He's My Brother She's My Sister embraces musical diversity

The Twang Gang 

He's My Brother She's My Sister embraces musical diversity

"It was awesome," says singer Rachel Kolar when asked about the band's appearance at the multi-day festival. "It was one of our biggest festivals. We were the first band to play the first day. We were like, 'What the fuck. Nobody is going to be there that early to see us.' And when we showed up, there were thousands of people waiting there to see us play. Everyone had heard of us. It was really great. It was like the fireworks went off for us."

Kolar and her brother, singer-guitarist Robert Kolar, form the band's core, but they didn't sing together while growing up. While her sibling had always played in bands, Kolar's experience was limited to singing in the school choir and performing musical theater. Still, because the two had moved around so much as kids, they were exposed to a variety of different cultures and different types of music.

"We were gypsy kids and grew up in small towns," she says. "We were living in this small town and everyone listened to country music. Country music is definitely a Southern thing but it's also a small town thing, and I grew up listening to oldies like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. When I opened my mouth and sang, I wanted to sing in that style. That came from living in a small town. But we've lived all over the place: Europe, Hong Kong, Philippines."

After attending a Clean Air Clear Stars festival, an annual event held in the SoCal desert that Kolar describes as a "rock 'n' roll and whiskey-drinking event" despite the hippie dippie name, Kolar was inspired to put together a band with her brother.

"It was actually kind of anti-hippie," she says of the event. "It was a really cool scene of music and it spoke to me at the time for whatever reason and we just started writing songs together after that."

Kolar, her brother and her tap-dancing drummer friend Lauren Brown christened themselves He's My Brother She's My Sister and started playing informal events.

"Nothing was taken very seriously, which was the beauty of it, and then we started playing shows just to have fun," says Kolar.  "People are attracted to our energy and then we started playing legitimate shows as opposed to the ones were playing before."

Stand-up bassist Oliver Newell and lap slide guitarist Aaron Robinson joined the band and the group has been touring non-stop ever since, sharing bills with like-minded acts such as Fitz and the Tantrums, The Devil Makes Three, Local Natives and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.

"We've seen a growth in terms of people coming out to see us and the general excitement about the band," says Kolar. "It's been nice to witness that. We're starting to get to a level where it's easier for us. It's nice to experience that because we've definitely put in the time."

After issuing a couple of EPs, the band sought to expand its sound even further with . The album opens with the grunge-y drinking tune "Tales that I Tell," a track that sounds like Patsy Cline if she were backed by the Blasters, and then veers into Neko Case territory with the twangy "Slow It Down," a sultry tune that shows off the band's sensitive side. Kolar says making the album was a "learning process."

"This is our first full-length and we had to do it fairly quickly," she says. "We learned that you have to let go of certain ideas and learn to collaborate. Everyone in our band is very forthright and has a specific idea about what they want the songs to sound like. It was a very wonderful experience. I love the album. I'm just as excited to start the next one."

And while the band hails from Los Angeles, it's not particularly proud that it comes from a place known for its glamor and glitz. In the song "I Can't See the Stars," Kolar offers up a veiled critique of the place.

"I moved out of town for a while to Ojai," she says when asked about the inspiration for the tune. "I was living in a canyon with hot springs all round. At night, I would just soak in the hot springs and have these far out, almost-psychedelic experiences, nothing that I could articulate. Everything falls into place when you're out there. It's incredible. The Milky Way looks like it's a cloud that you could almost touch. It's unbelievable. It brings such love and compassion into my heart."

While the band loosely fits the alt-country mold, it also dabbles in rockabilly and ultimately sounds more like an indie rock act.

"We're a band that does not belong in any kind of category," Kolar says. "All five members are totally different. Some people in the band are rock 'n' roll and some are totally hippie. Everyone is super-different and has a totally different idea of what their lifestyle is like. We like that. We like the diversity. Diversity thrives in nature and we want to be a representation of that."

Moments of the album recall the punk rock band X, and Kolar says the band simply tries to strike a balance between country and punk and make the most of the members' various strengths.

"We have three educated musicians and two feeder people," she says. "We had to add that to the unexpected. Lauren and I are doing what we feel is exciting at the moment. I don't have the practice and experience to refine it and bring it together but the band is the perfect environment for creativity. You need the yin and yang. Otherwise, it can become too rigid or alternately too chaotic. We take the approach of whatever sticks to the wall, sticks to the wall. We send each other demos and collaborate together on them and that's awesome. We're doing some shows abroad and touring and expanding the band to a more global level. It feels like international music at this point."

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