For Folk-Rock Trio Sisterbrother, Music Is a Family Affair

With a name like Sisterbrother, it's probably not surprising that family has played a big role in the Gilbert-based band's musical development. The three members of Sisterbrother aren't actually siblings, but their respective families have been instrumental in the band's early success. Drummer Chris Albers' father plays both guitar and drums and helped him buy his first drum set. The band practices in a small room attached to the garage of singer/guitarist Emily Hobeheidar's parents' house. Her sister, Jasmine, designed the band's Calvin Klein-inspired logo (full disclosure: Jasmine works for New Times) and she credits her older brother as an influence on both her taste in music and her development as a musician.

"He just gave me a whole bunch of CDs and stuff and said 'This is good music. Listen to this,'" Hobeheidar says. "He really got me into music, I think. I started playing the drums, and then he got me into the guitar. He bought an acoustic when I was younger, and every time he'd leave the house, I'd grab that thing and start playing as best as I could."

Then there's guitarist Norman Woolsey's older brother, Jacob, who plays in Valley indie-rock favorite What Laura Says. The elder Woolsey recorded the two songs on Sisterbrother's MySpace page and helped them land a pair of early gigs opening for his band.

Sisterbrother: Selling out the Sets before they can drink there.
Kassie Bush
Sisterbrother: Selling out the Sets before they can drink there.

"They let us play two shows with them," says Albers. "The one in Flagstaff was a lot of fun. They've definitely helped us."

"Me personally, they're a really big influence, too," adds Woolsey. "They're a large reason why I started playing guitar."

Woolsey also credits his grandfather for his affinity for early blues and country.

"I spent a lot of time with him as a kid," Woolsey says. "He got me into Johnny Cash a lot, 'cause he'd always play that stuff on his guitar, so I just kind of went from there. I started looking at who influenced Johnny Cash and just kind of branched out."

The trio's musical influences belie their relative youth. Woolsey, 20, cites Cash, Son House, and John Lee Hooker among his favorite artists. Hobeheidar, 17, is a Patti Smith fan, while Albers, 19, prefers classic hip-hop like A Tribe Called Quest. They say their diverse tastes have helped shape their understated folk-rock sound.

"What's kind of cool is that we all come from different influences, but we can all kind of tolerate each other's music," Woolsey says.

"(Albers) gets on the drums and gets this hip-hop beat going or something," Hobeheidar says. "And then me, I get my rock/Patti Smith vibe going. Then the lead guitarist is all bluesy. All that combined, I like it a lot. It sounds really good."

Local audiences appear to agree. Sisterbrother has already met with more success in the few months they've been together than many local bands that have toiled for years on the Valley club circuit. They landed a gig in January opening for Peachcake at the Clubhouse Music Venue thanks to a recommendation from one of Hobeheidar's friends who interns for local concert promoters K&Z Entertainment. K&Z was so impressed with Sisterbrother's performance that it offered the band a headlining show at the Sets, which subsequently sold out.

"I've seen it happen in the local scene many times," says K&Z co-founder Zach Yoshioka. "I remember back in the day — when I was around 20, 21 years old — I was in the Nile and I was watching this little acoustic band playing. Sure enough, a month later they're on the radio and they turn out to be The Format. Sisterbrother kind of reminds me of that. Every now and then I'll see a band that doesn't appear to be much. I mean, they've got an acoustic guitar, two vocals, an electric guitar, and drums. They don't even have bass or keys or what the average band usually has. They just came out there, you know. When I see a band connect with an audience like that, usually it tells me that they're on to something."

Due to the popularity of screamo, punk ,and metalcore among their age group, Sisterbrother often find themselves sharing a bill with much louder, heavier bands. But audiences have been receptive, they say, and their mellower sound actually helps them stand out.

"We just get a lot of [comments like] 'That's a small amp,'" Hobeheidar says, laughing.

Yoshioka has seen firsthand that Sisterbrother can hold their own alongside heavier bands and has no problem booking them on such shows, including this weekend's two-day showcase of local music, K&Z Palooza.

"A great band is a great band, regardless of what they sound like," he says. "If you look at festival tours like Warped Tour and whatnot, it's hip-hop, punk rock, screamo, and metal all in one. When I was a kid, I always enjoyed going to shows that were diverse. As long as it was a great act, I didn't care if they were country or rap or whatever. A great act is a great act, and I think Sisterbrother definitely strikes a chord when they play."

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