The past year has been a heartbreaking one for A Fragile Tomorrow (AFT), with this past July marking one year since members/brothers Dominic, Sean, and Brendan Kelly lost their mother, their biggest fan, to cancer. Since that huge loss, the band, which also includes bassist Shaun Rhoades and new touring/recording drummer Josh Kean (All Get Out, Baumer), has drawn closer to one another, clinging to their music and their bond to see them through.
Over the past year, Dominic has moved to Los Angeles and switched from the band's drummer to (mainly synth) keyboardist. Brendan and Sean are in Savannah, which is where their recording studio is as well. Rhoades is in Charleston still. Through the changes that have taken hold in their personal lives, their sound began to shape into something different, too. "Stylistically and aesthetically we're trying to re-brand, so it's kind of a whole new band in a lot of ways," Sean says. "... I think we were also having a bit of an existential crisis within the band, too. When mom started hospice, we'd just begun writing for the record after taking a year or so off to do other projects, and kind of felt the need for things to change but weren't sure what that meant entirely. When she died we were demo-ing and writing still, and quickly realized that we needed and wanted the band to evolve."
The band had been listening to a lot of hip-hop (A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Kendrick Lamar) and krautrock (Can, Neu!, Faust) when the songwriting took over organically. The result was more focused on the rhythm section than guitars.
"Dom's switch to keys was the thing that made us realize the direction we could push this music in, and really opened the door to the record we ended up making," Sean says. "We also just wanted to get much more experimental and were taking a lot of inspiration from Radiohead, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Deerhoof, etc."
Out now on MPress Records, the new single "Dig Me Out" is the first song Sean wrote with Brendan, and the two wound up co-writing AFT's entire upcoming sixth album together. Stylistically, the album's flagship track shows where the band is headed and is a shining example of the talent you can continue to expect from Kean.
"In short, I think we realized that we loved playing in this band and wanted it to continue, but our tastes were evolving and our interests were expanding musically, and we needed to capitalize on that in order to keep things going," Sean says. "We were also feeling a bit boxed in stylistically, so we wanted to push ourselves and challenge ourselves, and make something that was as inventive, complex and experimental as we could be."
Look out for the new album in the fall and, in the coming years, a lot more from the band as it works toward intentional growth. "We also just want to keep making records, because we really love this band and it's personally my passion project," Sean says. "So we're just gonna keep moving forward with the new lineup and trying to challenge ourselves. A lot has changed! Two of us are married and one is getting married, and we all definitely want the band to keep evolving as our lives evolve."