After We Præy is:
Caleb Brooks - Vocals.Guitar.Bass Annita Kelly - Vocals.Bass.Guitar
Daniel Bell - Drums Stephen Burwell - Melodica.Crew
After We Præy's beginnings are rooted in chance. In true Spinal Tap fashion, Caleb, the band's vocalist and guitarist, and original bassist went through an array of drummers in the early incarnations of the band. When the search started to seem hopeless, they turned to Craigslist in late 2012 as a last resort. By chance, they found a desperate plea posted by Dan, who had recently relocated to Richmond, VA from Maui, HI. Dan had had to leave his drum kit behind in the move, but was hoping beyond hope to find a band to join that was both in need of a drummer and that also had a drum kit available.
It just so happened that they had one to offer, so the three met up to jam. But instead of a casual jam session, after blasting through a few previously written songs and covers, they immediately started writing new material and After We Præy was born.
The Band Name
“We get asked about the name all the time,” smirks Dan, the one to bring the band name to the table. “It started out as a lot of band names do--I thought ‘Prey’ or ‘Pray’ sounded cool. But I couldn’t decide between the two. And then I remembered the latin ‘æ’ symbol I’d seen here and there. Not only did I think the combo made a great band name, but it also made a perfect band logo.”
However, ‘Præy’ by itself brought with it an unexpected connotation inspiration. “Once I had the words conjoined,” remembers Dan, “I started to realize that there was a relationship between them. I was going through a lot of life changes like moving across the world and starting a family. All that had me reflecting a lot and also thinking about intention. How my actions affect other people and if the way I live my life actually upholds my beliefs and values.”
So the band name became the question: What happens after we pray and after we prey? In other words, do our actions always match our intentions and do we always consider the implications of our actions?
“I’m honored to have chosen a name that my bandmates actually liked and were willing to use to bring their songs to the world. I’m also proud of myself for actually coming up with something with meaning!”
Chance reared its head again soon after first hitting the stage around the Richmond, VA area when the band was in need of a new bassist. Annie, who had been in previous projects with Caleb, was unintentionally initiated into the group without even meaning to when she sat in for a few songs during their first show in Crewe, VA. Because of her history with Caleb and passion for music, the seamless creativity and songwriting continued without a hitch.
Being a multi-instrumentalist and seasoned song-writer, Annie’s involvement elevated the band to a new level.
“She’s definitely one of the most talented musicians we’ve ever known,” agree Dan and Caleb. Caleb noted that she doesn’t play the bass as one would normally expect in a rock band. “She comes up with the most interesting parts to my songs that I would never have thought of. Some of my songs are, like, 3 or 4 cords, but she’ll write these intricate melodies and harmonies and take the songs to totally new places.”
Annie’s dynamic instrumentation doesn’t stop at her bass playing, though. She’s also a seasoned singer and songwriter and those tools make After We Præy’s creative process truly collaborative.
“Annie and I usually write the progression and lyrics to a song on our own, then bring that to the band where we work together to not only add our own instrument parts, but to mold and structure the songs around our own ideas, interests, and talents.”
What Annie may start as a garage-rock anthem may find Caleb’s guttural growls creeping in the choruses. Or what may be a hard-hitting, faster-tempoed song may become layered with two-part vocal harmonies at unexpected moments.
“We never write a song that we feel has to be a certain way,” says Caleb. “We never get stuck on an idea just because it’s what we thought might work at first. We all want our songs to be as good and meaningful as possible, so we stay open to whatever works best, even if it’s not what we expected.”
Annie and Caleb most often take lead vocals on the songs they originally write, but since they are both accomplished vocalists, neither dominate the spotlight. “We didn’t set out to be a dual-vocals band,” reflects Annie, “but when a song calls for more than simple back up vocals, we share the mic duties where we feel it works best for the song.”
“I’m a very primal, intuitive drummer,” interjects Dan. “Like Dave Grohl, I’m not in it for the flair. I just love to play and love to play loud. I want my rhythm to be felt the way I feel when I play.”
All of these elements together make the band unexpectedly dynamic, with a large, full sound that some might not expect from a three-piece rock band.
The Band’s Sound
After We Præy unapologetically wear their influences on their sleeves, and in their sound. The rock genres that shaped their youth are the sounds that shape their musical output.
