Music weaves through everything for NJ folk duo AFTYN

For Gloucester County natives Chris Maher and Guinnevere Philipp of the indie-folk duo AFTYN, it seemed like music was always part of their destiny. After all, lead singer Philipp is named after a Crosby, Stills, & Nash song, (“Guinnevere”).

“My mom was very much into that ’70s folk protest music,” says Philipp. “I grew up listening to Carole King, Joni Mitchell and James Tayor. I liked the very poetic songwriting, and even when I was young I felt like I knew what they were talking about.”

Philipp’s father was a musician, and that constant exposure to music helped form her identity, she says. “My dad being involved in music, and having guitars around the house was part of me being into music. I’m fortunate that the rest of my family enjoys music, and my family is very creative. My father and brother are into photography, and my mom is into painting. “

While AFTYN’s guitarist Chris Maher come from a musically involved family as well, his journey to music began in sixth grade as he gravitated towards Rise Against. Being so young, Maher says he didn’t really understand the political message of Rise Against songs, but it was the band’s energy that steered him in a musical direction: “Obviously Rise Against is very political and I really didn’t get that being in sixth grade,” says Maher, “but the energy and passion of their music really connected with me and gave me an insight into other music besides what I listen to on the radio.”

Even though the road to being a band was paved through childhood experiences with being surrounded by music, AFTYN was started on an impulse by Philipp; and what better way to act on your impulses than Facebook.

“I’m a very impulsive person,” says Philipp, “and on one of my impulses I was in a Philly music meet-up group on Facebook, and one night I made a post on the group asking for help with open mics. I got a bunch of different messages from people, but the hyperfixation wore off, and I didn’t really think about it anymore.”

That was until Maher messaged Philipp about helping her out with open mics, and Philipp responded. 

“I left him on read for a couple days,” says Philipp. “He messaged me again, and he was persistent. He lived near me, and went to Rowan as well so I thought he was trustworthy.”

Maher and Philipp would later meet up at Wilson Music Hall on Rowan’s campus for practice and the rest was history. “He was persistent and kept me on track with practices. If it was someone else it probably wouldn’t have gone the way it did,” Philipp says.

Finding a musical partner in Maher was crucial for Philipp as she was able to navigate the direction that she wanted her music career to go in; and for AFTYN ,the compass was pointing in the direction of folk. 

“The music that we make feels like a good mix of what I like (Joni Mitchell, Carole King) and what Chris likes (Rise Against), and we found common ground,” says Philipp. “With his influences and my voice, we were able to land with folk.”

Those influences are evident with their first album, Minutia, which was recorded in Maher’s basement in Mullica Hill and mastered by the Gradwell House in Haddon Heights. The name of the album is inspired by a Dawes lyric.

“Some of the songs were written before COVID, and some were written during quarantine,” says Philipp. “The songs deal with what people feel when they are stuck in their own head”

There’s also another theme to Minutia—love; it was during the quarantine period where Maher and Philipp entered into a relationship together. The duo uses their relationship to their advantage when it comes to scheduling shows, making music and handling criticism. 

“It’s easy,” says Maher on handling the relationship and the band. “We know each other’s schedule, and if someone asks to play a show, it’s like I know Guinnevere’s schedule and we’re both free.”

“Almost nothing changed,” says Philipp. “We were best friends to begin with, and with that best friend banter we could be honest with each other.”

That honesty comes in handy when it comes to the recording process. “There’s this one song we were recently working on, and Chris was like, ‘I hate it,’” says Philipp. “He spent hours and hours working on it so I told him, ‘Why don’t you stop and start over in a couple days,’ and I was right. We’re able to say whatever we want to each other.”

Recently the duo released an EP called Wherever I Am, There You Are and will be playing a show at The Room at Harpers Pub in Clementon. 

“I always had a great time at Harpers,” says Maher. “I like that they are one of the few venues in the area that is more venue-based than bar-based, and I always enjoy playing there.”