Family affair: Brothers make up three-quarters of A Fragile Tomorrow
By Devin Grant Special to The Post and Courier – Thursday, January 3, 2013
If you go
What: A Fragile Tomorrow with special guests Amy Ray and Danielle Howle & Fireworks Show
When: Saturday; doors open at 8 p.m.
Where: The Windjammer, 1008 Ocean Blvd., Isle of Palms
For more info: 886-8596 or www.the-windjammer.com
Rock history is littered with bands that feature two or more family members performing together. From The Everly Brothers in the ’50s and The Jackson 5 in the ’60s, to more recent acts such as The Black Crowes and The Magic Numbers, bands that share family members already have a built-in bond, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on the act.
Charleston has seen its own share of bands with multiple family members, including The Cribb, The 3 Dudes and Jump, Little Children.
One of the latest family bands to hit the local scene, A Fragile Tomorrow, features brothers Sean, Dominic and Brendan Kelly, and has been quickly making a name for itself in the business as of late.
Lead guitarist Brendan is still a teenager, and drummer Dominic and lead singer and guitarist Sean just became old enough to drink in November. But that hasn’t slowed down the band, which is rounded out by bassist Shaun Rhoades, from catching the attention of established acts such as the Indigo Girls and The Bangles, both of which the band has performed with.
Now, the band, which was formed in Montgomery, N.Y., in 2003, is set to release its fourth full-length studio album, “Be Nice Be Careful.”
They will be throwing an album release party Saturday at The Windjammer, headlining the shows with special guests Amy Ray and Danielle Howle & Fireworks Show.
Calling in favors
Sitting at a table at Sesame in West Ashley recently, the Kelly brothers talked a bit about their band’s history, its recent rise and the new album.
Sean, who writes most of the songs, said that the new album turned out exactly as envisioned, possibly even better.
“We recorded the album in about three weeks last January,” he said, “and we got Mitch Easter to produce the album mainly because we contacted him way in advance about doing it.”
The producer, probably best known for co-producing the first two R.E.M. albums, was A Fragile Tomorrow’s first choice.
“There was a lot of spontaneity on the new record,” Dominic added.
The album primarily has a power pop sound, but Sean also advised that there were a lot of unconventional instruments employed during the recording. “We used timpani, autoharp and electric sitar on various tracks.”
The band also called in some favors from a few of the more notable folks with which they have toured with in the past.
Vicki and Debbi Peterson of The Bangles and Susan Cowsill of The Cowsills sing backup while Easter and album engineer Ted Comerford play guitar and piano, respectively, on one of the album’s catchiest tracks, “Kernersville.”
And Indigo Girl Amy Ray added her vocals to “Daylight.” Don Dixon sang on “Crooked Smiles and Greedy Hands” while Greg Humphries added table steel guitar to “My Home.”
After shopping the finished product around to a few labels, the band ultimately decided to release the new album on its own imprint, Piewillie Records.
All about family
The album’s title comes from words incorporated in a painting the band saw while touring in Florida. The album art features childhood photos of the brothers’ father, Patrick, playing in a sprinkler in a front lawn.
Patrick and the boys’ mother, Vicki, are actively involved in their sons’ music career.
Patrick, who works for the Medical University of South Carolina’s Department of Public Safety, is a retired New York City police officer who was a first responder on Sept. 11.
“He did a lot of work transporting doctors and medical personnel to and from the World Trade Center site,” Dominic said, “but he was also in the debris pile looking for survivors and recovering bodies.”
Sean remembers being about 10 and grabbing on to his father’s legs on the morning of the attacks after he was called in to work, begging him not to leave.
While most folks who meet Sean and Dominic think they’re twins, they are actually two of three (i.e., triplets). The other Kelly brother, Paul, was born with severe cerebral palsy and passed away in his sleep when he was 5.
Sean and Dominic also live with cerebral palsy, but with much less severe symptoms than their late brother.
On the song “Three More Hours,” Dominic makes a reference to Paul, singing “Put my brother in the ground, lost my way and turned around.”
Talking about Saturday’s album release show, the Kelly brothers were visibly excited.
“Having both Amy Ray and Danielle Howle opening for us is mind-blowing,” said Sean. “They are both artists whose work we all respect.”
Beyond the release of the new album, the band has plans to tour in Europe and Japan in addition to the United States.
“We have an Asian distributor, so hopefully we can get some interest going over there,” Sean said.
No matter what 2013 holds for the four members of A Fragile Tomorrow, this is definitely a band with real talent, lofty goals and the support to help reach them.