An Upstate look at Rochester’s AFR

There’s a rumbling coming from Western New York as of late; or so it seems from the perspective of the editor’s desk here at Upstate Metal, as we’ve had our eyes forcibly opened ala Clockwork Orange to the music scene out of Rochester, New York.

The epicenter is discernablly originated from underneath whichever stage AFR plays.  The heavy metal group phones out from the 585 Area Code, and in the short time since they formed in April of 2012, they’ve fostered a following with an enormous fan base – geographically speaking.

AFR comes off as an eclectic sounding band, listing a broad focus of infuences that range from Dream Theatre to Lamb of God.  Signed by Buffalo’s Dead Trash Mob records, the boys like to describe their sound as, “if Pantera and Lamb Of God had a baby.”

Upstate Metal recently had the opportunity of communicating with the band’s bassist, Todd Church.  Church is the neophyte of the band, stepping on board with AFR last October.  As with many local rockers, Church has a day job to pay the bills.  Only, as you’ll quickly learn, his day job is almost as interesting as his nighttime persona.  We talk to him about that, and more, plus what fans should expect from the band in the next few months.

Hallisey: You joined the band in October of last year, right? Tell me a little bit about how you joined the crew, and what kind of struggles do you have being with a band that’s already struck out on its own before you came along?

Church: Actually the band was advertising on Craig’s list back in the summer of 2013 and during that time I went to see one of their shows to check them out and was really impressed with the show and the music. After the show, I met up with the guys and hit it off pretty good. The transition from me learning the songs and doing my first show was literally two weeks when the lead singer Alan called me up and asked me to play that coming weekend show at the Montage Music Hall in Rochester, NY. Sometime in September. Surprisingly it went really well with the short time I had to learn their set list.

Hallisey: You’re a chemist, scientist? Is being a musician your alter ego?

Church: Definitely, I’m an Environmental Scientist these days; listening to a little Lamb of God or Pantera while working away! It’s always been kind of a joke in just about all the bands I’ve been in over the years. I would tell people I’m a scientist and everyone would be like, yeah right!

Hallisey: I don’t assume you’re cooking meth in an RV out in the New Mexico desert, am I right?

Church: Laughs. No! I’m pretty much tied to a computer these days. I currently work as a consultant providing chemistry/biology technical support to project teams and field sampling teams globally.

Hallisey: Is rock and roll a dream or a pastime for you? Do you see professional aspirations conflicting with your music?

Church: I never did or will quit the dream! I’ve been a musician most of my life starting in my elementary band playing the trombone. I’ve played in metal bands for long time. At one point in my life toured with my metal band throughout Michigan whom is still together but under different name now. Fortunately my job is pretty demanding but also flexible as well so seems to work out good. It would definitely be an easy decision on which way to go if the opportunity and money was right!

Hallisey: Speaking of music, how involved are you in the song writing?

Church: I’m at a point now with AFR that I am contributing to the music writing process with our upcoming EP that we have been working on. Each of us encourage each other to help with the writing process so it’s actually a fun and rewarding process.

Hallisey: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Church: As with most musicians and artists alike, inspiration comes from the soul. We all have a history whether good or bad, and being able to convey it to the music is incredibly fulfilling.

Hallisey: Who are your idols, and what characteristics do you try to take from them into your own play?

Church: I have been a huge fan of music in general as long as I can remember listening to my parents old Motown and classic rock records growing up. After being introduced to Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath, I knew that is what I wanted to do! Throughout the years, I would have to say Steve Harris from Iron Maiden as well as Cliff Burton, Jason Newsted and Robert Trujillo were also huge influences on me as well. Robert is a madman to watch play!

Hallisey: I often hear musicians today speak of being involved in a battle to revitalize rock and roll. How do you feel being a part of such a scene where pop culture seems to have left it behind?

Church: I definitely have witnessed that over the years. Not only with music but even dealing with venues/clubs who have completely changed their lineup due to low attendance with the Rock culture and changing over to country music in hopes to draw more crowds. I’m not sure if that has changed today, but believe the metal/rock scene is just as strong today. I’ve always been involved with original bands and finding venues and getting large crowds to come see you has always been challenging.

We have been blessed with great venues and fans across upstate New York and don’t really feel that there is a battle at all and that there is always a place for metal.

Hallisey: What do you bring to the table for the band, that makes this band shine?

Church: When I first saw AFR play live, I felt a connection with the music and vibe instantly. I’d like to think I bring a prominent and heavy but unique sound quality that I believe will compliment what is already a powerful sound.

Hallisey: What does the band bring to the table for metal, to help metal make a comeback?

Church: Since I’ve been in upstate NY I have seen a lot of great cover and original bands. I think AFR stands out from the crowd with the some familiarity of the their sound but yet uniqueness which I see draws listeners interested from the first note until the last. Its been a great experience this far and looking forward to the future of this band.

Hallisey: You guys are working on a new EP, how far along are you with that?

Church: Yeah, we have been working really hard on our new upcoming EP since late November early December and pretty excited about. We have a few songs that are completed now but we wanted to spend the time to give our fans more than just a single release or two. It’s definitely going to have a new heavy feel but keep true to our roots.

Hallisey: When can we expect a release?

Church: Our first EP, A Hero to Villains, which was released in 2012 under the Buffalo, NY record label Dead Trash Mob Records, has had a really good response and we’re expecting to release our new upcoming EP late spring/early summer 2014.

Hallisey: A radio show in Germany knows about you guys. How does that happen, and does that obligate you guys to cover a David Hasselhoff tune or two?

Church: Well, if we end up touring Germany, we will be sure to call our ride “K.I.T.T.”!  Laughs.

Today, it’s almost endless on how or where to advertise at a touch of a button. You can find out music on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Facebook, Reverbnation and more. One of the best ways is always by word of mouth and the social networking apps like Facebook but of course, you still have to have a descent product so people do pass along. Its been great how our fan base has been growing and spreading to new fans worldwide, including Germany, in such a short amount of time.

For more band info, you can find us here:

www.facebook.com/AFRmetalrochester

www.reverbnation.com/artist/afrmetalrochester

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AFR comprises of Alan Rohr (Vocals), Ledwing Hernandez (Guitars), Zach Sweedler (Guitars), Todd Church (Bass), and Brandon Lewis (Drums). (Photo Credit: Courtesy of AFR)