Hard rock band Afterlife decades in the making






  • When: 10 p.m. Friday, May 14, 2010
  • Where: Twilight Lounge, 2630 Roane State Highway, Harriman

— Despite having won two battle-of-the-bands contests last year and being featured in two rock bios coming out this year, local hard-rock quintet Afterlife is still struggling to land gigs inside Knoxville's city limits. This hasn't deterred the band from playing at least once a week in surrounding areas, and on the verge of its debut release, Afterlife is pushing hard to make its music heard on a national level without having to leave home.

Although less than a year old, Afterlife has been decades in the making. As a former member of a handful of bands in South Carolina, Afterlife bassist and chief songwriter Sam Keys has been diligently fleshing out an extensive catalog of songs for the past 20 years. Having finally assembled his ideal crew, Afterlife is giving life to those songs once more, wowing fans with its take on modern rock wherever it has the fortune to play.

"I've been playing music for about 22 years now," Keys recalls. "I was in a band called Nothing Sacred in South Carolina, but then I got married and had some kids and didn't want to go on tour and come back to have my kids not know me. So I took a 10-year hiatus and wrote songs. Now I've got over 400 songs written and decided to get the Afterlife thing going. Every one of these guys' talent is remarkable. I do a lot of the songwriting in the band, but they take these songs from a little thing in my head and turn them into something monstrous."

Despite the age of some of its songs and its Motley Crue influence, Afterlife describes its sound as progressive hard rock, pointing out a tendency to play both heavy metal and slower rock ballads.

"I think one thing that separates us from the majority of local bands is they're all metal or all New Age or all radio-friendly or whatever you want to call it," says vocalist Andrew Staley. "We go back and forth. We have things that are very driving, very heavy, and then on the other end, we have more rock-ballad-type things. ... If somebody comes to our show, they're going to find something they like."

Afterlife's eclectic sets have won over fans both locally and nationally. Last year the group won the people's choice award at Big Mama's Karaoke Cafe Battle of the Bands event and first place overall for Fox 43's Battle of the Bands. Because of the band's Motley Crue influence, Afterlife is featured in the second revision of Nikki Sixx's biography "An Education in Rebellion" (due June 10) and has two tracks on the accompanying CD. Similarly the band will be featured in an upcoming Alice in Chains book and also will be featured on its companion CD.

Though Afterlife appears to be fairing well with listeners, the group has had little luck lately securing gigs in Knoxville. The band cites the closing of many local venues that once hosted Afterlife's brand of modern rock as the primary reason.

"The Catalyst shut down last year, and that was a big place for a lot of local bands," Staley says. "There are still a few places to play in Knoxville, but they're getting to be few and far between, so we play anywhere there's electricity."

True to its word, Afterlife is performing often in the surrounding area with its new EP "On Deadly Ground" in tow. The recent release was recorded at Shed 55 under the eye of producer Dave DeWitt and is for sale now, although the band is holding out for its official release party. In the meantime Keys has been moving fast to promote the group's music through local radio stations like WNFZ, 94.3 The X, and has even pitched a track to "Tranformers" director Michael Bay.

"The song is about Bumblebee from 'Transformers,' " says Keys. "A friend of ours made a video to that song using images from 'Transformers.' It's just a pitch to Michael Bay, for our eyes and his only, because we don't own any of the images of course."

Afterlife is set to play three shows in the coming weeks, the first of which is tonight at Twilight Club in Midtown. This show kicks off at 10 p.m. and costs $5. Saturday night the band will take the stage at Edna Mae's Bar and Grill in Wartburg. Tragedy Theory opens that show at 8 p.m. Admission is $3. Afterlife also is on the bill for this year's Wallypalooza, which takes place May 21-22 at Big Daddy's Scoots and Sports in Maryville.

Bomb shelter: Murfreesboro's How I Became the Bomb takes temporary leave of waterlogged Middle Tennessee to play Pilot Light tonight with Falcon Lords. The show starts at 10 p.m. and costs $5.

Possible taste infringement: The Royal Buzz, not to be confused with The Royal Bangs, will perform as part of a three-band bill at Patrick Sullivan's on Saturday night. Camillo the Ocean also is set to perform along with another act still to be announced. This show is at 9 p.m.

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