The folk rock five-piece aims to get the whole town dancing.
Siblings and bandmates Rob and Rachel Kolar of L.A. gypsy-folk rock outfit He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister didn’t always agree on music. “I was into punk rock when I was younger, so I would blast bands like Rancid and The Clash,” Rob Kolar says. “Rachel would ask if we could we put on something else on, and I’d be like, ‘Well, this is my favorite band.’ She was into more mainstream music. We always shared a loved for oldies rock ‘n’ roll though, everything from The Supremes to The Kinks to The Beatles.” Years later, the pair met in the middle when they began their first musical endeavor, He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister. They play One Eyed Jacks on Sunday night.
Two siblings with a handful of songs evolved into the bluesy, foot-stomping folk-rock band found on their 2012 debut album, Nobody Dances in This Town. The record features an especially intriguing addition: a tap-dancing drummer. Rachel’s college friend and roommate, Lauren Brown, had taken up tap dancing again and happened to be practicing on the hardwood floors one room over while Rachel and Rob worked through some of the band’s early songs. “We’d been auditioning drummers, and no one had quite fit,” Kolar says. “This made sense for our sound. Since then, she’s developed this ability to tap dance while simultaneously playing the drums. People often forget she’s actually tap dancing because the taps just fill in the spaces.”
It creates an interesting dynamic on stage, Kolar says. Whereas most drummers are stuck behind a drum kit, Brown is an act unto herself. “She’s using her feet, so she stands up,” Kolar says. “Naturally, we had to elevate her. We wanted to amplify the taps, so we put her on this box, this drum. Her snare drum is actually from a marching band, so it’s double the width of an actual snare. We’ve got custom legs made for her floor tom so it can stand high enough. It’s this weird contraption of a drum set. A lot of people’s eyebrows raise, especially drummers, when they see it. It makes for a great live visual, because you can really see her. She’s a big part of the performance.”
Audience interaction is key for He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister, whose music often lends itself to soaring sing-alongs. It’s pop music with folk influences, a sound that has taken off in mainstream music if Mumford & Sons’s Grammy win is any indication. “I’m interested by the Grammys,” Kolar says. “There are more artists now that have emerged from the indie world, bands like Mumford & Sons and The Black Keys. Even Adele is more interesting than your average pop act and has tendencies, whether it be the production or the songwriting, to be influenced by older music or independent, underground music. It’s interesting to see this change in mainstream music, and it’s is exciting for us. I think we have a spot somewhere in there.”
Kolar appreciates what mainstream success can do for an artist, an attitude that might make some indie musicians squirm. Shouldn’t indie stay...well, independent? Kolar chooses to see it from the perspective of the listeners– if indie music comes from a more earnest, genuine place than most of what dominates the top 40, there’s no reason to argue that it doesn’t belong. “Some people who were fans before a band became commercial are probably bummed that their ticket prices have gone up,” Kolar says. “Now the jock on the football team likes them, whereas before, that never would’ve happened. I’m not a huge fan of Mumford & Sons, but I can appreciate what they’re doing. I’m more into bands like The Black Keys, because I just think they’re fun and raw. There’s something groovy and dirty about their music, and same goes for someone like Jack White.”
He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister lie somewhere in between bands Mumford & Sons and The Black Keys. There are emotional undertones, but they’re never overwhelming. Instead, loose, Western-inspired rhythms shape the sound. The band’s swinging melodies and smooth slide guitar licks keep the mood light. “Our aim is to give you the choice: I can dance to this; I can have fun and party,” Kolar says. “But if I stop and I think about it, this song might affect me or influence the way I see the world, hopefully in a positive way.”
My Spilt Milk has a pair of tickets to give away to see He's My Brother, She's My Sister Sunday at One Eyed Jacks. To win them, register here.