Local Band Spotlight - The Effie Afton

The story of the next band to play the Music Education benefit starts with a Quad-Cities history lesson. In the mid-1800s, steamboats were a main transporter of goods. There was a proposal to build the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi in Rock Island, which started a huge court case between the steam boats and the railroad. After a heated trial and years of building, the bridge was finally completed. On May 6, 1856, two weeks after completion, a steamboat called "The Effie Afton" crashed into the bridge. The boat burned to cinders, and one span of the draw bridge was destroyed. The railroad maintained that the crash was intentional. The steamboat company blamed the crash on the bridge.

In 2012, a group of young musicians formed a band and chose The Effie Afton as the name of their band – linking them with the Quad Cities through this piece of obscure but important history. Tim Smith and Matt Toomey had been working together in various bands since 2004. Ben Larson and his brother had a Christmas Jazz event and asked Smith if he would be interested in playing bass with them. However, Toomey and Smith really wanted to make a career out of music, so along with Larson and drummer Randy May, they began rehearsing as The Effie Afton in November of 2012. Their first show was at Rozz-Tox that December.

Randy May left the band a few months later, and as they refocused, Toomey took over the drums. For a few shows, they had guest bass players. In 2013, with a show planned in Chicago, Anthony Lloyd stepped in. Lloyd had played with Matt Toomey before, and had gone through the same college Jazz program as the other band members. The Chicago show sealed the deal, and The Effie Afton had their fourth member.

The Effie Afton has released 2 self-produced EPs to date. They are currently in the process of recording their first full-length CD and hope to have it released in 2014. Taking on the task of self-recording has its rewards and pitfalls. According to Matt Toomey: “It is a pretty steep learning curve sometimes, and pretty frustrating to maintain focus and discipline for so long, but I feel that recording it ourselves in our own environment helps keep it genuine.”

Smith explains his songwriting process, “Songs can come about in different ways. Sometimes it all comes at the same time. Other times it happens in pieces, i.e. lyrics then music. I used to write very straightforward lyrics without a lot to leave to the imagination. After a while, I got tired of using the same ideas and the same words. That's when my lyricism began to blossom. My mother is not going to be happy about this choice of song to go through [chuckles]. It's easily the most vicious song I've ever written. I'm choosing it because I think that it has very powerful imagery and because I think that it is okay to write about topics that may seem like things to push under the rug. If everyone were a little more honest with themselves about their feelings, I think people would be much happier.” The song he goes on to describe is Great Divide, written about confronting some personal baggage. This particular song began with a guitar part that needed lyrics. The lyrics came when he pulled out an emotion that he was dealing with and then found a graphic way to present it. Once he had the lyrics and music, he brought the idea to the rest of the band and they filled in their parts.

What does the future hold for this band? “Gigs, gigs, and more gigs, hopefully,” says Lloyd. “We want to turn this into a legitimate job so we don't have to be starving musicians anymore!” With a 5 day tour this summer and a possible follow-up for the fall, they’re heading in the right direction. Watch for news of a CD release party when the CD drops.