Thereafter’s main songwriter and singer, Neil Hammond, says that in co-creating ‘Ceremony’, he was dreaming up the album that was missing from his record collection. ‘We love rich rhythmic acoustic music, complex guitar picking, string and wind sections, tight vocal harmonies and kick-ass instrumentals. It is rare to find a single album that does all that…so that’s what we set out to do with Thereafter’s debut album ‘Ceremony’.’
Neil met Thereafter’s harmony singer, flute player and instrumental composer Keona Hammond when playing in the more celtically-infused ‘Cleia’. They got married in the meantime, moved to an island, had some kids and wrote a bunch of music. Teaming up with fellow islander and Juno awarding winning cellist Shanto Acharia they slowly wood-shedded their sound, rounding it out for ‘Ceremony’ with Annie Brown’s fiddle and Juno-award winning percussionist Ben Brown on pared-down percussion.
It’s totally folk music and it is very original and fresh and current, sometimes classical, sometimes fairground. ‘The album explores addiction which is a theme that I have become increasingly aware of recently and fought with like mad during the time the album was being conceived. I’m not talking about substance addiction - though that is used in metaphors and references in the words, but addictions to patterns and behaviours and relationships. I think we are all addicted to one thing or another, and harmony and happiness follows the release from addictions or attachments.’
While two of the songs deal directly with the deaths of friends, there is a pervading sense of hope and release and a sense of wonder and celebration in the flow of life. This is ever-present in the gorgeous instrumentals and the deep finely-woven harmonies. The songs started off with Keona doing backing vocals but as they recorded the album they became duets. The matching of Neil and Keona’s contrasting voices is one of the most remarked-on features of the Thereafter sound.
They selected the specific songs and instrumentals to fit together as an arc and the album draws you in to listen from beginning to end. ‘It opens with the passing of a storm, and ends with the coming of one’, says Neil Hammond, ‘I guess it’s a ceremony in the eye of the hurricane, which from actual experience, I can tell you, can be quite a time’.
Alex Salsea, Undercurrents, 2013.