This song continues the story started in "Sleep in My Clothes," which was the first single Michael Tapper released under the name Practice. Tapper was previously the drummer on We Are Scientists, Bishop Allen, Fool's Gold, and Yellow Ostrich. He also was winner of the auspicious MTV "Beard of the Year" award in both 2005 and 2006.
"Sleep in My Clothes" is about depression and isolation. "The Afterlife" is about coming out of that state and embracing the reality of the world around us rather than despairing over what was lost.
The connection between the songs is indicated in the lyrics. The first line of "The Afterlife" is "waking from the dream." This is Tapper waking from the slumber explored in "Sleep in My clothes."
Both songs were released during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, but they were actually written some time before. It's an interesting coincidence (or act of prescience), because the quarantine lockdowns initiated due to COVID-19 forced millions to experience the very things Tapper was writing about.
The song was released as the first single from the album Not a Game.
The song grew from Tapper's own life. He'd written "Sleep in My Clothes" after leaving his band (he hasn't specified exactly which of his three previous bands he was referring to). "The Afterlife" stemmed from his being trapped for a month on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. He mentioned this sailing story to Music Connections but didn't elaborate on many details.
On the Yellow Ostrich Facebook announcement of the song's release, Tapper wrote of this song, "If you ever feel alone, afraid, adrift, confused, raise your hand and close your eye."