The band is Afore Notation, a local Birmingham band who’ve been together for several years with a few different members, a couple of albums, and a brief name change. The members are guitarists Thayer Helu and Ben Bowers, vocalist Chris Hawkins, Brandon Barrow on drums, and Michael Bradt on bass. I first saw Afore Notation live when they opened for the Protomen (along with Final Weapon) at Zydeco a few months back, and I later inquired about a possible interview. Right when I arrived to the meeting place I knew this was going to be a good conversation! Note: Chris was unable to make the interview, so I spoke with just Ben, Thayer, Brandon, and Michael
Justin Adams: So how did each of you meet?
Thayer Helu: I met Ben when I was 18 and he was 16. We met at local shows and had mutual friends. I was just out of high-school when he joined the band. Fast forward many years, Brandon and I first met at Best Buy and became friends after seeing each other at local shows, but we were friends for at least two years before he joined the band. Our drummer had left and Brandon was what we were looking for. As for Michael, we’ve been friends for four or five years, and he’d been in side bands and we never needed a bassist, when our previous singer quit and Chris went to vocals, Michael went to back-up vocals and base.
JA: How did you decide to form a band?
TH: It was me and Garrett, who recently left. We were teenagers and thought it would be cool. We started going to local shows at a small place called Shma in Pinson, near the Pinson Main Street area. It was tiny, but it was really intimate and cool. We got to know some of the local bands, I got a guitar and he could sing, and we decided to form the band.
JA: How about the name, “Afore Notation”? Is there a story behind that?
TH: It was based on one of the poems Garrett did, that we thought sounded good. Out of context it doesn’t really mean much, but the term means “Before Noting.” We briefly changed the band’s name to All Systems Go for about a year, but by then everyone knew us as Afore Notation so we went back to that.
JA: Do you remember your first gig as a band? Where did you play and did it go well?
TH: It was the one-year anniversary at the Shma and another band called Black Tie Tragedy just let us play one song during their set and that was pretty much it.
JA: Which artists would you say are your biggest influences?
TH: We’re all influenced by different things. For me, it was two bands, At The Drive-in and Hopesfalll, but there was also the video-game music I grew up with.
Ben Bowers: For me, it was Metallica growing up. I’d learn a lot of their songs and play some of their riffs. And Van Halen is one of my major guitar playing influences.
JA: There’s definitely a video-game influence in your work. Are you all gamers and what kind of games are you into? Shooters, RPGs, for example? I kind of got a Final Fantasy vibe from one of your music videos.
TH: Definitely RPGs. Final Fantasy and Mega Man are the biggest, but also Sonic and a little Contra. Final Fantasy VII would definitely be my favorite in terms of Final Fantasy games.
BB: Final Fantasy VII was huge for me as well, with Chrono Trigger being a close second.
JA: Fantastic games, very influential.
TH: We actually did a cover of a Chrono Trigger song, but we haven’t put it up yet.
JA: Did you have any difficulties breaking into the Birmingham music scene? Some venues only want cover bands, for instance.
TH: It’s kind of funny, when we started out it wasn’t hard, because back then we were the post-hardcore, screaming, singing kind of thing and that was just what was played around here. But now that we’re older there aren’t many places like the Shma or Cave 9. It was actually a lot easier when we were younger. It seems like we have to work a lot harder now, whereas shows used to fall into our lap.
JA: I saw your show with the Protomen at Zydeco. Great show, by the way.
TH: Oh yeah, sometimes we seem to luck into shows like that. It seems like adults and younger people often go out for different reasons. Younger people tend to be there mainly for entertainment and adults are usually there to drink and hear songs they’re familiar with.
JA: And where can we see you play next?
TH: Iron City on July 13th is our next show, for the CD release. We’re kind of re-launching now with the CD coming out. We started a Kickstarter to raise money.
JA: And I’ll be there too. Look forward to seeing you guys again. Thanks for taking the time for the interview.
TH: No problem. Thanks man.