Spero Lumina didn't perform at the release party for Stained Glass Maze, the band's first and final full-length, at The 923 Lounge last Sunday. Instead, the Ramona alt-rock band's new record played over the PA.
As singer / guitarist Aaron Rowan's mesmerizing voice filled the dimly lit club, his sister Noelle passed out chocolate cupcakes decorated with frosting crosses and mazes. Dan Adams, the father of Rowan's longtime girlfriend, reminisced with his wife as he sipped tequila—he'd always wanted to have one with the man he was hoping would be his son-in-law. Megan Oswalt, a close friend of the band, gazed silently at a TV displaying a slide show of band photographs. Tears streamed down her face.
Stained Glass Maze marks the final step of a band that's been through more than the usual arguments and fistfights during its 12-year run. Two years ago, the band's sound engineer, Matt Ruiz, got into a car accident that left him disabled. Last December, bassist Sean Antony's father died of a heart attack. Then, in April, 30-year-old Rowan suddenly went into a seizure and died of an aneurysm—succumbing to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a rare disease that also claimed the life of his father and brother.
“You'd think our band was cursed,” Weston Bouchér, Spero Lumina's lead guitarist, told a crowd of friends and family at The 923. “There was always a really big high followed by a really big low.”
Rowan was the force that kept the band together, members say. He was a spiritual person, but he wasn't a “cookie-cutter Christian,” as Bouchér put it. He drank beer, smoked pot and had an over-the-top sense of humor. He didn't let his disease curb his life, friends say, but his grim paintings and cryptic lyrics show a man grappling with his mortality. “Only love can cure this cancer,” he sings in the album's title track.
Rowan had finished his parts for Stained Glass Maze not long before he died. Over the summer, Bouchér went into the studio to finish the record. As he harmonized with his departed friend, he said, “it was like he wasn't really gone.”