“Even though we grew up during different times and have lots of varied tastes,” muses Dan, “the three of us share a common love and inspiration of grunge and alternative bands like Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, and Seether, and nu-metal like Korn, Deftones, and System of a Down.”
Though the band draw their influences and inspirations from these bands and others, they have organically found a dynamic fusion of sounds that sets them apart from any one influence or genre.
“In past bands, we were much more intentional about what kind of sound we wanted to be and what bands we wanted to sound like,” states Caleb. “We would try to match the technical level of speed-metal bands and things like that. So I started this band specifically to write simple music that I wanted to hear and to get the things out I need to. Annie writes like that, too. We like to make music that we enjoy playing and songs that other people can connect with, too.”
Fusing grunge and nu-metal made perfect sense when writing simple and catchy rock music. Those styles tend to be less about the technical prowess and flair and instead more about the groove, melody, feeling, and grounded relatability.
“All three of us most love music that rocks, music with a groove, music with good melodies, relatable lyrics, and music with an edge,” says Dan. “Whether we’re writing a more alt, rock, or heavy song, we tend to go with simple riffs and head-bobbing grooves that grunge and nu-metal generally tended to sound like, too.”
“At a recent show, a guy came up to me,” recalls Caleb, “and excitedly said that we had both a grunge and a nu-metal sound, but that we didn’t quite sound exactly like either. He said we were ‘nu-grunge.’ I can’t believe I didn’t think of that term before!”
Even though After We Præy didn’t set out to recreate the wheel or break new ground, the feedback they’ve gotten implies that they might be onto something “nu” that hasn’t quite been done the way they do it.
Though they are honored to be given the “nu-grunge” moniker, in the end, all they want to do is rock.
And rock is what they bring to the stage. After We Præy likes it loud and they bring their full sound to whatever venue will have them.
So far, they’ve played in all sorts of local venues, from local bars and clubs, to DIY house shows, and even to parking lots. No matter the din, they command the stage and draw the audience’s attention.
Recently, they opened for the national act, Saliva, at Richmond’s Canal Club and had quite the response. “People were headbanging, cheering, and even moshing!” exclaimed Annie after the show. “We got to play for a ton of people that hadn’t heard us before and the response was really great.”
“We have such a wide variety of songs and styles,” says Dan, “that we can play pretty much any kind of rock show--and we have. Everything from basement punk shows, metal-oriented gigs, and straight up rock ‘n’ roll nights.”
Just because they prefer to plug in and rock, though, doesn’t mean that they can’t rock the stage in other formats as well. You might catch them playing acoustically or unplugged at a local farmer’s market, coffee shop, brewery, or even a local park as part of their ongoing “Wide Open World” video series.
“When I started writing the songs for what would eventually become After We Præy,” says Caleb, I didn’t envision playing them in an acoustic format live, but Annie, Dan, and I have been creative and versatile enough to make it work. I also think the simple nature and clear melodies of the songs helps them easily translate into different formats. Sometimes I'm really surprised how good a heavy song of ours sounds acoustically.”
Now that After We Præy has rocked most available stages around the central Virginia area, they are setting their sites on regional venues. If you’re not in Richmond, but on the east coast, you may be seeing them near you soon.
As of 2019, After We Præy finally has been able to release their debut full-length album, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.”
“We have so many songs we wanted to get out there,” says Caleb, “it was hard to pick only an album’s worth. But what we chose we felt both told a complete story of where we started and where we were at when we recorded these songs, while showcasing the variety of our sound.”
“We are so proud of this thing,” says Annie. “We really poured our hearts and souls into it.”
“It was such a long time coming,” says Dan. “It was such an unbelievable feeling to finally get it finished and out to the world.”
But they didn’t do it alone. Richmond’s own producer, engineer, and guitar legend, Dylan Edwards, member of multiple Richmond-based bands, helmed the recording, mixing, and mastering of the album.
“He knocked it out of the park,” says Caleb. “We can’t thank him enough for his time, creativity, and patience with us as we worked tirelessly to get this album done.”
One commenter online stated that the band “...did a DAMN fine job on this. DAMN FINE.”
“We have so much more planned, so many songs to record, videos to make, shows to play,” states Caleb, while Dan and Annie nod in agreement. “We’ve accomplished a lot since we first got together, but we’re just getting started.”