Fragile Rock
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Fragile Rock

Austin, Texas, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Rock Comedy




"Fragile Rock: Tiny Desk Concert"

For just 15 minutes on a glorious spring day in Washington, D.C. — the town that birthed "emocore" three decades ago — National Public Radio became National Puppet Radio. Rarely has a news organization had this much fun.

It was the real-life breakup of band leader Brently Heilborn that led to the formation of the woefully woven band Fragile Rock. But these aren't just any puppets — no. They are emo puppets, armed with drums and guitars and glum tales to tell, with songs like "Wake Up to the Breakup" and "I Am Sad (And So Am I)" that which draw from the spastic boogie of The B-52s and the laments of The Smiths. At one point, you'll see Fragile Rock empty a bag of "bloodied" socks, tossing them into the crowd, before breaking into the song "Socks Are Murder," a playful take on The Smiths' thoughtful "Meat Is Murder."

And in the spirit of the day Fragile Rock managed to crowd surf a puppet bringing giggles to a crowd of reporters, editors and friends, while puppets depicting NPR hosts Susan Stamberg, Michel Martin and Robert Siegel (the latter actually received a playful kiss from none other than Nina Totenberg) — all created by NPR's own puppet master Barry Gordemer — objectively observed.

Fragile Rock's album Wake Up To The Breakup is available now. (iTunes)


"Wakeup To The Breakup"
"Socks Are Murder"
"Fairuza Balk"

Milo S. (lead vocals, handled by Brently Heilbron); Nic Hole (bass, handled by Megan Thornton); Kyle Danko (guitar, handled by Chadwick Smith); CoCo Bangs (drums; handled by Taylor Love and Luke Wallens); The Cocteau Triplets (back up vocals; handled by Emily Cawood, Kim Stacy, and Bryan Curry); Cindy Ward (bass); Ryan Hill (guitar); Jayme Ramsay (drums)


Producers: Bob Boilen, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Assistant Engineer: James Willetts; Videographers: Niki Walker, Tsering Bista, Nick Michael, Morgan Noelle Smith; Animator (Credits): Nicholas Garbaty; PA: Jenna Li; Photo: Liam James Doyle/NPR. - NPR

"The 10 best things we saw at SXSW 2018"

The South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, made a noticeable effort to scale back this year: Gone were the zany days when Lady Gaga performed on a stage shaped like a Dorito’s vending machine, Kanye West ‘n’ Friends headlined a Vevo megaparty, or Justin Timberlake shilled for Myspace. And this was not an unwelcome development. Without all the crowding, endless queuing, and obnoxious, in-your-face marketeering, there were now new opportunities to see rising bands, unusual bands, bedtime bands … and even puppet bands.

Fragile Rock bring the #puppetpain

Perhaps not since the ’80s double bill of “Puppet Show with Spinal Tap” — or at least since Dr. Teeth & The Mayhem played San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival in 2016 — has there been as monumentally felt-tastic a music act as Austin’s own brilliantly named puppet emo band. Fresh off their recent Tiny Desk Concert for NPR, the hyperemotional collective thrilled human fans with heart-on-felt-sleeve songs like “My Journal Is Blank,” “Stay Felt,” “I Am Sad and So Am I,” the rallying cry “Socks Are Murder,” and an ode to elusive ’90s screen goddess Fairuza Balk. Check out that last track, plus a classic interview with two of the band’s coquettish backup singers, the Cocteau Triplets, below - Yahoo

"Meet Fragile Rock: Almost Definitely The World's First Puppet Emo Band"

February isn't exactly the best month, what with all the cold weather, limited daylight, copious awards shows, New England Patriots Super Bowl victories, and Valentine's Day. So you'd be forgiven for thinking, "The only thing that could truly articulate my pain is a band in which puppets sport eyeliner and sing a song called "I Am Sad And So Am I."

For those who wish Muppets moped more, meet Fragile Rock, which — while it's best not to make definitive statements that can't be proven — is almost certainly the world's first puppet-led emo band. Based in Austin, Fragile Rock is a sort of rock/performance-art troupe that fuses a love of puppeteering with an appreciation for depressing music (plus its very own band motto, "Stay Felt").

