Ana Kefr is a band whose music can be described as enlightening, with often fast-paced compositions of philosophical lyrics, raging guitars and screams alternating with hauntingly melodic vocals.
Lead vocalist Rhiis Lopez and rhythm guitarist Kyle Coughran founded Ana Kefr in 2008. Lopez, who was then living in Egypt, met Coughran while visiting his brother in the United States.
At the time, Coughran was in a band with Lopez’s brother but he and Lopez worked together so well that Lopez decided to stay in the U.S. to focus on music.
“It’s like he’s my long lost musical soulmate,” said Lopez about Coughran.
The rest of Ana Kefr’s current lineup came together through a mix of chance and Craigslist.
During his audition, Lopez and Coughran recognized the current lead guitarist, Brendan Moore, as someone they had previously played a show with. Drummer Shane Dawson was brought into the band by Moore and bassist Alphonso Jimenez was found through Craigslist.
Ana Kefr released their first album, Volume I, in 2009 and their latest album, The Burial Tree, in 2011.
Lopez said most people label Ana Kefr as progressive death metal, but he feels genres are limiting.
“Part of the problem with the whole genre thing is that words never totally capture the essence of anything,” Lopez said.
When it comes to songwriting, Lopez said the process begins with music.
He and Coughran write the music and then other members put their own spin on it, creating what Lopez calls a “clusterf*** of ideas.”
After the music is written, Lopez sits down to write the lyrics.
He calls The Burial Tree a buried bookworm kind of album that was inspired by both old and new literature.
Much of Lopez’s muse comes from reading; especially about world religions, philosophy, mythology and psychology.
Echoing Lopez’s philosophical interests and his beginnings in Egypt, Ana Kefr means “I am infidel” in Arabic.
Lopez said the central theme of The Burial Tree is the path to enlightenment.
If ignorance is bliss, Lopez said, that implies that enlightenment is pain and sorrow. He finds it an interesting statement that happiness and fulfillment is to be completely ignorant.
“We think about enlightenment as this light and beautiful process, but what if it’s actually very painful? Because the truth isn’t always very pleasant,” Lopez said.
Ana Kefr has been involved with secular and atheist organizations including the Orange County Freethought Alliance.
During a tour in Mississippi, one of Ana Kefr’s shows was cancelled by a venue due to their secular affiliations.
This didn’t discourage the band, who found it more funny than frustrating. Lopez said this occurrence was the biggest manifestation of a negative reaction to their music.
In writing The Burial Tree, Lopez realized that not everything is about politics or religion and it doesn’t need to be.
Lopez said he’s ready to move on from The Burial Tree to something new and fresh.
“People think what they think, and whether you scream at them or not, it’s not really going to change their minds,” Lopez said.
Despite the critics, Ana Kefr has acquired some very dedicated fans.
While filming a promo video in an abandoned shack, Ana Kefr made a spoof video of MTV Cribs in which Moore used lint rollers on his leather jacket.
Later, at a North Carolina venue, Ana Kefr was greeted by a fan armed with lint rollers for them to autograph.
Lopez said Ana Kefr’s success as a band hasn’t changed them at all.
While they’ve had major labels approach them for contracts, Ana Kefr is cautious because of the pressure to become commercialized.
“Sometimes you have to choose: Do you want to sign away your right to be yourself and be successful? Or do you want to stay true to yourself and possibly not make a lot of money?” Lopez said.
While the opportunity to sign with major labels is a big one, Ana Kefr just wants to stay real.
“In the end it’s worth it. Because if you love music, then nothing else compares. And that’s the way it is for us,” Lopez said.
Ana Kefr will be performing today at the Becker Amphitheater from noon to 1 p.m.