Q&A with Dom Kelly from A Fragile Tomorrow; Playing Eddie’s Attic March 19th

[ 0 ] March 18, 2013 |

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By Al Kaufman

If you’re old enough to remember to Athens music invasion of the ‘80s, you have a friend in A Fragile Tomorrow. Although they hail from Charlestown, SC, twin brothers Sean (vocals, guitar) and Dom (drums, piano) Kelly, their brother Brendan Kelly (guitar), and friend Shaun Rhoades (bass) seem as Athens as REM. First off, they have that great jangle pop sound, which has really come to the forefront on their new album, Be Nice, Be Careful, thanks to producer Mitch Easter, who fronted Let’s Active and produced Pylon and early REM albums. Amy Ray also appears on the new album, the result of a friendship that began when A Fragile Tomorrow started touring with the Indigo Girls in 2010.

But it’s not just that. Everywhere these guys go they make friends with people from an earlier generation, be it the Bangles, Rhode Island’s Cowsills, or South Carolina’s Danielle Howle. They all fall victim to the boys’ infectious melodies and personalities (all of which is certainly not on scene in the hilarious video for “Kernersville,” the first single from the new album.

Dom Kelly talked with Atlanta Music Guide about the dynamic of the band and their love of the people and sounds of some 30 years ago.

 I’m concerned about the dynamics of this band. Usually twins have their own language, and a third sibling would feel left out. A fourth, unrelated, person would feel even more left out. How do you guys make this work, and are there times when it hasn’t?

 We get that concern a lot from people, but really, we all work extremely well together. Obviously, being identical, Sean and I are very in sync the majority of the time. We enjoy working together, and really feed off of each other in a way that may be hard for non-multiples to understand. Sean and I lost our triplet brother Paul when we were 6-years-old, and while it has been tough to deal with the real feeling that a piece is physically missing from who we are, we have been able to partially fill that void with the work we do together. Our brother Brendan, though, works just as well in that equation. He brings another perspective to our work that is still on the same level as Sean and I, but comes from a different place. As far as Shaun Rhoades goes, when he first joined the band 7 years ago, it was an interesting thing to have to try and figure out how to incorporate the views and perspective of an outside person into what we do. Shaun comes from a completely different background than we do, both musically and personally, and it took some getting used to at first. He wound up living with us for the first 2 years, and we quickly became family. The last 7 years with him in the band have proven to be a growing period for all of us, and the cohesive way we’ve learned to work together really shines with this new record.

You seem to have so many friends from the ‘80s Athens scene (Indigo Girls, REM, Don Dixon, Drivin’ and Cryin’, etc.), but were barely born then. How did these friendships come about?

Well it’s definitely no coincidence that these people were all huge figures in that scene back in the ‘80s, and we’re now friends with them. We (my brothers and I) grew up a little north of New York City, and from a young age, were exposed to this music. Sean has been a huge REM fan for years, and growing up listening to all those records and being turned onto this type of music definitely influenced what we do now. It all pretty much started, really, with Hootie and The Blowfish. We played Cracked Rear View nonstop in our home, and from a young age, decided we wanted to be them. Sean and I were 12 (and Brendan 9) when we first met those guys, and we quickly became friends. Through them we obviously met Peter Holsapple, who has become our mentor and one of our biggest supporters, as well as Susan Cowsill. We connected with Susan immediately, and over the years have formed this mother/son relationship with her. We now know all of the Cowsills, and consider them to be family. We first met Don Dixon when Sean and I were 15, and he found out about us after Sean sent him our second record (produced by Malcolm Burn). Dixon flipped out about the record (and called Peter Holsapple about us), and we’ve been friends ever since. The Indigo Girls friendship happened really organically after an Indigo Girls concert Sean and I went to when we were 16. We waited in the alley behind the theater in upstate NY for an hour and a half to meet them, and had Sulli (their guitar tech) leave a note saying that “friends of Danielle Howle” were waiting outside after the show. We chatted with Amy Ray for a while, gave her a copy of our second record, and wound up keeping in touch. She loved the record, and when we were making our third record (with Danielle Howle producing), asked Amy if she’d sing on it. Since then, we’ve done a lot of touring with Indigo Girls, were featured on their latest live record, and sang on Amy Ray’s most recent solo record. Amy also sings on “Daylight” on our new record Be Nice Be Careful. As far as Drivin’ N Cryin’ goes, we’ve just been fans for a while, and because of all the connections we had together, were able to meet/open for them. Such a great band and awesome guys. The touring relationships/friendships we’ve formed with others like The Bangles and Matthew Sweet have stemmed out of our friendships with all those we’ve met along the way, and the fact that these people we idolize love what we’re doing, that is an amazing feeling. It’s all coming full circle.

The new album, Be Nice, Be Careful, was produced by Mitch Easter, who could be considered the king of jangle pop. What did you learn from having him twist the knobs?

Well, we’ve always dreamed of working with Mitch. He was number one on our list of possible producers for this record, and when we finalized the details to get it going, it set in that it was really happening. It was an amazing experience working with Mitch. First of all, Fidelitorium {Easter’s recording studio] is on another planet. The endless selection of instruments was not only super fun, but really inspiring. Having Mitch’s ears and expertise was something we didn’t take for granted, and it worked out so well in the end. We wanted the record to have that REM Murmur sound and feel to it, and Mitch actually said the experience with us reminded him a lot doing that record with REM. That was incredible to hear, and I think that’s why we’re so proud of this record. One of the coolest parts of the whole thing was when Don Dixon came in to sing on the song “Crooked Smiles and Greedy Hands,” and we were able to see him and Mitch working together. It was pretty surreal for us, as huge REM, Let’s Active, The dB’s, fans, to watch the two people that made these incredible records together working on our record right in front of us.

Why hasn’t jangle power-pop received the notoriety it so justly deserves?

That’s a tough one. I think we all have talked about this before, and we agree that, with the exception of maybe a couple random bands over the years, it’s never really caught on in the mainstream as much as it should have. I think there were bands that did pretty well, but certain things just don’t catch on. There have definitely been some mainstream bands that are clearly influenced by those early jangle-pop bands, but the genre as a whole never was grasped by the mainstream music listener. Honestly, one of our main goals is to bring this genre to the mainstream and make it “cool” again. We’re all super young, and while most people our ages have no idea who half the bands that influence us, or even that we tour with, are, they seem to really like what we’re doing, and that gives us hope for the genre as a whole. If we can be the ambassadors for our generation to the jangle powerpop movement, that would be incredible.

It looks like you guys did your own stunts on the “Kernersville” video. Did anyone get hurt?

Ah, yes, we did indeed do our own stunts (although we almost hired [Detroit Tiger first baseman] Prince Fielder as a double for Shaun Rhoades). There were very few injuries that ensued from filming the “Kernserville” video – the only substantial one being the hurt our egos suffered at the hands of our friends’ testimonials. Other than that (discounting the fact that I had my appendix removed only 3 days prior to filming), everything that day was way too much fun.

 A Fragile Tomorrow play Eddie’s Attic with Rachael Sage and Marcelo Fruet on Tuesday, March 19th.


 

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Category: Gigs, Interviews

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