Earlier this year, Wichita-based band After Judo released its first album, Harvard Avenue, and now the band is about to embark on its first-ever tour.
Band members Joe Hagen and An Nguyen recently visited the KMUW studios to talk about the band's history.
Take me back and tell me how this whole thing started.
Joe Hagen: It was me and my fellow guitarist/vocalist Ryne Carballo and out trumpeter Rob [Mabrey], we all lived on the same dorm floor freshman year at WSU. I'd hear them play guitar in the courtyard. One day I saw them walking by. They were going to Judo club. I was, like, "What the heck? Judo club?" I had nothing better to do so I just followed them. We met at Judo and we would practice music after Judo. That's where the name comes from. We picked up An from Judo as well. Our drummer Flavio [Perez] came along because we needed a drummer.
So everyone practices Judo?
JH: Everyone except Flavio started in Judo. Some of us have kind of fallen off, stopped doing it. Rob is the president of the Judo club.
An Nguyen: Former president.
JH: Former president.
AN: He retired.
JH: We're slowing down, so we actually will be "after Judo" because no one will actually be in Judo.
Your songs are pretty eclectic in terms of the styles they encapsulate. Do you ever have times where you try something and it doesn't quite work?
AN: Sometimes. I remember, one time, we got together and were trying to play a bossa nova song. Our drummer, Flavio, is really into Afro-Latin jazz and stuff like that. We were trying to put that together and it didn't work just because the rest of us hadn't had a lot of experience playing that type of music before. It was at least a good songwriting session.
JH: The chord progression started out as an emo/math rock chord progression. We said, "What if we switch it to bossa nova halfway through the song? It's a cool idea but [those styles] don't fit together at all. There was no cohesive way to put them together. Plus Flavio's the only one who plays bossa. It'd be posing if we try to play bossa.
Any particular songs on the album that seem to have gotten a better response than others? Or that is a particular favorite of yours?
AN: One song that a lot of people really like is "Snowed In."
JH: It's the most chill song and I think, sonically, fits the best with what we can all do. The drumming on it is very jazz-inspired but, at the same time, there's a singer-songwriter, fingerpicking style intro. We just sprinkle all of our influence on top of it.
After Judo performs Friday, July 26, at Ellis Street Moto on a bill with Marrice Anthony and Jordana.