Twin Cities-based band Fragile Canyons has three goals: to record an album every year, play one gig a month and donate their profits to charity.
“When I was starting the band and when we started making records, it’s like, ‘Why should people care?’” said Andy Engstrom, the lead singer of the band and a University of Minnesota alum. “This is a way to make it a little more useful and meaningful, and not just us dicking around.”
Fragile Canyons formed in December 2016, after Engstrom recorded a solo record with drummer Chase Wackerfuss. Since then, the band has given to various local charities, the most recent being the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.
“It’s not a huge investment on our part, so to group [the money] together and give it to a good cause, it’s more effective than if we were just to divvy it up four ways,” Wackerfuss said.
Having released three records since 2016, Fragile Canyons has transformed their sound from "acoustic songwriter" to "improvisational full-band jamming."
“We have a much tighter sound than we used to,” Engstrom said. “I was playing bass in a bunch of other bands [when Fragile Canyons formed], so I had never led a band. I didn’t know how to do that.”
Engstrom names Joni Mitchell and the Grateful Dead as the band’s primary influences. These sounds are especially prominent in their latest album “Slow Dancing Beyond Silverdome,” which the band recorded at Blue Bell Knoll in Dinkytown.
This album's recording process was representative of the band’s comical spirit and their enjoyment in making music.
“There was one time where we were still recording and [guitarist Nick Baker] burped,” said bassist Noah Welter. “We got it on tape and the recording engineer pitch-shifted it and put it at the end of the song. We weren’t expecting it.”
This light-hearted approach to creating music, as well as their social media presence, is almost what Fragile Canyons is best known for.
The band's Twitter account is home to a few viral tweets. Recent snippets include equating different Twin Cities venues to “The Breakfast Club” characters and a meme about Neil Young’s “Harvest” album, which was shared by singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers.
Engstrom runs the band's Twitter and Instagram. His memes are often hyper-local, poking fun at topics such as the band's name.
“When I thought of [the name], I was like, ‘that’s it,’” Engstrom said. “But then it looks like it’s 'Fragile Crayons' so all these people are texting me: ‘dude, Fragile Crayons, I’m digging it.’ It’s kind of a joke now. All of our fans will call us like 'Fertile Croutons,' or like 'Fragile Tampons.'”
At the band's most recent show on Saturday at Bryant-Lake Bowl, they played a few new songs that they hope to record for their next album.
“The headspace for me is really the live stuff,” Baker said. “We kind of took a little bit of time off to workshop some new material. That’s something we’re really looking forward to — throwing a bunch of new material in the mix.”
Fragile Canyons looks to their fans to help them keep making music. For now, though, they love where they are.
“I don’t know if I have a big idea,” Engstrom said. “I feel like a lot of local bands, they’ll do it for a while and just like disappear. I think that we just don’t want to disappear. We want to be like this band that never dies.”