It’s a balmy Wednesday in early August, and The Manhattan Sports Bar & Lounge is hosting #FindYourFolio Happy Hour. I’ve invited Orange Park metalcore quartet The Fallen Sons for an interview and photo shoot, but only three of the players—drummer Ronald Bryant, guitarist Malik Green and bassist Jody Miles—arrive. Lead vocalist Kam Lewis is at home, recovering from a car accident that occurred hours after the band’s last show. He’ll be there for a while. More on that later.
First impression: These lads are not your average metalheads. More Living Colour than Linkin Park, The Fallen Sons bring a healthy dose of diversity to Northeast Florida’s hard-rock scene. Which can be a double-edged sword. I mean, it’s definitely different, but then again, audiences often balk at the unexpected.
“People see three black guys on stage playing metal,” said Bryant, the band’s drummer and founding member, “and they think, ‘What’s going on here?’ But we’re just normal people playing the music we love.”
Bryant in particular has been negotiating cultural expectations since he first fell for metal in his tweens. “I was raised on Michael Jackson,” he begins, as if narrating a Saturday morning PSA. “Everything changed in middle school.” That’s when the young man discovered rock. His gateway drug was Nu metal à la Korn. Then Bryant got an earful of metalcore via Killswitch Engage. (Metalcore, you ask? It’s not your grandpa’s Sabbath-inspired fuzz; this is heavy metal with a hardcore-punk edge.)
“That’s when I thought, ‘OK, this is what I want to do with my life,’” recalls Bryant.
The budding musician was already a marching-band percussionist and church-band drummer. Now he wanted to form his own metalcore group. Before he had the chance, however, concerned family members staged an intervention of sorts.
“They thought metal was satanic,” he laughs. “So they called my pastor. Unfortunately for them, he was even more metal than I was! His compromise was to show me Christian metal to keep me on the ‘right path.’ I didn’t find those bands too interesting, though. Their plan didn’t work very well.”
Bryant formed The Fallen Sons in 2017 with UNF student Alex Henry on vocals. However, Henry split (“creative differences”) before the band played its first show, so Bryant put out an open call.
“We looked at seven different vocalists over a month or two,” explains Bryant. “Kam came in and wanted it. He was still kinda rough, but he could sing and scream.”
With Bryant and Lewis at the helm, The Fallen Sons began their ascent. The band started performing around Orange Park and Jacksonville, and quickly became a go-to opening act for local, regional and national headliners. This success was due in equal parts to the Sons’ sound, work ethic and stage presence. Bryant took to wearing a custom-made mask as he ruled behind the drum kit.
“It started because I had stage fright,” the drummer explains. “I didn’t like feeling all eyes on me. Anyway, I’m me 24/7, all day, all week. For 30 minutes, I get to put on this mask and be someone else. Sometimes you need to break away from routine.”
“Plus,” he adds with a grin, “chicks dig the mask.”
The future looked bright for The Fallen Sons at the start of the summer. It all fell apart hours after they played a set in Riverside on July 25. The band loaded out and brought their gear back to their Orange Park rehearsal space, then Lewis drove Green home to Arlington. Shortly after, at around 2:30 a.m., his vehicle was T-boned at an intersection near Regency Mall. The singer suffered multiple injuries and was in the hospital for five days. His brother Sons were by his side.
Lewis told Bryant, “No matter what happens to me, make sure you don’t stop [making music together].”
It’s a bridge they won’t have to cross. Lewis is projected to make a full recovery—and rejoin the Sons—after six months of rest and therapy.
“He’s lying in bed, playing video games—or trying to,” Bryant jokes, referring to Lewis’ broken fingers. “He’s the kind of person who’s always doing something, so it’s hard to slow down and take the time to heal.”
The accident has delayed The Fallen Sons’ studio plans—the band was due to cut a debut full-length this month—but not their gig schedule. With Lewis’ blessing, the remaining Sons are honoring their live commitments throughout the summer, with founding vocalist Alex Henry returning temporarily to the fold.
The experience has cemented bonds within the band. Even its newest member feels the love. Miles, who joined the group earlier in the year, was particularly impressed by Lewis’ optimism under duress.
“He has the most positive attitude,” he says. “He even had a smile on his face at the hospital.” It’s fertile soil to cultivate esprit de corps. “I feel like I fit in this band more than any other band I’ve been in.”
Bryant nods his assent, “A family of chaos.”