It all began with tap-dancing, and then expanded from there. Lauren Brown started taking lessons at age 8, and now does it onstage and in-studio as a member of He's My Brother She's My Sister.
Fronted by siblings Rob and Rachel Kolar, the group was one of L.A. Weekly's "Top Ten L.A. Bands to Watch in 2011." Since then, it's toured relentlessly, while its self-titled EP — an eclectic mix of folk, art-pop, western swing, and, well, tap-dancing — has been featured on high-profile programs like NPR's World Café.
As the band's full-length debut nears completion, Rob and Lauren — whose onstage duties now include drumming and tap-dancing at the same time — talked about what to expect when they swing through Colorado.
Indy: You've been in the studio with Thom Monahan, who's produced albums by Devendra Banhart, Lavender Diamond and Vetiver. Do you feel an affinity with those musicians?
Lauren Brown: Yes, he's producing our full-length, which is coming really soon. And he was definitely somebody we were all dying to work with.
Indy: Any concerns you'll be saddled with the same "freak folk" tag all of those artists got stuck with?
Rob Kolar: [Laughs.] I'm all right with that. I mean, I feel that we definitely have something else to offer, whether it's within that genre or not, but I personally like that whole idea. I think if we are part of that sound or that movement, we're on a more kind of glammy end of that. But we're definitely influenced by some of those bands.
Indy: Did you say glammy?
RK: Yeah, I'm really into '70s English glam rock. Like, David Bowie and T Rex are huge influences. I think it's maybe a subtle thing you may or may not pick up on, but I think it's a little more apparent in this album. And I definitely think that it's gonna become a part of our sound as we move forward, at least from my side of the songwriting.
Indy: I remember seeing a video of you all dressed in Day of the Dead costumery. How important to you is that performative aspect, and do you all come from theatrical backgrounds?
LB: Yeah, Rachel and I met during our first week of NYU. She was studying playwriting, and I was studying experimental theater. And when we came together with this band, we all wanted to add that theatrical influence to our live performances.
Indy: Do you guys spend a lot of time in vintage clothing shops?
LB: Oh for sure, I have such a problem with that. Even tonight, we have a show in L.A., and I need to get an amazing vintage outfit to wear! It's always a good excuse.
Indy: So is this the furthest you've gone in an interview without being asked about the tap-dancing thing?
LB: [Laughs.] Maybe, or at least with no mention of it.
Indy: I've seen musicians integrating clogging into their music, like 16 Horsepower and John Hartford, but tap-dancing seems pretty uncommon. Are you aware of any recent musicians who've used it?
LB: I know the band Tilly and the Wall uses it ...
RK: Yeah, there's a band called Tilly and the Wall — as Lauren was just saying before I interrupted her. And there's a sort of underlying competition because, in the indie world especially, that's the first name that people throw out, just because it's the only other band that does tap-dancing. But they do it very differently stylistically. And now that Lauren has started drumming and tapping at the same time, we feel like they have no chance against us. [Laughs.]
Indy: And finally, your manager sent me a few tracks to stream, just to get an idea of where the album is headed. How would you say it'll differ from the EP, and how rough are those mixes?
RK: You want to start, Lauren?
LB: No, you go, Rob.
RK: [Long pause.] Um, they're not that rough.
Indy: Oh, I'm sorry. I meant to say, they sound extremely polished. ... So, um, how much did you pay that guy?
RK: Yeah, maybe we should just leave it at that. [Laughs.] But musically, we explore a variety of ground — there's a little bit of psychedelic exploration, some more earnest folky songs, some sing-along anthems, and then, you know, kind of swingy rhythmic gypsy hip-shakers. The EP was something we did more as fun and with friends. This is like the proper first album, where we went into the studio and really did it the way we had always wanted.