Interview by Jen Marchain
Photos by Cortney Armitage
Tom Tom Magazine caught up with Lauren Brown, the tap dancing drummer formerly of He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister now driving out the sonic rhythms in the glam-rock-abilly duo KOLARS which both she and husband Rob Kolar founded as she took a short break from their North American tour.
TT: We had the pleasure of talking with you back in 2014 when you were drumming with He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister. Since then you and your husband Rob Kolar, (also originally from He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister), formed KOLARS. Tell us the differences between these two bands.
LB: When we were in He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister the set up was different because there were more people in the band and featured Rob and his sister out front and I was in the back in the rhythm section along with our friend who played stand-up bass. The sound was more folk oriented. In KOLARS it’s just the two of us and we’re marketed more as a duo. Our sound is also more of a straight ahead rockabilly/glam rock sound. I’d say 70% of our sound is us playing together and the other time we play with a track that is designed by us to fill out the sound a little more.
TT: Are there any advantages to being a duo as opposed to a larger band?
LB: Yeah, you make more money! (Laughs)
TT: Yes! And what a great segue into asking about money! (Laughs) I imagine touring as a duo is cheaper than touring as a group.
LB: It is! Actually we’ve had a lot of fun together on tour as both a couple and a band. We’ve been able to see some cool places together. We were recently in Utah and we decided to camp and see Moab and it was just fantastic! It’s great when you can go on a “vaca-tour.”
TT: That’s awesome! Could you give our readers a refresher on how you came up with the idea of incorporating your tap dancing talent into your drumming?
LB: Of course! I was a tap dancer ever since I was in the first grade. I began doing a bunch of different dancing but tap was always my favorite. My uncle is a drummer and I wanted to be a drummer but I came from a household where it might be seen as too noisy. But I was always banging on things and moving my feet and being connected through rhythm, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. Later on I got involved with experimental theater at NYU and I tried to incorporate my tapping into the theater pieces I was doing — I wasn’t drumming at all yet. And then I moved out to L.A and met Rob who started He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister with his sister. The first iteration of drums and tapping came from an idea that could tap dance along with the drummer that they had at the time. We did that for a while and then the drummer quit and Rob suggested that I try drumming with tap dancing. So, I had to invent a way to do both because I didn’t see it anywhere before.
TT: So how did you craft this invention?
LB: Well, I had to come up with a way to play the kick, to play the snare while my feet are doing the rhythm of the high-hat. And also tap is usually the melody of a song and so I had to break all the pieces down mentally. It’s almost like connecting my hands to what my feet are doing.
TT: That’s impressive!
LB: Thank you!
TT: As a dancer and drummer myself I notice that there seems to be a natural movement the two activities create that feels like they go hand-in-hand. Would you agree? Was connecting the two things for you pretty seamless or a challenge?
LB: I would totally agree. It’s a blessing to be a dancer and a drummer. I mean I can play on a normal kit, but I’ve almost taught myself how to play with my legs being a part of it. I know my rhythm is so much better when my feet are going because I don’t have to think as much. But if I let my body tell me, it’s almost always right. If I get in my head too much about timing, it can sometimes fall apart.
TT: Your set up is pretty badass. Tell us about the drum you’re standing on. Is that tailor made for your tapping?
LB: It is! So I have a standing bass drum, a floor tom and a marching snare and one cymbal and my feet play the high-hat parts on a 22 inch custom made bass drum where the bottom has been cut off. It’s got a maple wood surface and it’s hallow inside. I can actually tune it too, which is cool.
TT: Given that your style is so original, are there any drummers or drum sounds that might inspire your playing?
LB: Oh wow! Yeah I have a few. I’ve always gotten something out of the drums sounds in AC/DC. As a tapper and drummer I gravitate to Cuban sounds like that in Buena Vista Social Club.
TT: So as far as tappers go, are there any who you particularly admire?
LB: Definitely Savion Glover and all his work, particularly in Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk. I’m fortunate enough to take with Johnnie Hobbs at The Edge studio in L.A and he always inspires me.
TT: Finally, what would you say to other aspiring artists who are aspiring to achieve success?
LB: That you can totally do it! It can be a little scary, but you just have to go for it. You have to find what you love and practice the hell out of it and just go for it!