Sibling rivalry has never sounded so good.
The appropriately named He’s My Brother She’s My Sister, led by siblings Rachel and Rob Kolar, blends musical styles old and new into something wholly their own. They’ve dubbed the sound, at times, “psych-acoustic” for its blend of psychadelia and folk sounds. But there’s also a dose of pop and punk and vaudeville in there.
“We love blues and jazz and folk music,” explains Rob Kolar. “But we also want to explore how to make that even more new, how to make it more of a modern thing to reflect today’s culture.”
Their old-timey vibe includes tap-dancing drummer Lauren Brown, upright bassist Oliwa Newell and slide guitarist Aaron Robinson. Rachel and Rob share the vocals, with Rob on guitar. Together they make a charmingly off-kilter brand of folk and blues, with foot-tapping throwback songs like “How’m I Gonna Get Back Home Tonight” that are reminiscent of the White Stripes acoustic stuff.
The Los Angeles-based band built up a following in the old school troubadour fashion — by touring relentlessly and playing anywhere they could get an audience.
Their first concert was an impromptu show for a gathering of homeless people under a bridge in Los Angeles. They’d gone there to take some band pictures and decided to go ahead and entertain the huddled masses while they were at it.
They continued that tradition, stopping to play in uncommon venues like “Slab City” in the California desert — the off-the-grid living community that was featured in “Into the Wild.”
“That was an interesting cultural experience,” says Kolar. “We’re always up for playing anywhere.”
Over the last few years, they’ve played Aspen regularly, beginning with free shows at Belly Up that converted many locals in to fans.
The band returns to Belly Up on Wednesday, Sept. 4. Tickets are $10 in advance; $12 on Wednesday.
“Belly Up really took a chance on us,” says Kolar. “They just liked the music. So it was incredible to have this pretty renowned venue that has big acts coming through to say, ‘We like these guys, we’ll bring them in.’”
The crowds have gotten bigger with each stop in town and, by their last show in April, had given the band a sizable local following. They also got a boost in their Colorado fan base when they toured with Paper Bird, the popular Denver-based bluegrass outfit that, coincidentally, plays the Labor Day Festival this Sunday in Snowmass.
The Kolars never expected to collaborate and form a band. Rob had some success with the band Lemon Sun, while Rachel had her own theater company. And, as he tells it, they didn’t get along particularly well growing up: “We fought a lot as kids and we had an especially loud relationship.”
So three years ago, when they started jamming together, they didn’t expect much to come of it.
“It was just a side project at first,” says Kolar. “We said, ‘Let’s do this, no pressure, just for fun, let’s hang out and write some songs.’”
They liked what they heard and found they worked well together, despite their acrimonious childhood rivalries. On stage, they click and compliment one another in dual vocals.
“It’s totally a surprise,” says Kolar. “Seven years ago, if you asked me if I’d be in a band with my sister, I’d say, ‘No.’”
Their first album, “Nobody Dances in This Town,” was released last year. Their growing success on the road — with their biggest followings in California and Colorado — has led the band to take the long view of their career. They’re looking at making a second album for release sometime next year, to keep touring as much as they can, but to pace themselves.
“We would like to still be around in 20 years,” Kolar says, explaining that they don’t want to get burned out on touring or recording. “We like the idea of a long-term career band, so we want to enjoy what we’re doing and not feel like we’re being cracked by a whip.”