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Plum Tree (long article)



                          The Daily News Worldwide
                      By ANDY PEDERSEN -- The Daily News                              
   
   Thursday, March 14, 1996
   
Tree Roots

   Plumtree flourishes in rocky ground - between wailing heavy metal   and    jangly pop.
    
   Randy Rhodes is a major Plumtree influence? How could the
   lightening-fingered guitar wizard who virtually made Ozzy Osbourne's
   solo career have anything to do with the bouncing pop of the city's
   other all-girl band.
   
   It's hard to believe, but listen closely to guitarist Carla Gillis's
   riffs on Plumtree's first full-length CD - Mass Teen Fainting
   (Cinnamon Toast) - and there it is: the driving drone of heavy metal.
   
   "Randy's my idol. He's always been my idol," says Gillis who, at 20,
   is the band's oldest member. "Our poor parents. The only thing I ever
   wanted for Christmas or birthday presents were metal band shirts -
   I've got hundreds of them."
   
   Gillis's younger sister, Lynette, is the band's drummer. And like
   Carla, she admits to metal-head allegiances.
   
   "I remember waking up one Easter morning and along with all the
   chocolate and candy and stuff, Carla and I both got a bunch of band
   shirts," says Lynette, 17. "It was great, we were so happy. Our older
   sister just got a bunch of brand-name clothes - Calvin Klein or Ralph
   Lauren or something."
   
   "Metal has never been that popular, but it seems like there's always a
   tight little group of metal heads in any school," says Carla. "That
   was us.
   
   "And then those people always laugh about it later,'' she says. "Like,
   I look at pictures of myself back then all dressed up in my metal gear
   and think: `My God, was I really that blind?'"
   
   The Fairview sisters may laugh at it now, but they know if it weren't
   for metal they wouldn't have their own band today.
   
    So enraptured were the two teenagers by the glam style and
   devil-may-care attitude of metal stars like Guns 'n' Roses and Skid
   Row they decided to start playing themselves.
   
   "We'd always been really close, but once we'd discovered music we
   became pretty much inseparable," says Carla. "And in interviews in
   magazines and stuff, a lot of these bands were always saying: `You can
   do it - start your own band.'"
   
   They enrolled in music lessons, and started jamming with friends in
   their parents' basement. When Carla started school at Halifax West
   High School, she met Amanda Braden and Nina Martin.
   
   The sisters admit to some initial reservations. After all, Braden and
   Martin listened to pop. Elvis Costello and Sebadoh seemed worlds away
   from Gorky Park and Shotgun Messiah.
   
    "They really were coming from opposite sides of the spectrum," says
   Lynette.
   
   "Yeah, when we first started I wasn't sure that I'd be that into it,"
   Carla adds. "But it worked. We're pretty poppy, but that hard edge is
   still in there - I still get to do big wailing guitar solos when we
   play live."
   
   Plumtree came along in '92, just as Halifax was going wild for pop and
   grunge bands like Sloan, jale and Thrush Hermit. Greg Clark was still
   booking the Double Deuce on Hollis Street, and he was hungry for local
   bands to put on the bar's postage-stamp stage.
   
   Although they had never done a bar show, Clark asked the four young
   Plumtree women to play. It was a night Lynette calls magical.
   
   "We were all totally under-aged, so all our parents had to come down
   as guardians and we had this designated table that we weren't supposed
   to leave," she remembers.
   
    "And there were all these people in the crowd from Sloan and jale and
   the place was just packed so we were really nervous," says Carla.
   
    "We had no idea how we were going to come across so we just played.
   
   "I guess we did well because we got encored, but we didn't have any
   more songs to play so we came out and traded instruments to do
   something new."
   
   A couple of weeks later, Cinnamon Toast's Colin MacKenzie offered to
   record the group for one side of a seven-inch single.
   
    "I didn't even know what a 7-inch was," says Carla. "I just said,
   `That sounds good, sure Colin.'"
   
   Two seven-inch singles, this new CD and a few short-hop tours later,
   and Plumtree is still working with Cinnamon Toast. Recently the band
   was given YTV's music Achievement Award - in April they fly to Toronto
   to appear on the awards show (to be broadcast April 28).
   
   It hasn't been easy. All high school and early university aged, the
   band members can't help wondering if they really want to commit to the
   full-time band life.
   
   "We all really enjoy the band stuff, but the idea of being in a band
   for the rest of our life is a funny thought," says Carla. "Education
   is really important - and all our parents are pushing us that way.
   
   "But we've always been juggling the two and we're getting pretty good
   at balancing both."
   
   In September, bassist Nina Martin opted for school and left town for
   Montreal's McGill University.
   
    There was no question that the band would continue.
   
   "It did cause some problems, but only because we had to keep finding
   people to fill in," says Carla.
   
   "We'd have to teach them all our old songs, so we weren't really
   moving forward that quickly," adds Lynette.
   
   Just after Christmas, a classmate of Braden's at the University of
   King's College - Catriona Surton - joined the band despite being new
   to the bass. But the Gillis sisters say she is working out.
   
   "She's a blues harmonica player - plays sometimes with Joe Murphy - so
   she has some musical experience and can sing really well," says Carla.
   
   "And she's really dedicated - practising all the time."
   
   With the lineup back to a near-steady foursome, the Gillises are
   looking forward to a heavy summer of touring.
   
   "You have to tour to do anything in this business," says Lynette. "And
   the summer's about the only time we can do that, so we'll be going all
   out."
   
   Plumtree performs tonight at the Birdland Cabaret to officially
   release its CD, Mass Teen Fainting.
   State Champs and Maestro Moxie will also perform. The show starts at
   10 p.m. Admission is $4.
   


---                                              
"It was a pleasure to burn.                        Adam Rodenhiser
The system was simple. Everyone understood it.   ac768\!/ccn.cs.dal.ca
Books were for burning... along with the houses      dWIGHT  fRY
in which they were hidden." - Fahrenheit 451    SIX by NINE=FORTY-TWO

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