I had the opportunity last week to spend some time with L.A. based band Kolars. In preparation for my interview I with them I downloaded their 2017 self-titled album and their new single “King of Carrot Flowers”. I immediately fell in love with this band. Their music has been on constant repeat ever since. I was a little nervous that I would be overly praising upon meeting them. No one likes a kiss up! But I think any artist would like to hear if someone likes their music. I really enjoyed spending time with Rob and Lauren. They were really laid back and gave some really insightful information on the interworking of Kolars. Enjoy!
Utah Concert Review: How did you to come together as a band?
Rob Kolar: Well we’ve been doing music and arts and theater for Lauren for a long time. This thing kind of came out of the ashes of heartbreak with other projects. So we were in another group that toured for a long time and people just sort of wanted to go their different ways. People didn’t want to tour anymore. And we were kind of like man, maybe this is over. So I was thinking ok well maybe I’ll do a solo album or something and Lauren was focusing on other things and directing some plays and then it was like well, we can still have a band with the two of us. What if we just…
Lauren Brown: But it was a scary prospect too because it was like, ‘Is two people enough? Is it interesting enough? how do we fill out the other sounds? We still want to have a bass. We still want to have all these other things. And I was always drumming and tapping in the background with this other band and with this I would be in the front and everyone could see what I was doing. In a positive way, but also in a negative way where I felt exposed. So that was scary.
RK: And before I was co-fronting, and now I’m the only singer. So there’s these of like, ok all these things are going to be a challenge, but it’s what we want to do.
LB: (Laughing) Now we just have to get better at it.
RK: Yeah, so we got lucky because our first tour was with this band called The Revivalists. They have a single that’s become a hit. But at the time they were just breaking. So we got on the road with them and we were just honing in on what we do…
LB: Our first show was a sold out 600 person show. And I remember being petrified because our first show was in front of all that instead of being a small show in front of Mom and Dad and our friends. So that moment was Sink or Swim. I always felt like look, if I could do that first show in front of all those people and be that scared and get through it and then think I did well at it, you feel like you can do, well not anything, but you’re definitely more confident.
UCR: I really enjoyed listening to this album. Each time I listened to it, I would notice something new in each song. There were a lot of layers in this album.
LB: That’s this guy right here!
UCR: I can tell that you put a lot of work into making this album. Some people love getting in the studio and making the album, others want to make the album simply to get out on the road and perform because performing live is their preference. Which do you prefer, the studio or the stage?
LB: That’s a good question man! We’ll probably totally different on that!
RK: That is a good question. I think I’m right in the middle where it’s both. I don’t think I’d be satisfied if it were leaning one way or the other. But there is something I really adore about being in the studio like a scientist tweaking things. I love exploring and making the song come to life in the studio. There’s something really special about that. But I love being on stage. Especially with Lauren because she really gives it and pushes me to go even further with my performance.
LB: I’m not somebody who likes the studio. I like the performance. I feel like I learn the most from the performance. And not even because people are watching. I escape in what I’m doing in that format. It’s my meditation. I’ve been a dancer since I was a little kid so that’s what I’m drawn to. I hate rehearsals. I like talking about ideas. I like directing shows. But no, the studio is not really where I’m at.
RK: That’s accurate.
LB: But I’m still there!
UCR: So how did your part tap, part percussion come about? Was is born out of necessity? Or did you think “Well, I dance, and I play rhythm so…”?
LB: No, I didn’t play any rhythm. I was a dancer and I was tapping with one of Rob’s earlier bands along with the drummer and then the drummer quit so Rob’s idea for me was to learn all the drums and keep up with the tap. So I created this whole thing based on necessity. Based on we didn’t have a drummer. We didn’t want to hire a new drummer. Ok, I’m going to figure this out. So I started with one drum, and Rob would play the kick drum. And I would just split a kit with him. And he’s already playing rhythm guitar so we were really splitting the rhythm section. And then I took the kick. So now I play the kick, the tom, and the snare, and I do the tap at the same time.
RK: It was definitely an evolution. Even the tap box itself started with just an old plank of wood with a mic. Then we nailed apple boxes together. And now we’ve converted a kick drum into a platform. So it just keeps evolving every couple of years. She either enters a new phase with her ability as a drummer. And the kit evolves with new elements and new drums.
LB: I just want to keep getting better.
UCR: Isn’t that cool though? How long has rock n roll or popular music been around? Seventy years? You start to feel like everything has been figured out or done. And then this comes around. I don’t know if anyone else is doing anything like this.
LB: I think it’s just me.
RK: It’s really exciting. Also as a songwriter, because she doesn’t have a lot of cymbal use, and the beats and rhythms are simple and kind of guttural but still have a pulse, as a songwriter that’s what you want underneath your songs. Because that’s what’s propelling it. Because a lot of times you’ll see bands and you’ll see drummers who are using different elements and cymbals and sometimes that’s competing with the vocals and other things. But in this case it just kind of fits right.
LB: And we’re creating rhythms for dancers because I’m a dancer. So I want to create a rhythm that I want to dance to because I’m actually dancing to it. So I can only go so fast or do it so slow because I’m actually dancing.
UCR: Well and as you already know, with dance, it’s all timing, so while the transition to percussion might not be easy, it does make sense.
