If you go
• What: He’s My Brother She’s My Sister, in concert
• When: 9 p.m. Jan. 24 for adults 21 and older.
• Where: Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi Ave., Portland.
• Cost: $12.
• Information: 503-288-3895 or http://mississippistudios.com.
That was a main goal for the album.
“We were playing a lot of these songs live for almost two years, a year and a half before we recorded it,” singer/guitarist Rob Kolar explained in an early January phone interview. “Our producer, Thom (Monaham), was really interested in having those songs down live, like really well constructed and construed so that when we came in to record it, we basically hit the floor and pressed record and took everything that we played all in one take.”
But if the excellent first album nicely captures the sound of this five-person band from Los Angeles, it’s only part of what’s unique about He’s My Brother She’s My Sister.
For starters, the band has a drummer, Lauren Brown, who tap dances on some songs while playing a stand-up kit. The group also brings a strong fashion sense to the stage, currently favoring outfits that look straight out of vaudeville or an old-time carnival.
“There are a lot of bands out there that are almost anti-this idea of a show or a performance,” Rob Kolar said. “They’ll keep their clothing very kind of flat and simple. And that’s fine. We have nothing against that. But we feel inspired to show the other end of the spectrum and encourage and incorporate some of those more theatrical elements and visuals, so when people come and see it, they’re really seeing a show. And we encourage them to really be part of it.”
It makes sense that He’s My Brother She’s My Sister would be interested in fashion. While all of the band members have strong senses of style, singer Rachel Kolar (Rob’s sister) previously worked as a stylist for several top music artists, including Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj -- stars who are nearly as famous for their bold clothes and hairstyles as their music.
“If you listen to Lady Gaga’s songs, I think the majority of them are pretty horrendous,” said Rachel Kolar, who joined her brother for the interview. “And that goes for a lot of pop stars. Some of them are actually kind of good, but for the most part, I think they’re pretty awful. And the lyrical content is pretty bad. But they create this visual character that people gravitate toward so much that when you’re actually listening to the music, you start to see these images. It’s kind of like hypnotism, and fashion can be that way, which is what I think we’re aware of. I think that’s why we do incorporate it, because we want people, when they’re listening to our songs, to see the magic in them as well.”
Visual elements noted, Rachel Kolar emphasized that the music itself is the top priority for the group, which also includes lap steel guitarist Aaron Robinson and bassist Oliver Newell. That’s apparent with the “Nobody Dances In This Town” CD, which has nice variety within its lively, rootsy pop sound.
There’s a stinging element of blues within the folk stomp of “Let It Live Free.” “Let’s Go” hints at punk-edged rockabilly with its fast-strummed guitar and frisky beat. Such songs as “Same Old Ground” and “Tales That I Tell” get downright rambunctious as they blend rock with elements of country and folk and poppy vocal melodies. There’s also a darker side to the album, which emerges on such songs as “Choir Of The Dead” and “Touch The Lightning,” with their slower tempos and eerie instrumental touches.
Considering the work the group has obviously puts into its music and live show, it’s ironic that He’s My Brother She’s My Sister happened in a decidedly casual way.
It began about three years ago as a just-for-fun acoustic duo for the Kolar siblings, an opportunity for Rob Kolar, who was the songwriter/singer in the Los Angeles-based band Lemon Sun, to try writing music with his sister, who had written plays and wanted to give music a try.
The early shows started to draw a following and soon He’s My Brother She’s My Sister grew into a full band that was ready to tour nationally.
“We just kind of got swept away in it,” Rob Kolar said. “I always kind of chuckle when I think about it because Rachel was very focused on her theater company. She and Lauren especially, that was kind of their main drive. Then I was doing my band, Lemon Sun. I was like this is my rock band. I want to make it with this band, you know. Then we started doing it for fun, and people kept coming to shows.
“When we got Oliver and Aaron, it kind of filled out the sound and took it to another level where it was much larger and louder and more exciting,” he said. “It all just sort of fell, it was like a natural domino effect, one thing after another, unplanned. But we just rode the wave, and we keep riding it.”