For a lot of us, our brothers and sisters are the first enemies we ever had. They take our stuff, they call us names, and they blame us for the scribbles they drew on the wall and get away with it. While sibling relationships might start out rough, they very often don’t stay that way (although sometimes they sure do). The similarly aged kid you grew up with and share blood with might even become one of your best friends. As you grow older and closer, you know what they’re going to say before they say it, how’ll they’ll react to a variety of situations, and how they’re feeling based on a subtle change in posture or a facial expression.
These are also the qualities that make for a successful band: A group is at its most functional when its members are on the same page at every possible level, and while that type of connection is possible with people who have different last names, it might be even stronger between musicians who are thinking of the same people when they say “mom and dad.”
That’s a relationship the members of HAIM surely understand, and that’s got to be part of the reason why Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim (and let’s not forget drummer Dash Hutton) make up one of the most engaging bands in modern pop. In celebration of the group’s sophomore album, Something to Tell You, we decided to explore other fantastic bands that feature siblings and boil them down into a Top 10. You could perhaps make an equally talent-stuffed list just from acts we didn’t include in our countdown (The Replacements, Cage the Elephant, and The Carpenters come to mind), so feel free to tell us about our most egregious omissions in the comments below.
[Editor’s Note: Absolutely Ray and Dave Davies and The Kinks need to be in here. Thanks to the comments section for catching our oversight. Cheers! –Matt Melis]
10. Tegan and Sara
Since the late ’90s, the Quin sisters Tegan and Sara have gradually morphed from an alternative indie folk duo into about as pop a group as it gets on their excellent 2016 album, Love You to Death. Songs like “Dying to Know” and “Faint of Heart” show that the less pop-leaning songwriting of their early years isn’t bound by genre. They know how to craft and perform a strong song, even (and perhaps especially) after they traded in their guitars for keyboards and drum machines.
After recording together, performing together, and spending so much of their lives together over the past 20 years, they won’t sugarcoat anything and say that being in a band with your twin sister is always perfect. They’ve acknowledged that conflict is a big part of their relationship, but at the same time, it seems like working together is one of their favorite things to do: The sisters founded The Tegan and Sara Foundation together, which “works for economic justice, health, and representation for LGBTQ girls and women.”
Sibling Says: “We have conflict like most siblings. I think it’s aggravated or heightened because we spend so much time together. Right now is honestly a really good time for us. I’ve been thinking about how I never really write about Tegan; it’s a private thing when you have such a public relationship. I think because things are good between us right now, it’s easier to look back at times when things were bad, and it’s an interesting topic to write about because I haven’t done it often.” –Sara Quin, to Rolling Stone in 2016.
09. The National
The National frontman Matt Berninger is absolutely surrounded by siblings, since the rest of the band is fleshed out by two pairs of brothers: Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Bryan and Scott Devendorf. That’s a lot of unspoken fraternal bonds flying around, which might help explain why The National have made some of the most compelling and brooding indie rock of the past decade. Berninger may be the face of the band, but the unspoken connections between the rest of the group make for a tight unit that thrives on songs like “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Don’t Swallow the Cap”, both of which demonstrate the band’s ability to create an atmosphere with simple and hypnotic yet dynamic and forward-driving performances.
Sibling Says: “I can stare at Bryce’s hands while he plays and immediately play something that’s intertwined, and vice versa. It makes playing music together really exciting, because we never have to teach each other anything.” –Aaron Dessner, to Independent in 2012.
Oasis may be one of the best bands with siblings, but it conclusively isn’t the band with the siblings that get along best. The toxic relationship between Liam and Noel Gallagher is one of the most infamous sibling rivalries in all of music, and it got so bad that Noel left the band after a 2009 backstage fight during which Noel says Liam “nearly took [his] face off with” a guitar he weaponized like “an axe.”
Oasis have been no more for nearly a decade, but that doesn’t mean the Gallagher boys are done fighting by any means. Just last month, Liam called Noel a “sad fuck” for missing a Manchester benefit concert. Still, despite all the hostility, Oasis managed to become on of the defining bands of the ’90s, as evidenced by the monolithic success of albums like (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and all the college freshman playing “Wonderwall” on acoustic guitar by the campus library.
