Although dear friends of PHILTHY He’s My Brother She’s My Sister have parted ways (at least for the time being), vocalist/guitarist Rob Kolar and Lauren Brown, their world famous tap dancing drummer (a real-life married couple), have been writing, recording, and performing as KOLARS for two years now. Building on the almost indescribable glam folk amalgam of HMBSMS, the duo (Yup, it’s just the two of them.) are kicking out twangy dance pop jams that could easily have them supporting the likes of The Killers or Pixies. Last year the band released their self-titled debut, which has been praised by the likes of HuffPost, Paste, and Conan O’Brien, and they’ve already shared bills with a plethora of PHILTHY favorites, like Hurray For The Riff Raff, Big Thief, and Ride. Earlier this week they released their cover of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “King of Carrot Flowers” and kicked off a US tour. Tonight, on the tour’s third stop, KOLARS will find themselves once again headlining our very own Boot & Saddle, whose blend of kitschy country-western décor and uber-punk staff would seem to be the perfect home for their beautifully brilliant sonic blend. I recently got a chance to chat with Lauren and Rob about the first two years of KOLARS. Here’s what they had to tell me…
Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city. You’ve played here many times between KOLARS and HMBSMS. Any favorite gigs or experiences?
Lauren Brown: We always love playing Philly. The people are great, fantastic city. Whenever we play here (and I mean every time), I have to get a Philly cheesesteak. I don’t even eat red meat anymore-but I make an exception. And I don’t want no fancy cheese either — give me that goop.
Rob Kolar: Philly is great. Good people with a great sense of humor. One of our fav current bands, Dr. Dog, is from here. And who can forget the Delfonics… and their fabulous get ups!
Izzy: On a related note, what is it that brought about this shift, with the two of you going from being members of HMBSMS to forming KOLARS? I mean, one project would seem to be an evolution of the other, in a lot of ways. The last time I saw you you played a few HMBSMS songs and the two bands seem to share a certain sonic aesthetic.
Rob: I think it’s a combination of members wanting to pursue different things with their lives and us wanting to explore something different artistically. We def pull from the rockabilly folk psych blues of HMBSMS, though KOLARS embraces more of a modern, danceable, and experimental approach.
Izzy: What would you consider to be KOLARS’ biggest influences (whether musical or otherwise)? Do they differ at all from the things that were most in your head in HMBSMS?
Rob: Oh man, there is an endless list. Everything from Tarantino soundtracks to David Bowie. Stanley Kubrick for his tenacity and his ability to make brilliant art within limitations. Punk rock for giving me the confidence to get up there and do it even when I didn’t have the skills. James Brown for his moves, energy and style. Iggy Pop, The Kinks, T Rex, Spoon, Bo Diddley, The Cars, The Cure, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Wilco, St. Vincent, Hot Chocolate (the band… and the drink), and dozens more. We also love learning about characters like Shep Gordon or Robert Evans as we are managers and producers in our own careers, so we relate to that side of the business as well.
Lauren: I would have to say my influences have remained the same since I was a child. I’ve got my heroes — Tina Turner, Cher, Prince, Bo Diddley, Savion Glover, Fred Astaire. Although I love learning about new artists-musicians, visual artists, performance artists. I’m having a major love affair with St. Vincent right now.
Izzy: And what have been some of the highlights of KOLARS so far? You haven’t been playing in this formation for a super long time, but you’ve already played on some really amazing bills and received an exceptionally warm welcome from fans of your previous band.
Lauren: I’m so grateful for the journey KOLARS has had so far. I’m really happy in this project, and it is just icing on the cake if others dig it as well [laughs]. Getting to play outside of the states has been an incredible experience-Germany, Amsterdam, the UK. We played this festival called London Calling at the famous nightclub, Paradiso, in Amsterdam last October with such amazing bands: Big Thief, Marlon Williams, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Japanese Breakfast, Alex Lahey, Starcrawler. Just being there, playing alongside these acts in such a beautiful theater — I was pinching myself.
Rob: Seeing fans come out in sparkles or metallics and sing along with all the words makes me feel like people are stepping into the world we’ve created and want to share it with us. That’s an incredible thing to experience.
Izzy: Have you had any particular favorite responses to the band?
Lauren: One time I got off stage and heard from someone in the crowd say, “That chick definitely went to art school.” I peed myself I was laughing so hard. I mean, he was right [laughs].
Rob: One time a girl said she really loved the show and asked if she could give me a little kiss and I said, “Okay, sure.” So, she planted a fat one on my lips and sucked the air right out of me and then ran off.
Izzy: You’re embarking on a pretty big tour (by today’s standards). Are there any gigs you’re especially excited to play or cities that you’re just especially excited to visit or revisit?
Lauren: We are thrilled. We are touring the states for about a month, then off to tour Europe for about three months. I’m excited for all of it. Especially for Philly;)… But I did look into my cat’s eyes and teared up. Wish I could bring him with me.
Rob: The fact that we get to travel and do what we love is a total blessing. We are excited about making this an international act, so going to Japan and Australia and South America are def next on the list. We are gonna be in Europe for several months this year doing some tours and festivals, so def looking forward to that.
Izzy: What can be expected of your upcoming Philly show, when you return to Boot & Saddle?
Lauren: Sweat. Fun. Good Vibes. Music. Possible Nudity.
Rob: What Lauren said.
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you, after these dates wrap? Is there new music in the works? If so, what can be expected of your upcoming sounds?
KOLARS: We just released a new cover single of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “King of Carrot Flowers.” It is the 20th anniversary of their album Aeroplane Over The Sea, so this will be a tribute to that album and song. After that there will be a couple more singles to come and an album for 2019.