Mixing guttural vocals and sick guitar riffs, innovative bass tunes and a reliable and confident slew of drum beats helps to form the three-man band known as Rory Kelly.
Lead singer and guitar master Rory Kelly founded the band in 2012 alongside his dad Mike “Pops” Kelly, drummer, and his “dirty rock” band has been steadily gaining momentum since day one.
Adding the bad bass skills of Billy Miller, the band released their first album title “(Don’t Shake My) Family Tree” in late 2012 under the Rusty Knuckles label. Not soon after, the band embarked on a tour across the Atlantic in Spain.
Embodying the “family tree” aspect of their first album, the Kellys and Miller have music in their blood and have grown up rocking it.
Rory Kelly, a long-haired, tattooed rocker whose throaty vocals compliment his stellar guitar skills, remembers attending his father’s band practices as a toddler.
“My dad was my biggest influence,” said Kelly. “I started playing drums as a kid and when I was about 10 got into the guitar. I played a Nirvana cover at my high school talent show and got a great applause.”
Since then, Kelly has not stopped rocking. Originally from Marion, Kelly said he must have had about 10 bands by the time he graduated high school. He attended Western Carolina University afterwards but found the experience competing with his dream to live on the road playing gigs.
“Eventually, I decided that I wanted to take my band on the road fulltime. I’ve been on the road since then, about eleven years,” said Kelly.
Rory Kelly’s father Mike Kelly, called Pops, has been on the rock scene since before Rory Kelly was born. As a member of the Old Bridge Militia, Pops Kelly’s bands helped found the metal music scene in New Jersey. Bands like Metallica and Megadeth found their way thanks to bands like his.
Rory Kelly is a family affair, said Kelly, whose mother acts as the band’s manager, booking gigs and keeping their finances straight.
“She gets us what we deserve,” said Kelly.
Miller, also from Marion, has his musical linage: his grandmother was been inducted in the North Carolina Country Music Hall of Fame.
Influenced by bands like Guns n Roses and the Pixies, Miller became a member of a goth industrial band called VooDou. After the band’s first big show, it was given a record deal and was preparing for a nationwide tour. For Miller, this was a dream come true, but family called him home.
“My dad was sick with cancer, and I had to come home to be with him,” said Miller, who values family just as much as the Kellys.
In fact, Miller’s own bass guitar was made by his father, who cut down the tree to build it and carved out the scorpion in the body.
Miller became involved with Rory Kelly after a long musical hiatus, but, as Miller said, “When you play with a guitar player like Rory, you don’t say no.”
In fact, when Miller began playing with Rory and Pops in 2012 after the band lost its former bass player, he was forced to learn a plethora of new songs and start recording the band’s first album within weeks.
“Billy got five days to rehearse and do the first show for us. He had to learn about 40 songs,” said Kelly.
Luckily, the chemistry was right. Miller had toured, and he knew what the music industry was all about.
“What made me want him was his energy on stage, his playing ability and his professionalism,” said Kelly.
Miller feels similarly.
“Rory has made me a better bass player. We’ve been together two years, and it hasn’t felt like a job yet,” said Miller.
Playing in large shows like the Texas Rockfest, where the band had to deal with four tire blowouts, the flu, a tornado and rain for 16 hours straight, helped to form a bond between the three artists. In fact, the band played eight shows in 10 days despite all of the obstacles.
Rory Kelly has also toured in Spain, playing 13 shows in 15 days and gaining a large fan base that bought them out of all of their merchandise.
Recently, Rory Kelly played at Bele Chere in Asheville. With close to 3,700 people watching and the rain coming down, they jammed.
Since its release in 2012, the band has been playing from their Family Tree album, which Miller described as a “shmorgishborg.”
“We weren’t sure what direction we were going,” said Miller of the first album, which was released by Rusty Knuckles but was still a self-produced album.
Currently, however, the band Rory Kelly is working on its newest album, enlisting the help of producer Jack Mascari to help refine their sound.
“[Mascari] is a renowned producer for a lot of bands. He’s got his finger on the pulse for the music industry,” said Kelly, who admitted that Mascari is one of the best guitar players he’s seen.
Kelly said that he is more confident than he has ever felt about an album.
Miller said that the new album has “more of a swampy dirtiness to it. As a band, we’ve dialed in what we want to sound like. We don’t want to rush things at all. We are more comfortable now.”
Having previewed songs like “Black Widow” and “Hittin’ the Bottom” (which is available on YouTube), the songs have a very refined feel but still express the grit that the band has become known for.
Kelly said that the three men “are all writing together now.”
“We didn’t get a chance to do that on the last record. The producer is letting it breathe and letting it form as an album. It’s the first record I’ve gotten to put together the real way,” said Kelly.
Using his two Les Paul’s in the studio and his cobalt v-style Gibson Explorer for shows, Rory Kelly has taken his humble Black Mountain band to the glass ceiling of the music industry.
With confidence, collaboration and their signature style, the band Rory Kelly is sure to break through the ceiling and realize their full potential very soon, if not on their next record.
No matter what happens, good or bad, said Kelly, “The band is family.”
In the next couple of months, while juggling studio time and local gigs, Rory Kelly will play in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The next time you can find Rory Kelly locally is in Asheville on Sept. 13 at The Social, Sept. 28 at Tall Gary’s Pub and Oct. 4 at The Shovelhead.
For more tour dates and information, visit www.facebook.com/rorykellystriplethreat (under the band’s former name).
Also, be on the lookout for an upcoming interview and live acoustic set with Rory Kelly on WWCU FM Power 90.5