Before you read any further, do us a favor, and imagine the infinite amount of dynamics between you, your sibling, your best friend and former college roommate, your landlord, and another friend. Alright, maybe your brother finds a way to glide along your last nerve far too often, or maybe you wouldn't get together for a casual pow-wow with your landlord. Perhaps by a peculiar twist of fate, you all get along, or maybe even accidentally form a band.
It seems as if He's My Brother She's My Sister, the folk-pop-rock-psychedelic band of five, wasn't ever planned. With the release of their first album last October, Nobody Dances in This Town, the band has been keeping busy with performances all around the country.
They seem to blend the family-fun Edward Sharpe element with a sound rooted deeply in folk music. The vocal harmony between siblings Rachel and Rob Kolar offers a powerhouse sound. If Florence Welch was from Louisiana and sang folk music, with a girly attitude like Miranda Lambert, that would be Rachel.
Beyond the whole chance happening of the formation, He's My Brother She's My Sister boasts a tap dancing drummer. Their percussion not only holds unique tempos, but they deliver an edgy sound, adding to the group's quirky style. Oliver Newell plays bass while Aaron Robinson tears through songs on the slide guitar.
If you're in the mood for some folk, rock, pop, indie, He's My Brother She's My Sister cures all of these musical cravings, as they effortlessly grace upon the styles of, well, all good styles of music.
We got a chance to catch up with Rob and Rachel and discussed their accidental formation, playing a show for the people of Slab City, and how Mumford and Sons can push the envelope a little more.
Can you tell us a little about your experience releasing your first full length album?
Rachel: It's been a funny debut because with this new sort of digital medium, at least in our approach, there's been different dates to the same release. It's kind of like Groundhog Day. It's like waking up everyday to the release of the album, you know? So it's been kind of funny in that sense. And really wonderful too. It was kept a long time in the making.
Let's rewind a little bit. Can you tell us a about how the collective formed?
Rachel: Rob's always been playing music since I can remember growing up and I was always in theater. I went to NYU with Lauren, our drummer. I was living in Barcelona at the time and I came back to LA and Rob was doing his music videos. Lauren and I started to play and we incorporated a lot of local music. It was a time when I started going to the Joshua Tree and spending time with this band, kind of this Spaghetti Western band. And I was like hmmm, country music. When I was younger, it always annoyed Rob, because it was kind of not cool, you know?
Rob: Well I was playing punk rock, and my mom and Rachel were not too stoked on my musical choices. So I was almost obliged to not be stoked about theirs.
Rachel: Right, exactly.
Rob: I didn't have love for country and eighties pop music.
Rachel: I was into a lot of the oldies. I was like 90-years-old at age six, "put on Elvis!" Anyway, but Rob was in music and I was in theater. And then there was sort of a crossover moment. I really attribute it to that band because I was spending so much time with them. I was into that kind of music and at that point I was a big drinker and loved being this like dark kind of fucked up rocker chick even though I wasn't...more hippie rock...I had this identity I was clinging to at the time and I knew I loved country in this darker style, and I thought "that's the way to do it." And my brother was playing music and he had this girlfriend that I didn't like so I decided to write a song about her. It sounded great. And I started playing in shows. We played first for this homeless community downtown by the railroad tracks and then we played the next show out in Slab City for some crack addicts.
Rob: They weren't all crack addicts but...
Rachel: It is the meth capitol of the world, the majority...
Rob: I don't know. I mean there's definitely some missing teeth and people living in abandoned school buses but...
Rachel: And a lot of twitching bodies, so...
Rob: Yeah, there's an element of meth happening for sure, but I don't want everyone to be represented by that there's some people who are sober in that community.
Rachel: I knew there were a lot meth heads that's why I booked the show. I was all for it. Call it what it is.
Rob: I don't want the article to misrepresent them, that's all i'm saying.
Rachel: So we're out there with all the crack addicts...(only kidding)...and we just started playing music and shows and then it sort of evolved. At the time Lauren and I were making theater together, and she was my collaborative partner..and it was just such a natural thing to have her as part of the band. And she was my roommate. So in the beginning she was just tap dancing as percussion, which people loved. And we had a drummer and different players...people would come in and sing in the background and hit some tambourines - it was really gypsy - really family style in the beginning, and then over time it sort of refined and worked into what it is now, five players, five amazing players. But i guess there was a point you can take over - it sort of changed from that kind of loosey goosey thing- which was fun, but it became a little more refined at some point.
Rob: Everyone in LA that's in a band has like a side band, it's almost like a cliche, it's like, "My side project is playing at this bar tonight, you wanna come check us out?" So we were a side band at first, just trying have fun, not taking it too seriously. As it started unraveling, we started getting more drawn to it, and it just felt natural that way. So basically it started evolving naturally and we just caught the tail of that kite, balloon, whatever you wanna use to reference it, and we just started floating along with it.
Do you think the existence of new bands and more folky bands like Mumford and Sons in the pop limelight help open the doors for newer, eccentric bands like yourself?
Rob: Definitely. I think we're even more weird and eccentric so we would love to be embraced by a more mainstream audience. There's a common sort of dichotomy of wanting to have an audience, but not wanting it too become too commercialized, and I understand that. I think we're much more open to becoming a pop band, or a mainstream band, as long as it's done it sort of an organic way. Mumford has this interesting instrumentation that you haven't seen in pop music in a while. They have the banjo, and the acoustics, and they don't really have a drummer. I've been really impressed that they've been able to do that. I think that musically I wish they would take more chances but again, that's what their style is and I think they have a lot to offer. Even a band like The White Stripes, they had a more interesting aesthetic when they initially came out, and still Jack White is doing unique things. I think we're very influenced in certain ways by a lot of these different artists. I wouldn't necessarily say we're influenced by a band like Mumford, but they have definitely opened the doors in a mainstream way for bands like us and we appreciate that.