Some bands wait for good things to come to them. But then there's A Fragile Tomorrow (a.k.a. AFT), a band that doesn't sit around and dream. These guys know how to make good things happen themselves by opening their own studio and connecting with the right people. Oh, and the Charleston-based band also announced last week that they've signed onto New York label MPress Records.
The dream started when three brothers (drummer Dominic, lead vocalist/guitarist Sean, and guitarist Brendan) played music together as kids. Twins Dominic and Sean were 11 years old, and their younger brother Brendan was only eight. "Well, technically we started playing when we were like four or five in our band called the Watermelons, but that was because we didn't really have any friends at that time. Then we became Acoustic Midnight," says Sean. "And then I wrote this really shitty song called A Fragile Tomorrow," adds Dominic. "We hated the song, but we liked the name — so we kept it."
Around that time, influences were coming in the form of their dad's classic rock collection. "Our dad was playing Beatles records, but also The Squeeze and a lot of other stuff people our age weren't listening to. I also remember watching The Monkees at my grandparents' house, and that was the first time I ever saw a 12-string guitar. It was those little things that led us to what we do now," says Sean.
The boys got their start in their family's basement, like lots of rock bands do, before they finally went public. "We used to sing the Star-Spangled Banner at baseball games, and this one time there was only one microphone, so we had to look each other in the eyes and basically sing to each other — and we started laughing in the middle of it. Needless to say, that's why Dom's probably behind me now on drums, so we don't have to look at each other while we play," laughs Sean. "I'm still kind of haunted by that experience."
The Kellys, originally from New York, made the move to Charleston when they were of age (to vote, not partake in PBR, that is). At that point, the 18-year-olds had already been touring all over and were making connections with big shots in the industry. The guys from Hootie & the Blowfish had become their mentors, so the Chucktown music scene was beckoning the power-pop rockers, who had already added bassist Shaun Rhoades to the mix.
Dominic and Sean also got degrees in music production and music business. "We wanted to branch out into other strands of the industry," says Dominic. "You have to have your foot in other things to stay alive. We knew we had to have a knowledge in certain things to stay afloat." The band reached out to people they admired and wanted to work with, like Belgian rock group K's Choice, who they were on a European tour with when the guys recorded the February-released EP Belgique (Live in Brussels).
Recently, the Kellys got in contact with Jim Scott, who has worked with names like Sting, The Rolling Stones, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Wilco, the latter of whom have had a strong influence over A Fragile Tomorrow's sound. Scott mixed the foursome's most recent single "Waning," which was another star-studded highlight for the brothers. The single was released July 15 and has a bigger sound than their previous five records. "We wanted to do something grandiose and big sounding, something different from what we had done before," Sean says. "There's a horn section and the mix has the hardpan thing, like with drums in one ear and vocals in the other. It's very bold."
Though A Fragile Tomorrow have released albums on their self-made independent label (Piewillie Records), they have recently gotten acquainted with Grammy-nominated MPress Records by touring with label founder and singer/songwriter Rachel Sage. The label is now leading the way for the bright-eyed local guys. "They want us to take our vision and run with that and guide us along the way. It's what any artist could hope for. It's all we've ever wanted, to have someone believe in us in that kind of way," says Sean. The band's next disc will be under the new label. "It's a whole different landscape than where we were just five years ago," Dominic says.
The Royal American show is an unofficial celebration for "Waning." It's also a farewell show to send off Sean and Dominic as they head to Savannah to open up the band's new studio, where they'll soon cut the yet-to-be-named new album. A Fragile Tomorrow is also opening for the Indigo Girls in Atlanta on July 18.