Sibling Says: “Noel used to have the big vision. Sometimes he treated us like his fucking backing band. […] Oasis was done. Even a blind man could see it. It was: new record, do the videos, big tour, have a fight. I’m glad that routine has come to an end.” –Liam Gallagher, to Spin in 2011.
07. Bee Gees
Although it’s widely accepted now that the Bee Gees are the kings of disco, at the time, it must have been strange to see a folk trio from the Isle of Man become the undisputed leaders of a genre most beloved by the black and gay communities. That’s what Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb did, though, thanks to their distinct three-part harmonies that blew the world away. Given their status as brothers, it makes sense that their genetically similar voices would melt together as effectively as they did; it also probably helped that Robin and Maurice were fraternal twins. It’s also worth noting that if their younger brother, Andy, who had three consecutive No. 1 hits on his own in the US between 1977 and 1978, was a bit older, the Bee Gees could have had that much extra Gibb firepower.
Sibling Says: “Well, I don’t think it’s any different from any other brothers or sisters. Yes, [it’s a mix of competition and closeness], and you have enormous arguments. Then you become incredibly close and you have really angry moments with each other. Nothing different from any other family except our obsession with music. That’s how it was.” –Barry Gibb, to The Daily Mail in 2016.
06. The Jackson 5
There’s a lot to be said about how unsavory it was behind the scenes of The Jackson 5, whether it’s about allegations of father Joe Jackson’s abuse or sibling feuds. However, there’s no denying that a group that produced wildly timeless hits like “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, and “I’ll Be There” was doing a lot of things right. They could sing, they could dance, and they had the world curious and excited about every move they made. Once they grew out of their youth-sized costumes, the Jackson kids mostly went on to do great things on their own: Jermaine collaborated with Whitney Houston and has otherwise stayed busy, while Michael may have had a minor hit or two in his day. While too young to have been a Jackson 5 member, it’s also worth pointing out that sister Janet was also a pop culture icon all on her own.
Sibling Says: “The brothers don’t know this, but I’ve broken down several times and cried during rehearsals [for the 2012 Jackson 5 reunion tour]. I’m so used to Michael being on the right and then Marlon, Jackie, on and on. It’s just something we never get used to.” –Jermaine Jackson, to The Associated Press in 2012.
05. The Allman Brothers Band
The Allman Brothers Band have had more members than a lot of bands have fans at their shows, but as the group’s name might suggest, none were more important, or at least formative, than founding members Duane and Gregg Allman. Depending on who you ask, they’re the greatest southern rock band ever or the greatest Americana band ever or the greatest jam band ever or … Since 1969, they’ve worn a lot of hats and looked amazing in all of them.
Duane and Gregg were intimately close in life, but perhaps more so now, in death: When Gregg passed away earlier this year, he was buried right next to his brother, who previously met his end in 1971. The ceremony was appropriately true to their blue-collar roots: Mourners were asked to wear jeans, and at the very dressiest, perhaps a sports coat.
Sibling Says: “Every organization, I guess, needs a leader, a focal point — somebody [to] say, ‘Go, stop.’ That’s something Allman Brothers, after my brother, never had. It was just a bunch of head chefs together.” –Gregg Allman, to Newsday in 2015.
04. The Kinks
“You Really Got Me” by The Kinks is indisputably about sexual desire, but if you really want to flex your alternative interpretation muscles, you could see lyrics like “you really got me goin’” and “got me so I can’t sleep at night” as fueled more by fraternal rage than carnal interests. Although they made some of the finest British rock music of the ’60s together, band leaders and brothers Ray and Dave Davies do not particularly care for each other.
The band broke up in 1996, and since then, discussions about a potential reunion have been quickly dashed by both siblings, who may love each other but don’t seem to like each other. “How could I not love my own brother,” Dave told the Daily Telegraph in 2011. “I just can’t stand to be with him. About an hour with Ray’s my limit, so it would be a very short reunion.” Meanwhile, Ray told Rolling Stone a few months ago, “Whenever families work together, the rivalry is always there. There’ll be bloodshed.”
For the sake of the veteran rockers, though a reunion would be fun for the fans, it might be best for the members of The Kinks to keep their blood inside their own bodies.
