Absolutely Nothing were a side project of a well known indie rock band called Plumtree. When not recording, releasing records and doing extensive touring with Plumtree, sisters Carla and Lynette Gillis started up AN with their friend Lisa Verge in the mid 1990's. They released 2 demo tapes and played a handful of shows, almost all of which were at Cafe Ole - Halifax's all ages club. Closer to the end of the band Lisa quit and Derrick (of The Chitz, Bombscares, etc) joined up. I recently got in touch with Carla Gillis (CG) and Lynette Gillis (LG), who now live in Toronto and have a newer band called Sister on the go. Let's see what they had to say about Absolutely Nothing!!
Why did you decide to do Absolutely Nothing when you already had a full time band on the go?
LG: At the time Carla and I were really into punk and needed an outlet to make music different than what we were doing in Plumtree. Also, part of the motivation definitely came from wanting to play music solely for fun, be carefree and silly, not worry about things like touring, videos, etc., which we were immersed in with Plumtree at the time.
CG: I remember also talking about wanting to be a little bit more "obnoxious" than we usually were. We were super-reserved and shy and polite, always on the sidelines at shows (unless we were onstage). Absolutely Nothing was kind of like our freedom band. Songwriting-wise, too. We had a rule that any song we wrote had to be started and finished in one practice.
When did the band start?
LG: I'm going to say 1995 but don't know ABSOLUTELY.
CG: Yeah, maybe 95. Possibly 94.
Tell me, if you will, about recording the 2 demo tapes.
LG: They were recorded on two 4-track recorders in the basement of our parents' suburban home in Fairview. We were figuring out how to record ourselves, with Carla acting as "producer/engineer." We recorded drums first on one 4-track machine, Carla in the room air-guitaring and singing because I didn't have headphones or ghost tracks to follow along with. Carla took the four tracks and compiled them onto one track, using the other 3 remaining tracks for everything else. High-tech! And to make it even more so, we duplicated dozens off copies onto the cheapest cassette tapes we could buy. I remember making many trips to Halifax Shopping Centre to colour copy our album cover, cutting and pasting the thing together in my bedroom. We sold them for $2.
CG: I remember hooking up the two four-tracks together through the headphone jack. Years later, I mentioned that in an article in The Coast, and some guy wrote a letter to the paper scolding me about how you should never, ever do that or you'll break the machines! I also remember a thousand trips to the Sony Store in Halifax Shopping Centre because they sold the 30-minute blank tapes that we used for dubbing.
Can I talk about making the album artwork for the first tape? Lisa, Lynette and I wrapped ourselves in garbage bags and put banana peels on our heads and sat at the curb in front of Lisa's house while her mom snapped some photos. But they didn't turn out so we ended up using the photo of us throwing devil horns while standing in the flatbed of our dad's Dodge Ram. Then we used burgundy nail polish to paint "Absolutely Nothing" onto a piece of Saran Wrap, which we carefully placed on top of the photo and then colour-photocopied. I think we sold the tapes for $3. There was always this subtle competition between Cafe Ole bands about who could/would sell their tape the cheapest. Definitely cost us more than that to make.
When did Lisa quit and Derrick join?
LG: I'd say something like 1996 was when Lisa quit and Derrick Generic (sp?) joined. He was so excited, it was great.
You mostly played at Cafe Ole....but I seem to recall you played in eastern passage. Did you play anywhere else around town? Or outside of Halifax??
LG: I don't think so. We were practically Cafe Ole-exclusive. That was our scene.
CG: We took a road trip to Fredericton once. Derrick did most of the driving, and I think it was autumn because the drive was really scenic. I remember listening to The Dickies on repeat. The show itself was disappointing – freezing cold venue and a hostile crowd.
We also played the Marquee for a Pop Explosion and a couple of Cafe Ole jerks basically accused us of selling out, which is and was hilarious. We often got the feeling that some people also felt that way about Abs No because Lynette and I played in Plumtree. There was a massive divide in Halifax back then between the "alternative" scene and the punk scene. Lynette and I didn't keep Plumtree a secret, but we didn't say much about it around our punk friends. We definitely felt like no one in that scene thought Plumtree was cool. (Except Louie Roberts, who sometimes called Lynette and Lisa's radio show to request Dog Gone Crazy.)
Why did the band come to an end?
LG: I have no idea.
CG: I remember feeling very clearly that it was time to end the band. That it had served its purpose. I was proud of the songs we'd made and didn't want to add any stinkers to the discography. Plus Derrick was leaving for Saskatoon to study cancer cells. I think I also felt like I was getting too old for it all.
Looking back...do you have any fond memories of the band??
LG: Oh yes... dressing up in garbage bags in our practice room and on Rosedale Avenue, Derrick's guitar absolutely blaring all the way down our street, playing an entire set of Ramones covers dressed in drag (as the Ramones), yelling "I'm a liberated woman" through our house (and street), hanging garbage bags off of Lisa's guitar in practice while laughing hysterically, having what were probably some of our first drinks one night before a show - 99 cent draft at a dive bar up the street from Cafe Ole, playing a show in high heels (as a drummer)...
CG: Punk prom! We found the ugliest dresses in Halifax, and made our hair and makeup really gross. Lynette's dress was shiny and brown. I also remember getting hit in the face with a pinata during one of our Cafe Ole sets. Lisa, Lynette and I had filled it with flour and pickles beforehand, and then during the first song I dangled it over the crowd, who immediately lunged for it and it swung back and almost knocked out my teeth. Very embarrassing! I remember spending hours in Kinkos photocopying fanzines with Lynette and Lisa, and hanging out with them at CKDU till all hours of Saturday night/morning. Mostly I remember that spinning disco ball throwing cat eyes on the walls, and the black-and-white tiled floor, and the sweetness of Condon MacLeod. Cafe Ole forever.
Big thanks to Lynette and Carla for this! And here is a never before seen video from them:
And of course here are MP3's of both demo tapes:
Orrrrr....listen to them online here: