Delta Rae Keeps Music In The Family, And Beyond

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As she describes it, Brittany Hölljes had the most quintessential, beautiful, all-American childhood a kid could ask for, her days peppered with adventures, bike-riding and games in her North Carolina neighborhood.Until her older brothers, Eric and Ian, entered the picture.

“We were the type of kids who were inches away from killing each other,” she said last week during a telephone interview. “Somehow, we evolved to only wanting to kill each other occasionally.”

They didn’t exactly have a choice. The naturally blond-haired trio make up one half of the folk rock band Delta Rae—which will play the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday night—as serendipitously talented, passionate siblings on the brink of war at any moment.

And, for that, Ms. Hölljes credits their parents—not for the sibling rivalry, but for their love of song. Neither her mother nor father is particularly musically inclined, she admitted, but that has never stopped them.

“We’d be standing in a grocery store, and they’re just singing a song. With absolutely no concern of someone turning around,” she reminisced. “‘La la la, da da da,’ just for their own enjoyment. And as little ones, we were on their shoulders, in line, doing the exact same thing. Absolutely no shame.”

Elizabeth Hopkins, conveniently, subscribes to the same philosophy—as she did when she met the Hölljes family 16 years ago. They had just moved to her California hometown from the south, and the energetic brunette immediately clicked with Ian Hölljes, the elder brother who was closest to her age, and his 8-year-old little sister.

Soon, they were all performing together in a teen a cappella group called ’Til Dawn with a similar, full-voiced style. And then they went their separate ways.

“Liz and I weren’t planning on doing music at all,” Ms. Hölljes said. “Years went by, she was working in Peru at a school for orphan boys, and I was studying abroad in Italy, when Ian randomly said, ‘When you guys come back to the States, I think everyone should move to North Carolina and we should start a band.’”

So, they did. It started by moving into a big house nestled in the middle of the woods. Inside, it was all pineapple wallpaper and shag carpeting in green, yellow and pink.

They transformed the old southern home into a headquarters for a rock ‘n’ roll band—four vocalists with the boys on guitar, though Eric Hölljes also plays piano and keys. They stored their instruments in the formal living and dining rooms.

“It was one of those houses that was like, ‘Love meeee and I’ll love you back,’” Ms. Hölljes singsonged. “We basically made it a home. The inclination to murder each other was pretty high, but we survived, and now we’re all here and able to keep our work and sleep a little more separate. Hey, it’s been fun since the beginning.”

She laughed over the pouring rain pounding down on her car, parked outside the band’s recording studio in North Carolina as she chatted on her cellphone. Inside, her five fellow musicians—which now include percussionist Mike McKee and bass player Grant Emerson—were working on their second album following the group’s debut, “Carry the Fire,” which dropped in 2012.

“The other three have dark hair, but we Hölljeses are the Vikings. Swedish stock. We’re freakishly blond,” the vocalist said of her bandmates. “Our mom’s this red-headed leprechaun fairy, and our dad is candy brown. We’re anomalies.”

Together, the blond and brunette women lead the band, side by side, with bluesy powerhouse vocals. It could be easy to feel competitive or pitted against one another, Ms. Hölljes said, but that is not the case here.

“I feel nothing but joy that she’s up there. When she lets loose, it’s almost like I’m letting loose,” Ms. Hölljes said of Ms. Hopkins. “It’s how I feel about my brothers. They’re another extension of my soul. The energy we create, it’s like a wave. You have to ride it. We get carried up and down together. I wish, I hope people find this in their lives, no matter what they do. It’s so easy and natural and fun, when we don’t want to kill each other.”

Delta Rae will play the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, June 14, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $25 to $35. For more information, call (631) 288-1500, or visit whbpac.org.

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