Sibling Says: “The thing is, there’s healthy relationships, and toxic ones. And the older I get, the more difficult I find it being around Ray, because – I don’t want to use the word abuse – but I feel my energy seeping away from me sometimes if I’m with him.
“What’s that fable about Cain and Abel? I can’t quite remember the details of the dysfunction. But I don’t want to be stuck in there, having jealousy and hatred and envy and being unhappy. And being with Ray for too long gets me back in that cycle. But then, families are difficult, and you can learn from discomfort. Ray and I have been each other’s most important teachers. Maybe that’s the clue to the whole relationship.” –Dave Davies, to The Independent in 2014.
Since the ’70s, AC/DC sure has written a lot of songs about rock and roll, but tell you what: For 40 years, the legendary Australian group have done that better than just about anybody else. Brothers Angus and Malcolm Young started the band in 1973 as its lead and rhythm guitarists, respectively. Their intertwined axe work has obviously been one of the band’s defining traits since the beginning, and especially in the beginning. A lot of the group’s Bon Scott era (everything pre-Back in Black) was carried by lengthy passages of intricate and energetic guitar virtuosity, handled with a controlled sense of chaos that has rarely been matched or replicated by any other group.
Unfortunately, Malcolm had to leave the band in 2014 to deal with his worsening health, but AC/DC kept up with its Young quota by recruiting Malcolm’s nephew, Stevie, to take his place. Angus thinks he’s doing a fine job at living up to the high standards set by his uncle: “Sometimes I do a double take. I hear the sound behind me and think, ‘That sounds so Mal,’” he told Rolling Stone in 2016.
Sibling Says: “He was older than me – I always looked up to him. In the studio, I would fiddle about with guitar sounds – and fiddle my way right out of the ball field [laughs]. Malcolm would dial me in, a big, fat sound, and I’d go, ‘Oh, wow!’” –Angus Young, to Rolling Stone in 2016.
02. The Beach Boys
If the Bee Gees were the predominant group featuring a harmonizing trio of brothers in the ’70s, then the claimants of that title for the decade prior have to have been The Beach Boys, which was made up of Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, as well as cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine. In a way, The Beach Boys are truly unlike any other band, or at least any we can think of. They produced both one of the most highly regarded experimental, avant-garde albums of all time, Pet Sounds, as well as some of the catchiest pop to ever play on the radio, songs like “Surfin’ U.S.A.”, “Good Vibrations”, and “Barbara Ann”. That said, the disparate artistic directions made sense, considering how drenched in conflict the group was behind the scenes.
Sibling Says: “[Dennis] filled up a squirt gun with some urine in the bathroom in Des Moines when we were on one of our earlier tours, and that didn’t go over so well with me [laughs]. Anyway, so yeah, we brawled that time, but we came to our senses also and said, ‘Well, we have shows to do, so we better stop beating the hell out of each other’ [laughs].” –Mike Love, to Rock Cellar Magazine in 2016.
There’s not much left to say that hasn’t already been said about perhaps the most written-about band of the internet era. Frontman Thom Yorke and Radiohead’s uncompromising sense of creative adventure are usually the center of attention when it comes to the iconic group, which seems to overshadow the fact that the familial connection between Jonny and Colin Greenwood may be part of the reason why, as Radiohead ventures down every possible road, the steady guitar work of the brothers keeps them out of the ditch.
Being a band of brothers doesn’t seem to be a significant part of Radiohead’s broad claim to fame, which is a testament to their ability to create the narratives they want instead of letting their image fall into the control of public opinion. People haven’t made Radiohead into anything other than what they’ve wanted to be; we’re just grateful to be along for the ride.
Sibling Says: “I think there are a couple of people at EMI who wouldn’t mind us going on a stress mismanagement course because inter-band violence seems to be all the rage at the moment. It’s a standard question we get asked, and I always feel a bit guilty saying, ‘Well, no actually, we haven’t hospitalized each other recently.’ The trouble I think is that beyond the normal brotherly thing, I respect him as a person and a musician. I mean, Jonny’s a great fucking guitarist, which makes up for a lot of his unsavory personal habits.” –Colin Greenwood, to Hot Press in 1995.