He’s My Brother She’s My Sister: On with A “Show”

Johnny Brenda’s has had a pretty impressive string of shows early in 2012… like really impressive… Amanda Jo Williams… Madi Diaz… Twin Sister and, this Tuesday (1/24), He’s My...

Johnny Brenda’s has had a pretty impressive string of shows early in 2012… like really impressive… Amanda Jo Williams… Madi Diaz… Twin Sister and, this Tuesday (1/24), He’s My Brother She’s My Sister, for what will likely be the most “performative” of the performances.  Echo Park’s He’s My Brother She’s My Sister is real-life bro/sis duo Rob and Rachel Kolar, along with Oliver Newell, Aaron Robinson, Lauren Brown, and Satya Bhabha.  Their self-titled EP dropped in 2010 and their debut LP is coming later this year and their live shows have already become a contemporary sort of legendary. They are folk, bathed in psychedelic glitter and the most glamorously decadent bits of 20th century history.  They also seem to be intellectuals… who enjoy getting naked together… and musing about the arts.  They seem to have a love and craving for both the reckless abandon of hyper-posmodernity and classical, introverted existentialism… They are the most refreshing people I’ve chatted with in quite a while.

Izzy Cihak: 2011 just wrapped.  Did you, as a band, have any particular highlights?

Rob Kolar: Recording the new album at Henson studios in Los Angeles was a real treat and a lucky opportunity as well as a generous gift.  Playing High Sierra festival was a real highlight, not to mention us all getting naked in the crazy, foam-shooting tub they have there.

Rachel Kolar: Stripping to the buff at High Sierra and all hopping into a gigantic bathtub and spraying each other with soap guns. And watching the sun set beneath the clouds, high atop the mountain at Big Sur’s Nacarubi festival.

Oliver Newell: So many!  The whole year is neon pink and orange.  But our shows at the High Sierra Festival might top the list.

Izzy: How did you come up with your band name?  I actually find it quite brilliant and have found myself using paraphrased versions of it to characterize relationships in my own life.

Rob: Haha.  We do that a bit too.  In the beginning the band was just Rach and I so it was very factual.

Rachel: I came up with it on a whim and Rob refused it, so I signed it up as a URL with MySpace, where I knew it couldn’t be reversed. Irony and playing with words and concepts is what I think I do best and I knew it was a good name and, somehow, both straightforward and confusing at the same time.

Izzy: You are real-life siblings, so I¹m inclined to ask if you have any other favorite sibling acts from music history (My favorites are The Stooges, Bauhaus, and The Black Crowes.)

Rob: One of my favorite bands of all time and a huge songwriting influence is The Kinks.  I have a fondness for some Oasis tunes.   The Everly Brothers harmonies blow my mind.

Rachel: The Allman Brothers and The Beach Boys weren’t so bad. The Kennedys were pretty memorable too.

Izzy: Everyone tends to ask bands what are their biggest musical influences, so I always ask: What are your biggest non-musical influences?  You all have backgrounds and resumes that span far beyond the confines of the “musical.”

Rob: Great question.  The films of Milos Forman, Stanley Kubrick, Tim Burton, Rob Reiner, and many others.   The art of Claes Oldenburg, Kandinsky, Klimt… Our touring adventures, friends, books we read.

Rachel: When it comes to theater, I’d say Shakespeare, Brecht, and Beckett are in there.  Style, I draw from Westwood, Lanvin, Ziegfeld Follies, Mama Cass. Film is Kubrick, Forman, Fellini… Authors, Dickens, Dickinson, Isaacson, Fitzgerald. Philosophy, Einstein, Gandhi, Babaji. But really it’s experience. I’m a deeply emotional and sensitive being. Experience can become so intensely resonant.  Something as seemingly inconsequential as a trip to the supermarket has altered my life dramatically. There are so many citrus varieties at Whole Foods!

Izzy: You have quite dynamic live shows.  Where do they derive their inspiration?

Rob: I love the early 70s glam rock era and the showmanship of that period, along with the origins of rock and roll and the energy of artists like Little Richard, Eddie Cochran, Elvis, and Howlin’ Wolf.   We also have a fondness for circus performing and the eccentricity of vaudeville and sideshow-style performances.  Our grandfather was a playwright and actor so maybe it’s in the blood.

Rachel: It’s the collective energy of the band. Everyone is in it together and fully enjoying what we’re doing. We want to exhibit that freedom. We want to encourage everyone to really let it go and fully enjoy life. We’re all really truly strange and fantastic. Let’s live it up then and stop pretending we’re normal. I’ve seen enough of this country and met enough of its citizens to know we’re all perfectly bizarre.

Oliver: I have a background in ‘ecstatic dance’, which is a kind of new agey, let-loose-and-get-crazy-while-respecting-yourself-and-others kinda space.  I started doing it during the couple years I spent in Hawaii.  It had a strong influence on me as a performer and my intention as an artist.

Izzy: Are there any other musical acts whose live shows you find to be especially impressive?

Rob: The band I’m watching as I answer this.  “Royal Tinfoil” is blowing my mind. I saw Dr. Dog a little while back and was really impressed with their harmonies and musicianship live.  Jeffertitis Nile is a great swarm of psychedelic energy.   Amanda Jo Williams and her band of misfits can be especially delightful on the right night.

Rachel: Radiohead a few years back and Lucent Dossier. I think I saw both in the same day, actually.

Oliver: Gustavo Dudamel, Sun Ra, Funkadelic, Bjork, old school Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I like people that take the performance beyond the music.

Izzy: What are your hopes and goals for HMBSMS in 2012?

Rob: Get a tattoo.  Maybe.

Rachel: I want a magical summer on the festival circuit. We’re a band to see live and we always get the party started. The festival scene is our home. There are some amazing festivals out there to experience in some of the most beautiful places.

Izzy: What would you tell potential concertgoers to get them to come out and see you on January 24th at Johnny Brenda¹s in Philadelphia?

Rachel: You have to see it to believe it.

Rob: Cause it’s gonna make their booty shake, their soul awake, their knee caps quake and their boredoms break.

Oliver: Come meet us after the show so we can thank you!

Band Interviews

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.