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SISTER says it all

Plumtree’s Carla and Lynette Gillis honour their family in the best way possible: with a heavy metal sound.


Carla Gillis has liked Scott Pilgrim for a thousand years, but she's utterly co-dependent on her sister. Starting with local indie darlings Plumtree in the early '90s, Carla and Lynette Gillis have always played in bands together. This week they bring their latest venture, SISTER, home to Halifax.

"I think I'm actually scared to play with other people," says Carla on the phone from Toronto. "With Lynette and I it's almost like we're speaking code, but we're not. She can just get a reference that I'm mentioning. She'll pick up on it immediately. It's just really comfortable."

SISTER's debut EP, recorded with Peter Elkas, drops in the new year just as Michael Cera rocks a Plumtree t-shirt in the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Almost a decade removed from Plumtree and Halifax, SISTER is the Gillis' Toronto-based project. The pair moved from Vancouver to the big smoke two years ago after finishing their degrees---putting their other groups, Bontempi and Bells Clanging, on hiatus.

The girls moved to be closer to their family. And while Carla and Lynette's relationship and musical history are obvious with the name SISTER, it also honours their older sister Darlene, who passed away just as they were starting the new band.

"The name just really appropriately reflects what's on our mind these days," says Carla. "So, it was sort of dedication to her, to each other, our older sister Cheryl and just our family in general."

SISTER also taps into the Gillis' musical roots. Long inspired by their older sisters' classic rock records, the Gillises have always tried to make a heavy metal-sounding band, "even though nothing we ever write sounds anything like that whatsoever," says Carla. SISTER is their heaviest sound yet, even if it's still melodic pop.

The band was originally formed with the Local Rabbits' Ryan Myshrall on bass, but Windsor native Pete Johnston has replaced Myshrall. The girls first met Johnston almost 20 years ago at Summer Rock, although they weren't really friends.

"We were really young and just really scared, and kind of anti-social. We just sort of stuck together... Mostly it was just us and a classroom full of boys," says Carla. "We just felt very intimidated."

In keeping with reunions, SISTER's first Halifax show will feature Derrick Hiltz (Stop Motion Massacre) who played with Carla and Lynette in their '90s punk band, Absolutely Nothing. Also on the bill is Matt Reid, who helped the girls build their cottage in Cape Breton.

The sisters are more excited than anyone for this "back-in-the-day show." Carla is up for reminiscing about Plumtree---just don't expect any Plumtree songs at the show---they simply don't remember them.

"It's a bright light in my past for sure...I just imagine Gus' Pub filled with smiling faces---old friends," she says. "It's the holidays and I love the holidays. Christmas is our favourite time of year, so it's just going to be a joyous night." –Mike Landry

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