Thursday, September 19, 2013
Can tap dancing and rock ‘n’ roll mix? A Cali folk band thinks so
You can hear He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister play twice this fall in Fort Worth and Dallas.
He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister — that’s the difficult band name for a multi-faceted group of Los Angeles-based folksters. The five-piece combines the essence of Head and the Heart with the gumption of Dallas’ own Fox & the Bird in a whirlwind of catchy beats and lingering lyrics. Oh yes, and there's tap dancing.
He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister is swinging through North Texas twice this fall, first as headliner for this weekend’s Clearfork Music Festival in Fort Worth and then October 30 Club Dada. We caught up with Lauren Brown, tapper of 24 years and percussionist, to find out where the roads of dance and rock 'n' roll collide.
Pegasus News: I have to ask: Where did you come up with your band name?
Lauren Brown: Our band name is very factual because the brother and the sister are the singers in the band … Rachel [Kolar] is the one who came up with the name. I think, Rob [Kolar], the brother, didn't love it at first, but after a while it kind of grew on him because we all liked it so much.
Well I'll tell you, you're driving journalists crazy with that comma in there.
Clearfork Music Festival: He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister / Whiskey Folk Ramblers / Foxtrot Uniform
- Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork
5000 Clearfork Main Street
Fort Worth, TX
- $15 - $40
I know, I know. Feel free, you can leave out the comma if you want.
Now, concerning your latest album, Nobody Dances In This Town, I'm curious to know which place the you’re referring to with the title.
Oh, many towns. I don't want to reveal one — there isn't even just one. It really started in the early days of touring a few years ago. We're a band and I'm tap dancing in the show, so there's something very dancey about the band. And whenever we would arrive in a town, I feel like a lot of towns in America, people would say, "Nobody dances here. Nobody dances in this town." And then we play a set and most people would be dancing, having a good time and they'd be surprised. Like, "What? But nobody dances in this town." So because we heard it more and more and it felt really ridiculous because most of the time people are saying this but everyone looks like they were, ya know, dancing it up. We thought there was some irony and a little bit of truth to that.
Tell me how you got the tap dancing element involved.
I've been a tap dancer my whole life and when we started the project about four years ago, it was pretty much Robert, Rachel and myself just tapping. We didn't have drums going on, more like a folk project. And then as the band progressed we have our friend join and he played the drums and our other friend. It kind of grew and shifted in members. Over time our drummer quit, about two-and-a-half years ago now, so we wanted to keep the tap dancing but at the same time we wanted the drums. That's when I started exploring and doing them both simultaneously. So I tap dance on a bass drum while I play a drum kit at the same time … The tap dancing takes the shape of the hi-hat while I play the kick with my arm and the tom and the snare and all that.
That sounds like a workout.
It is! It keeps me young.
... There's something about tap-dancing that, and when we travel around and do the show, it makes people happy. I think it reminds them of their childhood.
... There's also that Fred Astaire element, old Hollywood magic. My whole vision was to take that because I grew up doing it and I always felt a little bit, not stiff in it, but until Savion Glover came along, it felt a little bit lame, or something. It didn't have an edge. There was nothing rock 'n' roll about it. So my whole goal was to make tap dancing rock 'n' roll.
I haven't seen you guys live, but I can imagine that having you on stage dancing, not just playing, can be infectious for your audience.
It allows room for people to let go, and that's a big thing. I think a lot of times people go to a show and there's an awkwardness to it — I don't want to be the first one dancing; or you have to get drunk to feel comfortable moving. But right off the bat, ya know, I'm up there trying to let loose. Maybe it gives people that freedom that they don't have to have those three drinks to start dancing or wait for that first person.