Born and raised in the East Bay, siblings Erika, Rachel and Chloe Tietjen of the sassy folk outfit the T Sisters have spent a lifetime harmonizing and songwriting, and it shows. Now based in Oakland and dedicated full-time to music, the band makes its way to the Occidental Center for the Arts on Saturday, April 18.
“From a young age, we sang a lot,” said Erika Tietjen. “It was my natural form of creative expression.” With both parents steeped in music and dance, the girls spent their days “experimenting with harmony without knowing it,” as Tietjen says.
The sisters also spent childhood summers immersed in musical theater camps, and by the time college separated the siblings, they were performing and writing original pieces during their summers together.
Back in the Bay Area, the sisters performed in San Francisco in 2008 when they took some of their songs to an open mic. Asked back to be the featured act, they needed a name, and Erika credits Rachel with coming up with T Sisters on the fly.
“It was never a conscious decision to become a band,” explains Tietjen. “We just continued to play music and produce shows as part of different creative communities. It happened very organically.”
After five years of playing, that organic seed bloomed in 2013 when the sisters developed into a full band and quit their day jobs.
“It was well planned; we were raised with pragmatic artistic values,” assures Tietjen. “By the time it happened, we were ready to dive in, we were antsy to work.”
For their 2014 debut album, Kindred Lines, the T Sisters brought in a bevy of guest musicians, like guitarist Grant Gordy, bassist Todd Phillips and others. “It was a very collaborative process,” says Tietjen of that album. “Now we have a much more concrete ideas about our arrangements.”
Primarily vocalists and songwriters, the sisters are now focused on creating both subtle and shifting song arrangements as well as harmonic vocals and lyrics. This new focus is apparent on their recent EP, Ready for Love, which also features an arresting a cappella cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Attics of My Life.”
The sisters also have a slew of new material, ready to be unveiled at their upcoming concert. If you can’t make the show this week, fear not; the trio will be back in the North Bay soon, playing at Oysterpalooza in Valley Ford on May 24, and the inaugural Railroad Square Music Festival in Santa Rosa on June 7.
T Sisters perform on Saturday, April 18, at the Occidental Center for the Arts, 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Occidental. 8pm. $15–$20. 707.874.9392.