About The Sweetback Sisters
Sweetback Sisters Emily Miller and Zara Bode may not be blood relations, but their precise, family-style harmonies recall the best of country music from the Everlys to The Judds, as well as the spirited rockabilly energy of Wanda Jackson, one of the band’s role models. Like the artists they admire, the Sweetbacks are concerned with the traditional subjects of heartbreak, revenge, remorse and staying strong in the face of relationships gone wrong, albeit with a contemporary sensibility. “We’re a renegade retro band that mixes up country, swing and honky tonk,” explains Bode. “Sometimes what we deliver is straight out of the 50s; other times it’s BR549 meets The B52s.”
The band has issued 6 releases: Bang! (self-released, 2007); Chicken Ain't Chicken (Signature Sounds, 2009); Be Back Home Tonight (2010); Looking for a Fight (2011); Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular (2012); and Bulldog (2013).
Emily Miller- Lead vocals, fiddle, guitar
Emily was born in Kansas and raised in Hong Kong, where her family band performed traditional American music on television shows and in shopping malls throughout the city. She regularly shares her extensive knowledge of country music through harmony-singing workshops (often taught in collaboration with her mother, Val Mindel) around the country. Emily recently earned a masters degree in speech pathology at Vanderbilt University.
Zara Bode- Lead vocals and guitar
Zara was raised along the the respective coasts by a dancer and a comic artist. Her singing first drew attention at the Pioneer Valley School of Performing Arts where she was a high school starlet melting the hearts of audiences with her soulful voice and easy-going stage presence. She has since studied musical theater, and currently works as a hired gun in NYC for vocal background recordings and arangements. In an ideal world she would be doing voice overs for cartoons.
Jesse Milnes- fiddle, finger-picking guitar and harmony vocals
Jesse Milnes was born on a sheep farm in Webster County, WV, and moved to Elkins, WV when he was nine. Among his main musical influences are his dad, Gerry Milnes, who taught him to fiddle and West Virginia's Yodeling Monk, Bruce Betler who taught him to sing. When he's not touring with the Sweetback Sisters, Jesse runs a fiddle repair shop out of his garage. He is double jointed in his left thumb, and after several beers can place his right foot entirely behind his head. He currently lives in Valley Bend, WV.
Stefan Amidon - drums and bass vocals
Stefan Amidon grew up singing in his own family band The Amidons, and picked up many instruments along the way. Primarily a drummer, Stefan has played with many folk bands such as Popcorn Behavior, Lissa Schneckenberger, Matt and Shannon Heaton, and The Sevens. More recently he has played drums in jazz bands big and small, timpani in orchestras and clarinet with his older brother, avant-folk artist Sam Amidon. Stefan graduated from Oberlin Conservatory with a degree in Jazz Performance.
Peter Bitenc - upright bass
Peter Bitenc grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he was gigging in local clubs not long after taking up the bass at age 15. Peter attended the New England Conservatory of Music where he studied with Steve Lacy, Cecil McBee, and Jerry Bergonzi and graduated with a degree in Jazz Studies in 2004. Peter moved to New York City in 2005 where is currently active in the Jazz, Rock and Bluegrass scenes. Peter has played on various albums such as Casey Dienel's "Wind Up Canary" and Heather & the Barbarians' "Tell Me Tonight." He's also a part of the Daniel Levin Quartet, Holus Bolus, The Dive Bar Dukes, Heather & the Barbarians, and Oh Liza Jane.
Ryan Hommel - electric guitar
While most kids were playing cops and robbers, Ryan was playing Elvis. Now 24, Hommel is already a touring veteran and multi-faceted producer. He spent many years on the road with Seth Glier and now tours with the Sisters, Heather Maloney and fronts his own trio.