Founded by comedian Brently Heilbron as a way of powering through the aftermath of a divorce (and an accompanying urge to write sad songs), Fragile Rock also employs the puppet-making services of Austin-based actor Shaun Branigan, as well as a backing band and a group of puppeteers to bring Heilbron's vision to life. The group's website even provides a backstory on the puppets' complex web of interpersonal relationships — which, to flesh out the live shows, necessitate between-song onstage therapy sessions.

Amazingly, global superstardom has eluded Fragile Rock thus far, though it's not for lack of trying; your day will almost certainly be vastly improved by Heilbron's 2016 account of a disastrous America's Got Talent audition. The group takes another tear-streaked swipe at the brass ring next month, when it returns to SXSW. - NPR All Songs Considered


Given their lack of a literal spine and their lifeless form unless a person picks them up, puppets are pretty, well, sad. So it should come as no surprise that someone decided to let puppets sing about their actual feelings.

Meet Fragile Rock, the first emo puppet band, who happen to be modeled off the denizens of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock. The performance art and rock group sees a group of puppets sing about all the depressing things going on in the world, starting with their own melancholic attitudes. Just listen to their hit song, “I Am Sad And So Am I,” above to get a better look into their downtrodden world. It’s not all bad. The songs themselves see some great rhythms and pretty on-point harmonies. Head to their website, however, and you’ll notice that every page is titled with a frowning face.

Fragile Rock is led by puppets, but the person actually leading the puppets is comedian Brently Heilbron and a loyal crew of puppeteers. Caught up in the dramatics uneasiness of the aftermath of a divorce, Heilbron began writing sad songs for puppets that his friend Shaun Branigan, an Austin-based actor who creates puppets, could bring to life. First there was one singer, then another, and then another. In a matter of weeks, they created a full band, complete with backup singers, that could mope about like actual humans. Suddenly Heilbron’s personal matters didn’t feel so lonesome.

Like any real band, there’s a series of complex relationships between its members, from friendship fights to offscreen romance. Onstage, that drama leads to the occasional discussion-turned-therapy session. Once settled, they launch back into their music to overcome misery… or try to.

Dying to see them live? You’re in luck. Trek down to Austin this March to see Fragile Rock perform at SXSW. Maybe if they’re in a good mood, you can get their autographs.

Don’t like it? Well, the band has two words for you: “Stay felt.” - Nerdist

"Emo Puppet Band Fragile Rock Bring Their #PuppetPain to SXSW"

Perhaps not since the ‘80s double-bill of “Puppet Show with Spinal Tap” — or at least since Dr. Teeth & The Mayhem played San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival last year — has there been as monumentally felt-tastic a live music event as the South by Southwest debut by the brilliantly named puppet emo band Fragile Rock.

The hyper-emotional, Austin-based collective — featuring tantrum-tossing, guyliner-sporting frontman Milo S.; blue-haired feminist/rumored Elijah Wood paramour/bassist Nic Hole; wild-eyed drummer Coco Bangs; laid-back, workmanlike guitarist Kyle Danko; and coquettish backup singers the Cocteau Triplets (not to be confused with the Cocteau Twins, of course) — brought their unique brand of #puppetpain to SXSW this week, with a show at the Sidewinder club featuring a David Bowie tribute, puppet crowd-surfing to Joy Division’s “Transmission,” and heart-on-felt-sleeve songs like “My Journal Is Blank,” “Stay Felt,” “I Am Sad And So Am I,” and the boldly political rallying cry “Socks Are Murder.”

Yahoo Music met up at SXSW with two of the flame-coiffed Cocteaus (Briex and “Girl Who Has No Name”) in one of the Highball bar’s private karaoke rooms to discuss this milestone in the band’s career, that persistent Elijah Wood gossip, the important message behind “Socks Are Murder,” Fragile Rock’s disastrous 2016 audition for America’s Got Talent, and the feminist slant of Fragile Rock’s new Yoko Ono-inspired single, “Girlfriend Is the Enemy of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” - Yahoo Music

"Fragile Rock Celebrates Sadness in a Hilarious Way"

For a show that was born out of very real pain, 'Fragile Rock' is a lot of fun. While dealing with a divorce and the depression that comes along with such a life-changing event, Brently Heilbron found himself wanting to give in to the urge to write depressing, self-pitying songs. And since he's a comedian at heart, he saw the humor in that urge. The image of an all-puppet emo rock band singing sad songs stuck in his head, and before he knew it, 'Fragile Rock' was born.

