Josh Havens and Matt Fuqua were working together at a Starbucks in Mesquite, Texas while playing for other bands. On slow nights, they entertained customers and themselves by playing a few acoustic songs. "I'm sure we weren't supposed to be playing music on the clock, but the customers liked it," Havens jokes.
They wound up playing an acoustic show together at a church conference, and were surprised when people came up to them after the show asking where they were playing next. "We thought it would be fun to play a show and then go back to our bands," Fuqua explains. "Instead we were overwhelmed with incredible feedback from people. We decided to keep playing together and see where it took us."
The road led to a series of acoustic shows at The Door, a legendary Dallas club. "We wound up with 300 people at our first show and the crowds got bigger every time we played," Havens recalls.
Agreeing to shift from acoustic to electric, Fuqua and Havens began looking for a drummer and bassist. Naturally they found what they were looking for at Starbucks. Dodd and Wigg, also employees, joined to play drums and bass respectively. The band's powerful performances earned The Afters a loyal following and for two years the band packed The Door consistently.
Wigg explains, "We were able to draw people in at our live performances initially through our onstage charisma. Especially Josh. He has that sort of dreamy, wistful look of innocent vulnerability while maintaining a degree of confident charm. But when you break the show down to its elements there's a great deal of variety to be found. Josh sings, I sing, Matt sings, we have pop songs, we have really dramatic rock-your-face-off songs, we have sweeping, melodic ballads. There really is something for everyone."
In 2000, The Afters went into the studio to record a six-song EP. They sold all 2,000 copies in a few weeks and earned enough money to return to the studio to cut their debut, WHEN THE WORLD IS WONDERFUL. Independently released in 2001 under their original name Blisse, the album sold more than 25,000 copies and became a staple on Dallas rock radio.
The band knew it was onto something, but it was a show on Halloween 2002 that convinced Dodd. "That was when I knew I was finally going to be able to quit Starbucks," he says with a laugh. "We were on stage and all of a sudden the parts clicked into place at the same time. It felt like nothing could stop us."
Two years later and with a new moniker, The Afters signed with Simple/INO Records to record their follow-up, I WISH WE ALL COULD WIN. Based on the strength of the album, Epic Records agreed to sign The Afters and release the album in the winter of 2005.