Sibling Revelry

Only in Houston

It's not unusual for siblings to be in bands together. The Beach Boys, Jackson Five, Heart, Radiohead...the list goes on and on. Brothers and sisters have regularly joined forces to create incredible music. One kid finds a musical niche and his or her siblings voluntarily follow. Or the group is one member shy of a band and some sibling gets dragged in (usually to play bass — sorry, bassists) and stays on for the ride.

Or how about this? Maybe the kids are driving you crazy. You send them to music lessons to get a single hour's peace once a week and they buy into it big time. They then create one or several bands, which end up loudly practicing at your house for the next ten years. That didn't work so well, did it?

Here in Houston, it should be no surprise that a few of our many emerging music acts are built from bands of brothers and sisters. Here are a couple of families making your music scene better:

Josh and Micah Raught, The Dead Rabbits

I've been an admirer of the songwriting talents of these Pasadena-born-and-raised brothers for awhile now. Their former band, HaHa 90!, was an infectiously melodic and wildly funny pop-punk band. Today they are core members of The Dead Rabbits, reigning Houston Press Music Award Best Punk winners.

"There's me, Micah and we have two older sisters. Both of our sisters sing, and my oldest sister went to college for music for the longest time," says Josh. "When we get together at family gatherings, all of our siblings sing together."

That might seem a bit Von Trappish, but the Raught men don't just sing. Josh plays guitar, drums, accordion, piano and mandolin, which is his primary instrument in The Dead Rabbits and has earned him the nickname "Mando' Commando." Micah plays guitar, bass, trumpet and banjo (his band pet name? "BanJovi").

The Raughts' influences are broad — everything from 1970s prog-rock to NOFX, Gogol Bordello and Green Day. They're self-taught on most of the instruments they play, Josh says, thanks to their parents' strong music appreciation. All those sounds and a lot more should be evident on the band's approaching debut album, Tiocfaidh Ar La.

Josh says the writing process starts with an idea that he, his brother and bandmates Seamuis Strain and Danny Aschenbach develop until a song is formed.

"When Micah and I write, it's definitely as a team," he explains. "Even if one of us frustrates the other at some point due to too much beer or just a clash of ideas, we always end up coming back to the same song later and finishing it up," says Josh.

"The best part of having a sibling in the band with you is they can't blow you off like a lot of people seem to," Josh says. "I mean, they're family; they're stuck with you for life."

Here Micah chimes in.

"I always get drunk and leave my stuff behind at shows, and he's always the one who grabs it for me," he says. "Win!"

Xuan-Nhan, Nellie and Thuy-Linh Cornett, Pretty Turtles

I could tell you the story of the three remarkable sisters who collectively make up the blues-rock ukulele band Pretty Turtles, but they are all eloquent and it's their story. So I'll step aside.

"My siblings and I originally were born in New Mexico and raised in a small scientific community in the mountains called Sunspot. I know it sounds unreal, but it's true," says Xuan-Nhan, known as "Swan" to her friends and fans. "Sunspot is the location of Sacramento Peak, a national solar observatory. My father worked as the technical librarian up there. It was a very strange and beautiful place to spend our childhood.

"We moved to Houston when my mother and father divorced," she continues. "Most of us were already teenagers when that happened. Our mother is a singer of traditional Vietnamese poetry and chose Houston because of the large Vietnamese population here.

"The home we finally settled in is in the southeast side of downtown near the warehouse district. All the people we know are eccentrics and artists," Xuan-Nhan continues. "We basically just live in a swampy bohemian bubble. It's fantastic!

"I remember the first time [brother] Nathan, Thuy and I were introduced to straight improvisational jamming," adds Nellie. "It was at MECA, the arts school in Houston. The teacher just sort of opened our eyes that whatever noise you make can be music, and that big, open door really sparked a nerve.

"Before you knew it, we were all having lots of fun making strange noises with our voices and fists — whatever we had laying around, layering sounds and harmonies and rhythms in the car, around the dinner table, whenever we would go to school," Nellie adds. "It was a favorite pastime. We started with voices and hands, but it organically evolved."

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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.