sisterhood of the traveling bands

A bunch of scene vets get confrontational with new group

If last year's Lottery League taught us anything about Cleveland's music scene, it's that it's a close-knit community where hybridization can be successful. Maybe it has to do with Cleveland's geographical location, well removed from cultural hubs like New York and Los Angeles, so trends are often thankfully ignored.

It's this environment that's spawned Little Sister, a band formed on friendship, not scene prerequisites. It features members of Cleveland bands like Cheap Tragedies, Vietnam Werewolf, Karate for Kids and Jackknife Powerbombs. The result is a four-piece that blends punk, hard rock and hardcore into a raw and confrontational sound.

"We all have equal input when it comes to writing," says singer Patrick Carter. "And since we all listen to such different styles of music, it makes for a really interesting sound when we come together."

"It's funny because [guitarist] Ron [Jabicki] and I still have our pop-punk influences," adds drummer Dandy Merrill. "They are present in the songs, but with [bassist] Max [Monter] and Patrick there to keep it faster and harder, the songs come out with a cool mix."

The band's demo is a five-song barrage of sound that clocks in at less than 15 minutes. But it's more than just a "cool mix" of sounds. Recorded in the basement of local shredder Josh Durocher-Jones' house, Little Sister's first go at recording is like a documentary of the history of aggressive music compressed into a single, speedy montage. Carter shrieks like he spent time with a vocal coach from screamo label Gravity, while Jabicki's riffs morph from monstrous Black Sabbath homage to blurring Minor Threat blasts. The rhythm section features two dudes who attack their instruments with the violent precision of sculptors on a tight deadline. In keeping with the band's communal spirit, the demo features appearances by members of other local bands like Durocher-Jones' Sun God, Insurrect and the Merkurs.

"Collaboration is natural when it comes to music," says Carter. "I come from a very musical family that plays together at holidays and birthdays, so it has always been important to me to get other people involved. Plus, the more people involved, the better the drugs."

While all the talk of collaborations and friendships might make Little Sister sound like it's simply a bro-down with instruments or an exercise in rock 'n' roll excess, the four members approach the project with a strong sense of professionalism. Most bands spend their initial months simply trying to pick a moniker, but Little Sister has already written more than half a dozen songs, recorded a demo and clocked some serious onstage hours.

"The attitude and goals of this band are a bit more serious than bands I've played with in the past," says Merrill. "Sure, Ron shows up to practice with wine all over his shirt sometimes, but we definitely have a 'let's make it happen' attitude."

"You gotta get out and play, or there's really not much point to being in a band," says Monter. "I love being on stage and hate the end of the set list. The day after a show is depressing, but when there's another date on the calendar, I can manage to keep my head up."

One look at Little Sister's MySpace page (, and it's clear that Monter has plenty of reasons to keep his head up. The group has upcoming gigs with a diverse set of bands that rock everything from pop-punk and post-hardcore to indie-pop and Americana. And while it may seem like someone in the band just went crazy booking shows, it's Little Sister's attempt to bring fans of different genres together.

"We aren't part of a niche scene," says Merrill. "But we do have people who keep coming out show after show. So either we're doing something right or we're just really charming. And I know I'm not that charming."

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