One heavily packed Kia Soul, two best friends and a destination across the country began the journey that helped cultivate a career for Afterglow. Featuring lead singer and guitarist Adrian Mitchell, and backup vocalist and keyboardist Jackson Simmons, the Michigan-made alternative rock band left the Mitten for the promises and potential of the L.A. music industry in 2016. And now, almost a year later, the band is returning for its first Michigan show since.
However, long before California dreams were made possible, Afterglow had its humble beginnings in a basement in Lowell during the summer of 2012, as Mitchell began practicing his guitar. Meanwhile, Simmons, who hadn’t been able to play an instrument at the time, stumbled upon an old keyboard and began to create something new, before going on to fully learn how to play.
“I encouraged him to keep going and going and going and now he’s one of the best musicians I know,” Mitchell said.
But the band didn’t really take off until a chance encounter that summer when the duo met Wayne Coyne, frontman for The Flaming Lips, at a music festival. Coyne, a hero to both Mitchell and Simmons, encouraged them to push forward with their band and create something as unique and weird as they wanted it to be.
“We told him we wanted to start a band and we wanted to get weirder,” Mitchell said. “And he goes, ‘Well, be as weird as you want to be,’ and we were blown away. It's so simple. It's so simple, you know, but when your hero tells you that it changes everything."
That meeting inspired the creation of their first album, which they recorded that summer and started out selling to friends, family and classmates during the school year.
Many of those songs were then featured in the 40 or so performances they played in Grand Rapids before their big move to Los Angeles, and while they have since have left the city, the duo noted that getting their beginnings in Grand Rapids gave them great experiences and advantages in the music industry. They emphasized how the music scene in Grand Rapids was vastly different from that in L.A.
“Grand Rapids was much more tightknit, and you have more personal relationships and more local venues who want to hear you play. It’s all profit driven here in L.A,” Mitchell said.
Before the return to Grand Rapids, however, Afterglow has a huge showcase performance coming up on July 22nd in L.A., where the duo will be showcasing their new single, Cloning the Mammoth. The single, different from anything the band has previously created, was a joint effort between both Simmons and Mitchell.
“(It was) one of the only times I sat down and was like, ‘I'm gonna write a song. I'm gonna write a riff right now and whatever comes out right now is gonna be great.’ You know, just believing in it," Mitchell said.
After Mitchell wrote the “bare bones of the song,” Simmons came in and fleshed out the sound, making it something unique and finishing Afterglow’s first officially released single.
"That was just one of those moments of magic I guess," Mitchell said.
This particular moment of magic has set the stage for Afterglow’s future songs as the band works on creating its official debut album, and the two of them are thrilled to be able to return to Michigan for a homecoming performance.
The duo is set to return on August 4th with a performance at the Park Theater in Holland. Here, Afterglow will be showcasing its brand new single, along with a few older songs.
The move across the country was a big leap, but it's taught the band a thing or two.
“My advice to anyone looking to start in music would be to just do it. Don’t wait, just go for what you want," Mitchell said.
Park Theater, Holland
August 4, 5 p.m., $5-8