LB: And I was keeping time with my feet and doing fills with my feet. So it’s just trying to figure out what to do with my hands.
RK: It’s inverting the kit. Because she plays the kick drum with a mallet with her hand, where usually a drummer would play it with their foot. And her feet are doing what a drummer would usually do with their hands.
When I first heard of how Lauren does percussion I have to admit I was extremely skeptical. A tap dancing drummer? I don’t know, sounds kind of gimmicky. But I was wrong to be so cynical because it was awesome! Not only is it a huge part of the visual aspect of the show, but the driving style of her rhythm removes any thought of it being a gimmick. As you read, it was born out of necessity, but now it’s essential to their sound and live performance. Click here to get an idea of what tapping and drumming looks like. Ok back to the interview!
UCR: I want to preface this by saying that you definitely have your sound. There is definitely a Kolars sound. But as was listening to the album I heard “Turn Out the Lights” and thought ‘Oh, I can hear elements of Joy Division or early New Order.’
LB: I love that. Thank you!
UCR: But then I’d hear “Bullet on the Run” and I recall thinking, ‘I wish Johnny Cash was still alive because I could totally hear him covering this song.’ So it caused me to wonder, who are your musical influences?
RK: Amazing. Those are some of our biggest influences.
LB: Totally! You nailed it, dude!
RK: We love 80’s New Wave whether it’s New Order or Echo and the Bunnymen, or The Cars. But we also love Eddie Cochran, Elvis, and Johnny Cash. We love that early country, rockabilly blues style. But we also love glam rock like T Rex and stuff like that.
LB: I always want drums to sound like Gary Glitter. Fat, Dead, Big.
RK: So we kind of pull from every era. That’s what we always wanted to do. And how do we do that without making it sound like a weird collage? Like how do we do it to where we honor it and it gels. That’s what we’re hoping to do, but you kind of roll the dice a little bit.
UCR: That’s not easy to do but I think you’ve done a great job blending elements of different styles with your own sound.
UCR: Do you remember the first concert you went to?
RK: Yes. Definitely! Mine was Rancid at the Palladium in Hollywood. And it was mind-blowing! I was like 12, and my mom just dropped me off with my friends for my birthday present. So I get dropped off, and of course, I was still growing and I wasn’t super tall and I just remember looking around and seeing all these mohawks and chains and leather jackets and these real authentic punk rockers. I was thinking “I think I need to change my hairstyle”. Because I had that 90’s parted in the middle cut. So got into the show and I had never seen a mosh pit and I’m watching this spiral of people and looking to my friends saying “I just gotta do it.” So ran in and I was like a sock in a washing machine. I was just thrust around all over but it was thrilling! I mean, I’m a young adult, and there are my idols at the time on stage rocking out.
UCR: The floor at the Palladium is huge. That must have been an enormous mosh pit.
RK: There were actually three separate mosh pits!
LB: I’m going to go a different direction. My grandma took me to see Gregory Hines (tap dancing legend). He was alone and did all these solos. And if we were tap dancers we were told to bring our shoes. Then we were invited to go on stage and dance with him. My grandma was very much like “Get up there. Get on up there.” I was so scared and so embarrassed, but I went up. He has since passed but he was brilliant. So yeah, that’s what I remember. Polar opposite of Rob’s.
RK: But it’s sort of formed where we are now to a degree. Like we’re somewhere in the middle of that.
UCR: What was your best live experience as a band?
LB: That’s so hard.
RK: We did this festival in Germany. We didn’t know what to expect. It was wild, there was this line down the block. It’s this festival put on by Rolling Stone. Spoon and some other cool bands were there. They put us in this smallish club where you can fit a few hundred people.
LB: We had never played there before! We had never even been to that part of Germany.
RK: Yeah, never played there, very little publicity there, but the crowd went wild. And on the last song, we have this section where we try to get the crowd to clap along with and literally everybody in the crowd was clapping along to the point where the claps were louder than our playing. So there was this feeling of everyone being united in this moment and experiencing it with the band to where they were almost as much of the band as we are.
LB: I think I started crying a little. It was just kind of mind-blowing.
RK: Yeah I think I did afterward off stage. You just felt the emotion in the room.
LB: And I think we just felt like, if there were just twenty people in there we would have been excited. But then you see a line to get in and you’re like “What? Is this a dream coming true?”
RK: And we’ve had some rough shows along the way. Then you have a show like that it makes everything feel like “Ok, keep going. There’s more of these in front of you.”
I sincerely believe the best is yet to come from this band. As I mentioned, I fell in love with this band right when I heard their first song “One More Thrill” on their self-titled debut album. However, there is nothing I love more than when I see what a band can do on stage. It’s just the two of them up there. They have a little help with some pre-programmed baselines and synth, but that’s it. Rob’s voice sounds great live. And he has all the charisma and stage presence necessary to be a frontman all on his own. His signature guitar style meshed with Lauren’s one of a kind percussions, they’re a band you will see on the rise from here on out. I told them it wouldn’t be long before they’d be moving from 200 person Kilby Court to selling out The Complex which holds about 3,000. Not only do I believe they’re that good, but they clearly have the work ethic to make it happen. Click here for more information on Kolar’s music and tour dates.