Since he had no background in puppetry, Heilbron sought the help of puppet maker Shaun Branigan and the felt cast of 'Fragile Rock' began to come to life. More songs were written, a story began to take shape, and the show came to life.

Featuring a full live band fronted by a puppet cast, 'Fragile Rock' takes place in real time, as if you're watching an actual concert by the band. Since the band has a whole mess of dysfunctional relationships, they're undergoing mandatory band therapy, which happens live onstage between songs. Heilbron and the cast are having a blast performing the show; it's so much fun that Heibron recommends this behavior as a form of therapy. "I recommend everyone out there, if you're feeling sad," he says, "start your own puppet band. And that is the cure for depression." - KUT FM

"Brutality Television Why you won't be seeing Austin emo puppet band Fragile Rock on America's Got Talent"

Brutality Television
Why you won't be seeing Austin emo puppet band Fragile Rock on America's Got Talent

printwrite a letter

Brently Heilbron on the AGT set
I am backstage at America's Got Talent with my emo puppet band Fragile Rock, being interviewed after our performance.

My eyes are at shoe level. Nick Cannon's shoes, specifically. Shoes that probably cost more than my self-esteem. Through an aching outstretched arm, my puppet alter ego Milo S. asks, honestly, "Nick Cannon, what do you do when you get rejected?"

"I don't know," he replies. "It's never happened to me."

And, of course, it ends this way.

A year earlier – to the day, actually – to get through a divorce, I tried writing some appropriately mopey songs. But things don't always come out the way you want. I love sad music, but as a satirist, I eat up the "fevered egos" (to paraphrase Bill Hicks) often associated with this genre. My brother grew up loving the Smiths and the Cure, and as a child I remember thinking that with all that T-shirt money, you'd think they could go to Disney World or something and cheer themselves up.

So I put a joke on Facebook to the effect of: "I'm going to start an emo puppet band and call it Fragile Rock." To my surprise, people started signing up to be part of this. First, Shaun Branigan of Esther's Follies, who I had known from my early days at the Velveeta Room, mentioned that he'd be interested in making puppets. (To be honest, I'd never even thought of who would do that.) You're in! The band came from the Austin improv scene: Ryan Hill (guitar), Jayme Ramsay (drums), and Cindy Page (bass). The rest of the characters were filled out by improvisers with experience in puppeteering and music: Bryan Curry, Kim Stacy, Luke Wallens, Taylor Love, Megan Thornton, Chad Smith. We recorded one song called "I Am Sad and So Am I" after-hours at KUT, and director Jessica Gardner made a fantastic video for it. Soon after, I wrote a musical for the band that ran at the Institution Theater, and we even had our own therapist, Dr. Landy (Bryan "LuBu" Roberts), whose name I gleefully stole from the real therapist who dabbled in Brian Wilson's sandbox.

The band, like the best projects, had a strange gravitational pull of its own. Elijah Wood went on tape and said he was in love with the bass-playing puppet Nic Hole (Megan Thornton). Even Big Bird's Caroll Spinney sat down to chat with our nice-guy guitarist puppet, Kyle Danko (Chad Smith). What started as a joke suddenly became very real and deeply felt.

Fragile Rock grew into a crew of 10-plus pieces, and we rolled deep. When we played concerts, we were the Polyphonic Spree of Austin's emo puppet scene. For a show the night after David Bowie died, we hastily assembled a cover of "Heroes" complete with a 10-foot David Bowie rod puppet that Shaun had made and took three people to work. It was a hell of a cathartic show. The very next morning, I received a message on Facebook: "Hey Brently, I'm a senior producer on America's Got Talent, and we'd love to have Fragile Rock audition for the show." Wow. A senior producer, I thought. (Go, seniors!) One catch, though: We would need to completely cover up the actors – something we'd never done before. And the audition was in Dallas, the next day. We made it happen, as improvisers do. Arms were outstretched, bodies hidden, band masked, we fought and bickered our way into emo glory. We auditioned three times, and the producers grew more British with each floor we ascended. Finally, we got the news: We're in.

