After Aristotle is an indie alternative rock band based in Austin, Texas, and in late January they released their debut EP A Guide To Open Minds. Formed in 2016, the band consists of Kera Krause on vocals & ukelele, Cam Lamother on guitar, Tyson Zaria on bass, Ethan Schrupp on guitar & synth, and Zach Melvin on drums. The title of their EP encapsulates their collective approach to making music. In their bio they state: “We’re all about open mindedness. With a wide range of influences, our sound ranges from soft, indie rock to in your face punk. We let the music decide where it wants to go. We make the music we feel like making and have a great time doing it!”
The EP has a rather heavy, dark theme. With their intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics the band takes on subjects such as depression, fake news and betrayal by both friends and our leaders, and our attempts to find solace through denial and/or self-medication. Setting the tone is opening track “I’ve Got No One to Brush My Teeth For,” a melancholy song about feeling lonely and depressed, unable to see a way forward. With painful resignation, Kera sings “It’s so sunny outside I don’t think I’m getting out of bed. All day under the covers that hope that the day goes away with all of my fear and self hate. Light up the medicine, kill my adrenaline. So scared I don’t know where I’ve been.” The melodic track has some excellent guitar work that goes from jangly to blistering and everything in between, and Zach’s aggressive drumming is on-point.
The hard-rocking “Fakes and Escapes” is my favorite track on the EP. Propelled by Tyson’s driving bass line, Cam and Ethan’s frantic shredded riffs and Zach’s thunderous drums make for a really exciting hard rock song. Kera spits the lyrics that speak of duplicity and betrayal: “Well did you ever bite the hand that fed? Last thing we need is another fake smile. But we’ve all been learning to not feel for a while.”
The band incorporates a bit of Americana on the poignant track “Substance,” featuring some lovely violin courtesy of guest artist Ethan Thayer. Kera plaintively sings “We’re all pleading for a world we’ll never see, while the one where we live passes by like a dream. / We shouldn’t suffer to fuel their greed. And they wonder why we’re popping pills to get some peace. And they wonder why we’re drowning to feel clean. What dragon are we chasing?”
The fast-paced rock song “Shallow Folk” is about having the courage to admit that the lies and stubborn false beliefs you shouted loud and often in order to convince others they were true has been a sham (if only a certain occupant of the White House would do a bit of this self-actualization):
Well what did I think I knew about the world or anything it consumes
Appointing answers as if I could back up my stances
If I shout it so loud will it earn me my chance now
Keep my head held high to combat the downspin of my selfish mind
Keep the crowd’s attention just until I believe in my own words
I’m still getting used to admitting when I’m wrong
You know what drives me crazy?
People who talk with nothing to say
See I couldn’t live another day with lips sewn shut, lungs black with regret
Mind shut so tight, I suffocate inside of it
But I’ve been shallow like water that’s two inches tall
It’s no surprise that I’ve been feeling so small
“Escaping Handcuffs” ends the EP on a hopeful note. The lyrics speak to overcoming self-doubt and fear that are holding you back from achieving your potential and living a fuller, more satisfying life. “Don’t let the little things take up your time. Calm down your fight. Pull back the curtain. There’s a whole world and you’re acting so blind. Don’t be scared.” The horns are a nice touch on this soft rock tune.
A Guide To Open Minds is a strong debut effort from After Aristotle that showcases their skillful songwriting and musicianship. I’m curious to see what compelling topics they’ll set to music next.