chance to take in a show or two of theirs live before their retirement?
Daron: You got it – it is named after the Rush song. I got to see Rush four times before they retired. I saw them for the first time in 2010 on their Time Machine tour. I saw them twice on the Clockwork Angels tour- I saw them in Manchester, NH and I saw the very first show of that tour. For the final time I saw them on the R40 tour. I actually last summer, Geddy Lee was doing a book signing tour and I got to meet him. It was such a cool experience.
My favorite albums… I think the first album I got into was 2112. And the title track was outstanding to me, it told a story with sound effects. That really sent me off into wanting to listen to more Rush. Early on I was a big fan of the Roll the Bones album, I loved the title song with the rap that is hilarious. In more recent times I’ve grown to love Rush for different things in songwriting. I go back to the Hemispheres album a lot, and the latest album Clockwork Angels, some really great songwriting on that.
Dead Rhetoric: How does the band balance out their careers and relationships with the activities of Afterimage – do you feel you have the proper support from friends and family to pursue things to the furthest degree possible, especially now that you’ve completed your undergraduate work at college?
Daron: The amount of support we get is crazy. My parents should be telling me to stop the band and focus on my career, but they want me to keep doing this. All of our friends support us – playing college parties, the amount of support we get is crazy. We live in an era where rock is not dominating the youth culture. We are playing Rush and Tool and people are freaking out when we play “Tom Sawyer”. I can’t fathom it.
While we were in school, we found a good way to balance things. Early on, we tried to play some Thursday night shows and we saw that was a hassle, so we just stuck to Fridays and Saturdays. We would do our school work, and all weekend we would be in RI, CT, Boston – and we kept that up all four years. I’m really proud of the hard work we put in. We have so many great memories. In terms of our careers now, it’s hard to say. With the pandemic going on right now, none of us really have any jobs set up. It’s a good and bad thing – I focus all my energy into the band, so it’s working out perfectly. I know when everything goes back to normal, we will all have to seek out jobs. It’s going to be another hurdle, and I think we’ve handled that before in college, so I feel there’s nothing that can stop us now.
Dead Rhetoric: What worries you most about the world that we live in today? And what do you think the average person needs to spend more time working on to improve things for the better in society?
Daron: There’s a lot of hatred in this world, a lot of anger and people dislike each other. There’s always going to be some sort of fighting in the world, I understand that. People need to love each other and understand we are all human. One of my biggest influences as a person was Jim Henson, he was such a positive person in the world. He knew he couldn’t change the world, but he could make a difference in some small fashion with love and empathy. That’s my goal, and our music reflects that in some ways. The song “Zeitgeist” it’s not necessarily taking a side, but it talks about the world that we live in is messed up, we have to understand that we can make small change by uniting.
Dead Rhetoric: Who are some personal bass players that you admire in the rock/metal world – and what has your outlook been on your style and abilities over the years?
Daron: Number one is Geddy Lee. After that, it’s Joe Gittleman of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I was introduced to them by my dad in middle school, and in high school I would listen to their playing. I have seen them live over ten times. I love Joe’s style of playing, it’s very busy but it fits the pocket so well. It’s crazy playing but not in your face. Joe infuses ska and reggae playing with punk and hardcore/punk, so I admire the diversity. I love Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath. One of my biggest issues is that I have these bass players that are really fantastic, and right now I’m not on that skill level. That’s hard for me, but I’m understanding they are bass gods for a reason. I may not be a bass god, but I will do the best that I can to emulate them. I’m trying to find my own sound through these influences.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Afterimage over the next twelve to eighteen months? Will you continue to release product on a regular basis in an EP format, or do you have aspirations to do a full-length release the next time around?
Daron: Because of the pandemic it’s definitely hard to say. We are writing new music. Once it’s safe to do so, I want to do a tour. We’ve done some New England shows, but I really want to get outside of New England. I’ve heard the music scene and receptiveness is far bigger outside of New England. We have another song recorded, I’m not sure when it’s going to be released. It was recorded right before the shutdown happened. It was the weekend before. We have another music video for “Temperance” to be released soon.
We like releasing singles. And honestly I think our next project will be a full-length, because we’ve been building towards that. We really want to tell a story, and have it be very cinematic with interludes and soundscapes in addition to the songs. We haven’t experimented with that, and we are eager to do that. This could be a year or two from now.