Fragile Rock frontman Milo S. and his handler
So we're all packed together in cellophane and flown to Los Angeles on AGT's dime: six puppets, seven puppeteers, three musicians, one videographer, one puppet master, and a group of significant others that includes my girlfriend Sam and Ryan and Amanda's wives (dubbing themselves the Yokos). We are a small militia of whimsy.

After a day of settling into L.A. and ingesting smuggled queso, we are ready to shoot. And shoot we do. All day. First in the basement of the theatre with a cantor (also a contestant). Did they know I'm Jewish? I don't know. Did the cantor hate us? Yes, he did. From there, we keep filming, backstory after backstory. We're assured they need enough footage to last all season. We were going to be a hit! Suddenly, something I never knew I wanted became the most important thing ever. My arm aches as I spend the day crouched. Shout-out to Trouble Puppet Theater Company and every actual puppeteer who is better than me in every way. I'm just an idea guy. During this shoot, our own Chad Smith is approached by an AGT crew member. "Have you worked with Henson? You're Henson good." Chad is still living on that compliment. And yes, he is that good.

We film right until we perform in front of an audience. Backstage, my puppet, Milo S., gives pep talks, fights with the bassist, yells, frantically cries, and generally does everything to feed the beast of reality television. We got this. They need footage for the whole season! The actual musicians are sequestered far from us. The puppet band is given monitors to see how we look as we crouch behind masking. Then we hear them come out. The judges! Simon Cowell (famous asshole!), Heidi Klum (famous German and Seal lover), Mel B (Scary Spice), and Howie Mandel (Canadian germaphobe and actual childhood comedy hero). The show is hosted by Nick Cannon, who married Mariah Carey. It's like a Golden Corral of celebrity judges: Nothing adds up, but everything equals explosive diarrhea.

One problem: We can't see the judges, and we can hardly hear them, ourselves, or the band. Uh-oh, I thought. This isn't a good sign. We look at each other, crouched, laughing. Everyone's eyes say the same thing: What the hell did you get us into, Brently? It's a look I am all too familiar with.

The next moment is frozen in time. I think Danny Palumbo, the 2015 Funniest Person in Austin winner, put his experience on AGT best. (After getting booed off the stage.) "I became a superhero like Batman. All it took was watching my parents get murdered in front of me."


The band starts to play, and I start to sing. All this would have been great if we'd started at the same time. That first buzzer comes quick and loud like thunder. The second comes like a bolt of lightning. At this point, they usher off any Yokos in the wings. Things aren't going well, and AGT wants to reduce the collateral damage. The third and final buzzer is like a mercy killing, finally putting our fevered egos to rest. I have no idea who started the buzzing and who finally finished it.

Then comes the feedback. Haven't we all seen this on TV? Is it really happening to us now? Our puppets take it all, which must have been equally humiliating for the judges. The first comment is from Mel B: "You're all just very mean. I don't like mean." Holy shit, we are too mean for Scary Spice! The second comes from Howie Mandel: "This project is entirely without merit, just like Simon's new shows. Haha." Ouch! That one stings. This was my project, after all, these were my words, and I fucking had your comedy albums as a kid, dude! That's like having my G.I. Joe steal my girlfriend in front of an audience. I don't remember what Heidi Klum says – perhaps it was some sort of birdlike "Cu-Kaw! Cu-Kaw!" before flying away into the rafters. Finally, Simon Cowell is up. Even his crew cut has an icy British accent. I attempt to preempt this nightmare by having my puppet say, "I'm just like you, Simon. We're both misunderstood geniuses that everyone hates." Nothing. In fact, he seems to suck my comment in like the sea inhales the tide before a tsunami hits. For those expecting a classic Simon insult, they will not leave disappointed. Simon says (and I will never, ever forget this), "If I were a dead toddler, maybe I would enjoy this terrible thing." I say to myself, "Jesus Christ! What an awful thing to say!" Except the thing is, it isn't to myself, it's out loud, completely breaking character. It was such a natural reaction to the worst thing I've ever heard. Only later do I learn that he had said "deaf," not "dead." Face, meet palm.

