Band names can sometimes mean nothing, or come across as very silly. Or be so all-embracing that they too lose all meaning. Everything Everything? TV On The Radio? Vampire Weekend, anyone? Then you get something like Fragile Creatures which is a neat encapsulation of humans. Well, as neat as you can get within the limitations of a bands name. But it nearly didn’t happen for this Brighton -based five piece: “There was a guy called Dave, who was investing in us and he said you should call yourselves Fragile Creatures, right from the off,” remembers Adam Kidd, lead singer and guitarist. “We all said ‘no’,” Adam laughs at the memory of it, “Then a couple of months later I said halfway through a rehearsal: ‘Guys! Got a great idea for the band name! Why don’t we call ourselves Fragile Creatures?!”
Indeed, such is the human way with appropriation and rights… But, whoever deserves the credit, there is no denying it is a great name for a band, surely that all but the most egotistical of us can relate to. We are all fragile creatures after all… They even have a song called Fragile Creatures. “Human beings are fragile creatures, and that is the subject of the song. I was reading the New Scientist, and maybe using that as a shield, against the emotional stuff in the lyrics underneath,” says Adam. “There was this article, which says when crocodiles come out of the egg, they are ready to kill, they scurry off on their own. But being human beings, our heads are too big for the birth canal, so you need to have a family unit to look after the child when it comes out. The head isn’t fully hardened; there are lots of physiological reasons… We are pretty pathetic without each other, and that is true of the band, we make up for each other’s weaknesses.”
Aaron Neville, Adam’s main song-writing partner, keys player and angelic harmoniser, has a different take… “It’s also an analogy for a hangover,” he says…. “They take one look at us, and say we understand now…” Along with Adam and Aaron, there’s guitarist Tom Alty, drummer James Crump and bassist Adam Whittles. “Tom is one of a kind,” says Adam “Brighton born and bred, which is a rarity in itself. I met him on the school bus; we’ve been in bands since he was 13 and I was 15. He’s a virtuoso, learning to play from blues magazines from the age of ten”.
James Crump was in a band called Blue Sky Research, and toured with people like Ian Brown. “After auditioning about 100 drummers, the god-send that is James walked in through the door,” says Aaron. “It was finding a bass player that was our problem,” says Adam, “we did have a guy called Ousman, but he was really only filling in. I met him because I was playing guitar for a Gambian-Western fusion group called Xam Xam. Ousman was their MD, we had to beg him to play with our new band. Unfortunately, he passed away recently.”
Before that though they did find their permanent bassist in Adam Whittles and for the last three years the band have been a settled unit, writing a tonne of material and honing their stagecraft, in readiness for the release of their début album …And Other Wild Things. It’s a beautifully crafted work, that recalls the very best of classic American and British pop and rock. Indeed, they are on a mission to restore Britain’s reputation for original pop, their catchy melodies, tight harmonies, clever arrangements and story-telling lyrics encapsulated by the gorgeous song ‘Stowaways’, a tune that has already garnered over 120,000 Soundcloud plays, thanks to it’s infectious sing-a-long qualities and the lyrical sentiments, depicting the possibility of getting away from a fragile, corrupt world….
“I was big into the Beatles when I first started to learn the guitar,” says Adam. “Yellow Submarine and the Italia ’90 World Cup collection from The Three Tenors! Those were the only tapes I had for a long time. Then it was Blur, Manic Street Preachers, The Clash, The Jam, Radiohead. I really like bands like The Clash who did whatever they fancied, but in the style of The Clash. It always sounds like them, but diverse.”
“I was a choir boy when I was kid,” says Aaron, trying not to giggle. “I’ve been on Songs of Praise a couple of times. Those high notes you hear on the album, that will be me with my balls in a vice. I love 60s records, Motown, and I’m big fan of The Beach Boys. I love building harmonies, that’s my game.”
“Originally, Aaron and I were in another band, a political, progressive, and mental band,” laughs Adam. “Aaron was not digging it at all.” “I couldn’t handle it,” says Aaron.” I didn’t have my picket in my hand, I was not digging…”
“I was writing songs that the band couldn’t or wouldn’t play because there wasn’t a political narrative to it, so Aaron encouraged me to do some acoustic singer-songwriter stuff, which became a duo and ‘Fragile Creatures’, the song, was one of the linchpins of that period that led us to working together.
Their first release was the double A-Sided ‘She Makes Me Nervous/Dear Michael’, the latter track being the recipient for Best Video at the Brighton Music Awards in 2013. This was followed up by the Fragile Creatures EP last year.”The band has developed more of a rock edge over time,” says Adam, “but we are quite diverse in our interests. I am a bit more of an indie schmindie kind of kid, I would say Aaron is more into 80s pop and Motown. We let those things smash up against each other.”
“Sometimes Adam will write a song, and I’ll go ‘I like that, let’s tweak it to my liking. Or I’ll have a verse idea, and he’ll have a chorus idea and we’ll smash them together,” says Aaron. “Sometimes I’ll come out with a track fully formed,” says Adam. I might ad lib my vocals, and then find out what my subconscious was saying in that ad lib, and train it back into something that makes sense… Working with Aaron helps, because he can go, ‘that’s a rubbish line, don’t say that’. I’m better at handling someone saying what I’ve done is rubbish, than me telling someone else what they have done is rubbish!”
Largely recorded in Bath, with a couple of tracks done at Brighton Electric Studios …And Other Wild Things is a pop album, first and foremost, but with an indie rock edge. Hints of classic 70s and 80s pop permeate throughout, and classic bands such as Squeeze, The Clash and The Beatles can be discerned, while more contemporary acts such as Grizzly Bear and Vampire Weekend are in the mix too.
“Realistically, there could have been three or four albums in terms of the amount of material we had written, but we’ve ended up with a really strong selection that works well together,” says Adam. “I can see some themes running through the album, themes like things that trap you and triumphing against the adversities of your shortcomings. There is a kind of narrative which starts off positively, then fades… like someone’s life, the songs towards the end tell the darker, sadder stories of someone’s life. A lot of my favourite albums end on a melancholy note.” So, you don’t like happy endings? ”No, I don’t trust them! Maybe the next album will finish with shitting gold!” he laughs.
“The title of the album”, which should read Fragile Creatures …And Other Wild Things, “refers to the fact that under this fragility we all have our dark sides, passions and appetites. Drinking, doing other things… things you wouldn’t tell you mum about…”