Written By Laura Curry
Since 2013, the Ocean County-based punk rockers, After The Burn, have been supplying listeners with angst-tinged tunes that confront the struggles of everyday life and encourage us to keep going. While some of their songs are empowering punk anthems, others are deeply emotional tracks that conspire with the devil on our shoulder. In honor of their Happy Mondays performance at Wonder Bar in Asbury Park this week, Pop-Break had the chance to talk to Michael Caputo of After The Burn to learn more about their inspirations, their EP, “The Eternal Embrace,” and details about their live performances.
Who is After The Burn? (Names of the band members & the instruments you play): After The Burn is Michael Caputo on vocals/guitar, Mike Ramirez on guitar/backing vocals, Chris Walters on bass and Eddie Scagnetti on drums.
In terms of the sound of your music, are you strictly punk rock? How do you think your music bridges the gap between alternative and punk music: Collectively, we have a wide range of influences and punk rock is a unifying thread tying it together. So basically, we’re just a bunch of punk rockers playing music. I think that helps us bridge the tiny stream between Punk and Alternative. I have also been told that our set has a variety to it that some other sets don’t. If Punk and Alternative is something you’re into, you’ll be able to pick pieces out in all our songs, and dig it.
Are there any bands or artists that you draw inspiration from? Who are they: When I was younger, bands like Social Distortion, D.I., The Adolescents, Dead Kennedys, Fear, X, etc. were mainstays. I dug that sound for its manic pace and snotty vocals. They did what they did and didn’t care if it was full of angst. The Replacements and The Clash had such a great variety of music—I can still listen to a whole record without getting bored. Every song has its own flavor and personality. Those bands are more influences for us, though. The true inspiration comes from life. The peaks and valleys of everyday life – trying to deal with complex relationships, dead-end jobs, conflicting ideas, being bored, the struggle to get yourself out of bed – that’s the real inspiration.
What exactly does your name After The Burn mean? How does it reflect the personality of the band: Going through life, you have highs and lows—happy and sad, sometimes the in-between. For me, the lows seem to leave the most impact; they build the most character. That’s where most of the songs come from: After the Burn.
Since After The Burn began, how has your sound evolved over the past couple years: Honestly, I feel we’re still kind of young for a band and we’re exploring our range. If anything, we are more focused now.
How does your EP “The Eternal Embrace” capture what After The Burn is all about? (The title of the EP itself is very dramatic and definitely conveys the angst of punk music.) What is the main idea behind the EP and what themes are explored:
What song encapsulates the meaning of the EP and how does it achieve this: “Non-Degradable Debris” and “The Burn,” together. Those songs are more about personal feelings. They have the most opportunity for interpretation.
After listening to the EP a couple times, it seems like “The Burn” has more alternative elements with the mellow instrumental intro and the fade out at the end. To me, it sounds like the main punk elements are the vocals and subject of the lyrics. Is this an accurate takeaway from the song? What is the meaning behind this track and what does it stand for: I can agree with that. The lyrics and vocals drive the punk attitude while the music is something slightly different, yet similar. For me, that was the most challenging song to find vocals for. When we recorded it for the EP, I was still uncertain about it. Now, it’s one of my favorites to play. It’s a song with real simple, stark, repetitive lyrics. I think the idea is to come away from that song feeling mad and ready to kick some ass—but only if necessary and within reason.
During your performances, how would you describe your energy on stage, and how does it transfer over to the audience? Or in other words, what feelings are conveyed to the audience while you’re on stage: I’m (Caputo) the most animated of the bunch, bouncing around the stage whenever possible. Ramirez and Chris hold down the fort on either side, while Eddie keeps us steadily marching to our unique tunes. We all end in a sweaty mess.
What’s been the most memorable show so far? What makes that specific show stand out: Recently, we opened up for Michale Graves at Dingbatz (in Clifton, NJ). There was something weird going on with the electric and I couldn’t get my pedal board to stay powered. The band that played before us was great, but the crowd seemed more interested in drinking, so I was slightly concerned. The sound guy seemed to be rushing us a bit, and mentioned we were already 5 minutes into our time while setting up. Once we were ready, we just attacked it, and something clicked with the audience. At one point, some guy made his way to the stage and threw a handful of dollar bills at us and then, a few songs later, he did it again. $10 in sweaty singles, I ended up stepping all over. We ended up with a great crowd, which is key to any great show, and we scooped those singles with a smile on our faces.
What’s your favorite part about being in After the Burn: We all get along. We work together for everything.
If someone has never heard your music before, what song would you recommend they listen to in order to fully grasp what After the Burn is about, and why: Right now, “Conspiracy.” That’s one of the songs that we get a lot of positive feedback on. It’s catchy and it rocks.
What’s next for After the Burn: We’re finishing up our next EP, “Frustrate on Repeat,” which will be available through us very soon. We plan on expanding our reach throughout the northeast and beyond in 2017. We’ll continue to write and play out whenever possible.