During our "exit interview," Nick Cannon assures me that he's never been rejected at any point in his life. "What's next for your band?" he asks with the kind of joylessness that comes from someone who must've had to watch Glitter a lot. What's next? I respond the only way I know how.

"You ain't gonna see me cry. A tear don't fall from a glued-on eye." - Austin Chronicle

"Austin's Emo Puppet Band"

Fragile Rock: Austin's Emo Puppet Band
Maybe the world's only emo puppet band?

A tear don't fall from a glued-on eye.

This all started because a man named Brently Heilbron got divorced.

Or: This all started because Brently Heilbron, formerly of old-school Austin improv troupe Monks' Night Out and frequent perp of other legendary hijinks around town, has been writing songs and musicals for decades.

"The first one I wrote," Heilbron says, "was called 'Hurray for Gregory Peck’s Ass' – and they put it in his biography."

[Note to self: Fact-check that shit, Brenner.]

But, okay, and this Fragile Rock thing happened because –

"It was a way to channel the sadness," says Heilbron. "After the divorce, I was laid off from work. I was at the Statesman at the time, and they laid me off. And I was hired for another job soon after that, but they found out that I'm a comedian and they rescinded the position."

Damn, brother.
So this whole emo puppet band thing was …

"Yes," says Heilbron, a sudden grin imping his gauntly handsome features. "'Based on Actual Sadness!'"


"So I was channeling the sadness," he continues, "doing it in a satirical way that I personally enjoy, a way that I’d wanna see myself. And I found some old journals that I wrote when I was a teenager, and put some of the writing into this context. You know, lines like 'My life is a mirror, you see what you wanna see,' which sounds really deep when you’re 15."

So he's writing these songs.

"So I'm writing these songs," says Heilbron, "and I got together with some friends – a bunch of improvisers who are also musicians – and Shaun Branigan, he's an actor at Esther's Follies, he built the puppets. And we made a video, Jessica Gardner directed it. And now, at this point, there’s ten members of the band, two roadies, and a therapist."

There's a therapist?

"Each show is a realtime concert of songs that I wrote, but there's also a mandatory band therapy session," explains Heilbron. "It's kind of a behind-the-scenes Metallica approach, and borrowing heavily from the whole Eugene-Landy-and-Brian-Wilson thing."

So there's an actual band, with Heilbron himself singing, with Ryan Hill (lead guitar), Cynthia Ward (bass), Jayme Ramsay (drums), and Bryan Curry and Kim Stacy as back-up vocals. And in front of them, there's … well … um, why are there puppets?

"There’s a disconnect when you have puppets or cartoon characters," says Heilbron. "You can get away with just about anything. We’re all nice people – but it’s fun to be nasty. We all have that part in us, that ego-trippin’ part of making rock & roll, making art – and it’s just so ripe for satirizing. You can channel your own sadness, your own pain into it – and the puppets are a nice buffer for that. So we get to laugh our asses off, but they, the puppets, get to be very serious about it. Which is why the band breaks up almost every show – it’s very rough, there’s a lot of egos involved."

And now Fragile Rock, fronted by that achingly sensitive Milo S., has a run at The Institution Theatre?

Heilbron frowns. "We have a band residency at the Institution Theatre," he corrects.

Yeah, they certainly do. - Austin Chronicle

"UT Alum starts 10 piece emo puppet band"

