By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
By Ray Cummings
By Nicholas Pell
First, there were Daughters; later, Wives; and eventually, Girls. So while you'd be forgiven for assuming that Brooklyn noise-pop duo Sisters donned their sobriquet to join the august fraternity of underground outfits named after fairer-sex subsets but staffed by dudes, you'd also be dead wrong. "Those bands didn't really exist on our radar when we started," notes drummer/keyboardist player Matt Conboy; his cohort, singer/guitarist Aaron Pfannebecker, blames the name on schizophrenia—er, make that Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia."
"We wanted something that would be funny," Pfannebecker explains, waiting on Chinese takeout in Brooklyn during a late-August band conference call. "And I was listening to a lot of Sonic Youth's Sister record at the time."
Given the afterburner-boom roar of Ghost Fits, Sisters' full-length Narnack debut, that's fitting. The album hits like a Fruitopia-flashback blast from the gimmie-indie-rock past, a jumbled spew of corkscrewed no-fi guitar snarl with both texture and velocity. (Translation: Fans of pre-Merge Superchunk won't be disappointed.) One after another, the sloppy-savory blitzkriegs come flying, flickering soapboxes upon which Pfannebecker can talk/sing/dissemble ("Now, you have won/You are here amongst the stars and the sun," he hiccup-yelps on "Glue") like a backward spoilsport muttering to himself while the beerblast of the century rages around him. In conversation, though, he is a less complicated communicator. He and Conboy are banterers who crack a lot of in-jokes, routinely leave each other in stitches, and finish each other's sentences; they share an almost brotherly intuition. Early on, the two were roommates. These days, Conboy lives at Death by Audio in Brooklyn and builds effects pedals for a living, while Pfannebecker works at Random House and resides in Greenpoint.
Inspired by everyone from the Pixies to Lightning Bolt to the Microphones to Hall & Oates—"Fleetwood Mac is pretty huge for Aaron and me," Conboy exclaims—Ghost Fits is the sound of early-twentysomething abandon turning itself inside out. The Hoover-vacuum-swirling title track almost sounds like an outtake from Pfannebecker faves My Bloody Valentine. The furrowed, furious "Courthouse"—so in-a-hurry that it almost seems to be tripping over itself—isn't necessarily about a courthouse, he explains: "It can be a metaphor for showing up, being there for friends. Showing up, supporting people. Saying, 'I'm here, and I'm gonna be there for you.' " Bright and trampoline-bouncy, "Country Scratch" rides what sounds like a toy-piano hook deep into a charred-riff hailstorm as the singer's clenched-larynx sneer channels NOFX's Fat Mike. And if "The Curse" is growly, scatterbrained indie pique and "Sky" is tornadic, torrid Pavement purée, "Wake Me Up," true to the band's name, is pure Sonic Youth, kicking up dust clouds of solipsistic distortion so vast you could get lost inside them.
All of this seems at odds with Ghost Fits' cover art, which depicts a castle rising before a mountain—a cross between a yarn-stitched plastic canvas and a Steve Keene landscape.
"I was in a friend's bathroom in Atlanta, Georgia, and he had all this found art, and I saw and loved it—I took a picture," Pfannebecker says. "It just seemed really cool, and had a lot of great textures to it." As Conboy acknowledges, the image is a double-edged sword: In some ways, it's fitting, "and in some ways, it kind of isn't," he says. "It makes it look like we're cutesy, or more friendly than we actually are."
Sisters play Dead Herring September 25 with Weekends, Grooms, and Darlings