He's My Brother She's My Sister Playing Transit Lounge Tonight

Judging by acts like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and He's My Brother She's My Sister, L.A.'s music scene seems to be experiencing something of a metamorphosis, courtesy of these forward-thinking folkies forging new ground and making inroads into new auditory adventures. These bands are splicing unexpected influences, experimenting with sound, and remembering something others seem to forget: The whole point is having fun with it.

If you missed HMBSMS's show with Sharpe and the Zeros last night, where the crew turned Culture Room on its ear, you could always read about it here.

But, while I are grateful for the hit, it really doesn't do it just. But you're in luck. While Alex Ebert and company are back on the road, their opening act, He's My Brother She's My Sister are sticking around for a free gig tonight at Transit, where fans will get treated to a much expanded set.

It'd make life a lot easier if I had something to compare this band to, and there's a video after the jump, to give you a feel. But then, that's part of their charm. A mix of western swing, ragtime, folk and blues with a hint of vaudeville, He's My Brother She's My Sister isn't much like anything else you've ever heard. With toe-tapping, jangling, catchy songs that broach topics tending toward the darker side, brother and sister vocal duo Rob and Rachel Kolar (Rob also plays guitar and banjo), cello player Satya Bhabha and tap dancer Lauren Brown are well on their way to really big things. In addition to their current tour with Ed Sharpe, they've already played Sundance, Manimal Vinyl, The New Los Angeles Folk Festival and the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in Europe. Oh, and don't forget their just released eponymous EP, which is leaps and bounds ahead of material a lot of much bigger, more established acts are putting out.

Crossfade recently got a chance to chat with the very fun, very charming Rob Kolar, Bhabha and Brown, as the three traversed highways into the Sunshine State. After talking to them, I'm imagining misadventures ensued along the way.

New Times: You guys have a really unique sound blending a lot of unexpected elements, like western and blues. How did it all come together?

Lauren: Rob and Rachel started the band, and they were looking for a drummer for a while, and I'd been playing with them for years, and they asked me to play a show with them with my tap shoes. So we found this slab of wood behind a dumpster, and I tapped on it, and it worked pretty well. And then we got Satya Bhabha involved to play cello.

Rob: Yeah, we tried lots of drummers, but it never sounded right. So we just used Lauren's feet.

Satya: I think that Rob and Rachel definitely like The Mamas and The Papas, and a lot of 60s folk influences. But then, with Lauren on tap, that brings a sort of different, bluesy feel to it. And so, the sound moved away from being pure folk and tapped upon these other elements as well.

Rob: This ragtime-y, alleyway kind of air.

Yeah, I don't know of too many bands who employ a full-time tap dancer.

Satya: Thank goodness.  That's our slant.  If you hear of any others, tell us.

It's particularly unexpected considering you're a band from LA.

Rob: Everytime we answer where we're from, people raise their eyebrows, and then frown. So I try to avoid saying we're from Los Angeles. But I'm actually quite proud to be from Los Angeles. I think it's a pretty cool town. It's come a long ways recently.

Satya: I think there's also like a folk, storytelling community on the East side, which is where a bunch of the band lives. And it really definitely feeds our sound. We often bring friends up to perform with us, and that really informs our sound as well. So even though it's not what you think of as L.A. music, I think it's pretty typical of where the music scene in L.A. is right now, because it's very much that community, sharing, people collaborating with each other on all sorts of thing.

Rob: Yeah.

Lauren: Yeah!

Satya: ...hooray!

Tell us a bit about some of the themes you guys touch on in songs like "I Was Born," "Clackin Heels" and "How'm I Gonna Get Home." It's kind of dark subject matter, given a sunny presentation.

Rob: Yeah, I think you're right on with that. We like to throw in kind of more edgy material, lyrically. And then kind of turn that into a pop song, and make it fun, that people can clap their hands and sing along to. So we like that combination of not taking things too seriously, but at the same time, them having a dark side.

Satya: Yeah, Rachel and Rob sort of write the songs together. And Rachel has always written a lot of lyrics, and is also a playwright. So I think that aspect in a literary nature of our lyrics comes from the fact that there's also that going on there. So the lyrics aren't like an afterthought to the music. It comes very organically, and I think both are very important.

Yeah, you guys are a pretty prolific group.

Satya: We try to keep ourselves busy. There's a lot going on in the band, acting and other music, and business.

Lauren: Wait, we're at a toll.

Rob: No, you don't want to go here. This is for SunPass. You don't want SunPass, you want to get a ticket.

Satya: I bet Chris has a SunPass.

I do.

Satya: I know you do. If I lived here, I'd get a really nice one. So yeah, Rachel and Lauren have a theater company and they recently did a big production in downtown L.A., on a play that Rachel wrote and both of them starred in.

Lauren: And Satya directed.

Satya: That I happened to direct. And Rob's also an actor and also has this band Lemmon Sun that he's been working with for a while, that we actually do a couple of their songs that they've been generous enough to lend them to us. And I'm an actor as well, so we all do a bunch of different stuff.

You're on tour w/ Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, which seems like a great match. How'd that come together, and how's it working out?

Rob: Well, they're from a similar part of Los Angeles, and we kind had some mutual friends and hung out. The guys that did their music videos is a good friend of ours. And we've just kind of been in the same scene.

Satya: We opened for the once in San Diego.

Lauren: Last year.

Satya: Last year. It was a really great show, and I think we left some really well placed hints that we'd love to play with them some more. And thankfully they picked up on them. It's been a real blast.

Rob: Yeah, they weren't allowed to open for themselves on this tour, so they voted who got to open, and I guess we edged out whoever was behind us. Don't know who it was.

How will your show on Wednesday at Transit differ form your show on Tuesday opening for them?

Rob: Well, one will be free, and the other will be far from free. And one show won't be including Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The show at Transit Lounge we're going to play for  along time, every song we have.

Satya: It's going to be fun. You know, it's been really fun opening for them, and it's been amazing being on the road, but also we're excited to have a night where we can relax into our own set. And the crowd's we've played so far have really been fantastic, they really ask for the music as we play, clapping and dancing and singing along. So we're looking forward to more of that.

He's My Brother She's My Sister play Transit Lounge (729 SW 1 Ave.) tonight. No cover.

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Christopher Lopez