Propelled by the audience member’s hands, an emo puppet crowdsurfs to a Backstreet Boys and Joy Division mashup.
The puppet, Milo S., is part of Austin’s Fragile Rock, an emo puppet band founded this year by UT alumnus Brently Heilbron. While coping with his divorce, Heilbron said the idea came when he posted a sarcastic Facebook status saying he intended to start an emo puppet band.
“It’s a joke that really got out of hand,” Heilbron said. “But really sad things can inspire really silly fun.”
Fragile Rock, which gets its name as a spin-off of the Muppet’s Fraggle Rock, is comprised of six puppets, seven puppeteers and three musicians. The ensemble hopes to “spread the sad word” through a catalog of angst-filled songs written by Heilbron. Through Nov. 9, they will perform on the second Monday of every month at Empire Control Room.
During Fragile Rock shows, the puppets do all of the singing. The puppeteers are plainly visible but never step outside of their puppet’s character.
“We all get to have a great time and laugh our asses off, but the puppets don’t,” Heilbron said. “They take it really seriously.”
Each puppet has a carefully cultivated — and satirized — personality, back story and aesthetic. Heilbron said his puppet, Milo S., is a typical narcissistic lead singer hopelessly in love with the band’s bassist. He dons a wrinkled purple button-up and tie. A cascade of straight, black hair falls perfectly over his right eye.
The other puppets embody similarly stereotypical “emo” images. Drummer Coco Bangs has long black-and-red streaked hair and hairy armpits, visible only when she thrashes around on her drum set. The remaining emo puppets are the red-lipped bassist, Nic Hole, backup vocalists from Marfa, the Cocteau Triplets and guitarist Kyle Danko.
Heilbron said the puppets usually bicker during the show and sometimes breakup mid-set, which is why they have a band therapist, like heavy-metal group Metallica.
The puppeteers met through mutual friends and various connections. Heilbron said they all had either comedy or improv backgrounds, but only some had experience with puppets.
“It’s a great way to get to know someone,” Heilbron said. “By telling someone, ‘Hey, let’s do some ridiculous stuff together,’ you get to know them really fast.”
The band’s first show was a two-song set during South By Southwest earlier this year. Since then, the band has written a live show for The Institution Theater that ran for a few weeks, which lead to their current residency at Empire Control Room said Heilborn.
Guitarist Ryan Hill has been in several Austin bands over the years and said he never guessed that his greatest success would be through puppets. His fondest memory occurred after the band landed the show at The Institution Theater.
“I had this awesome moment when I was in the car , and I heard the [Institution Theater] ad for the first time, and our song was playing in the background, and I was like, ‘I’m listening to myself play guitar on the radio.’”
The band’s motto, and the title of one of their songs, is “Stay Felt.” Heilbron said the phrase is their homage to anyone who feels different.
“I think it’s what an emo puppet would say,” Heilbron said. “We say it a lot. It’s like our mantra and it reminds us of who we are supposed to be.”
Heilbron said he enjoys seeing how far he can expand this alternate universe that they’ve created. Eventually, he said, they want to tour.
“We keep getting bigger and bigger and sadder and sadder,” Heilbron said. “We want to be the best emo puppet band, but we know we have a lot of competition. We’ve got to see how far we can push this joke.”
What: Fragile Rock Monthly Residency
When: Monday, October 12th
Where: Empire Control Room, 606 E. 7th St.
Admission: $5 online, $10 at the door - The Daily Texan

"Why SXSW Matters: The Best Of What We Saw, 2017"

We begin our show with what is almost definitely the world's first puppet emo band, Fragile Rock. During the show Bob saw, one of the puppets even crowd surfed. Fraggle Rock, the Muppety namesake of the band, taught kids about the importance of compassion — Fragile Rock preserves that tradition with its song "Stay Felt." - NPR

"Fragile Rocks' emo puppets tear up NPR's Tiny Desk"

Before spotting them on NPR's Tiny Desk concert, I had never heard of Fragile Rock, the 10-member emo puppet band from Austin, Texas. But now, I can be counted as a fan. How the hell did I miss them? Sheer genius!
Fragile Rock consists of five puppets, six puppeteers, 3 musicians, two roadies and a band therapist. Fragile Rock is the brainchild of Brently Heilbron and the product of the creative soup that is Austin, TX.
Good to see the heart of Texas is still keepin' it weird. Bravo, puppetmasters.

P.S. New hashtag alert: #SocksAreMurder (pass it on) - Boing Boing




Fragile Rock is the world's only emo puppet band coming off of a recent NPR Tiny Desk Concert and planning a world tour. They are very real and very felt. This 10-piece band of puppets, musicians, and singers, launched in Austin, Texas in 2014 and is the brainchild of comedian Brently Heilbron.  After a viral music video, the band hit the festival circuit at SXSW. The band's live shows are wild and unpredictable earning growing media buzz from SXSW, Nerdist, Yahoo Music, Boing Boing and their own NPR Tiny Desk Concert released in July 2017.  Let the Fragile Rock in and prepare for the puppet pain.