The fellows in Afterlife Revival have been around the block a few times—whether in other musical acts or artistic endeavors. Spearheaded by visual artist and songwriter Evan B. Harris, the conceptual art project combines monthly single releases with unique illustrated folk art pieces and narratives based on his free-spirited upbringing.
In the beginning, Afterlife Revival was really a way for Harris to "release some stress and tension from my life," he says. A longtime illustrator, a debilitating shingles outbreak threatened his life and vision making it impossible for Harris to "paint my visions due to temporary blindness"—so he sought another creative outlet. The songs and stories started as a form of therapy. "They became my life mantras to get me through the good times and hard times," he says. "I never intended to play them for other folks," until his friend Ryan Bukstein "encouraged me to develop the songs."
When the project started, "I had all kinds of different folks I met over the years sit in with me and strum, beat, bow, sing, stomp, clap, and shake whatever strange instrument they knew how to play," Harris says. "Musicians ebbed and flowed through my life over the years. And one of my friends would always circle back around and ask how my songs are coming along. This is my buddy Ryan Bukstein. He's one of the first believers in my art and music. We always have such a great time jamming together—our flow is very simpatico.
"We decided it was time to share the music we'd been working on with the people," Harris continues. "So Ryan started pulling in different musicians until we found the right group."
With Harris telling stories, singing and playing the acoustic guitar while Bukstein drums (and manages the project), the group is rounded out by Luke Messimer supporting on vocals and playing guitar and piano and Raymond Richards providing vocals, guitar and pedal steel—"these tones give the songs a rich, spaced-out sound," Harris adds—not to mention recording the group at his space B-Side Studios. (Richards is also known for his work tracking Edward Sharpe, Local Natives, The Parson Red Heads and Jacob Miller and the Bridge City Crooners.)
Facing fears head on and "learning to work with amazing musicians," Harris' optimistic outlook has led to the group capture their "best Beatlesque psych, hillbilly, country vibe." It's also led to his first foray in the music industry of which he says: "You never know unless you try."
The second single in Afterlife Revival's six-month catalogue of releases is "Neon Saturday Night," which comes paired with a special art piece inspired by the song—available exclusively to band subscribers in late July. Featuring wonderful female backing vox from Charlie Moses and bass by Robert Castillo, the track twangs like honkey-tonk and contains some comedic relief.
"My perfect 'Neon Saturday Night' fantasy sounds a little something like this," Harris begins. "Dusty old saloon with a friendly bartender who knows how to pour a stiff shot of whiskey. A player piano in the corner pounding out some good honky-tonk music, the kind my granddad used to play. That foot-stomping, hand-clapping, good ol' boy kinda tunes. A diverse crowd of folks fills the hall dancing and singing, doesn't matter your color, doesn't matter your religion, doesn't matter your sexual orientation. It's just good vibes. No judging, we are all watching out for one another. I end the night by swaying to one last waltz with my lovely wife, Lisa Marie. Tipping my hat to the new friends I've made, we saddle up the horse and head back to home sweet home to watch a little boob tube and chill with the stinky dog."