For Connor and Karlee, family still matters

The Sacramento-born sibling duo now splits the state, but stay unified musically

<p><b>No sibling rivalry here.</b></p>

No sibling rivalry here.


Catch Connor and Karlee on Thursday, January 8, at 8 p.m. at Shine Cafe, 1400 E Street. Cover is $5. For more information, visit

At age 11, Connor Hormell played drums for Shania Twain.

The venue was Sleep Train Arena, with 17,000 screaming fans. He wore a sweater and cowboy boots. It may have only been one song—“(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here,” for the record—but it was memorable nonetheless.

“That was one moment when I was like, ’Yes. I want to do this for sure,’” the 20-year-old says now.

His sister Karlee, 18, had one of many similar epiphanies as a freshman at Del Campo High School, shadowing folks backstage during 107.9 The End’s Jingle Ball with Paramore and B.o.B.

Why so lucky? Their father worked for 107.9, granting the kids access to plenty of huge concerts. And as impressionable children, those were formative experiences.

In 2010—soon after that Jingle Ball—Connor and Karlee decided to take their songwriting more seriously. And they decided to start writing songs together, going under the name “Connor and Karlee.”

The pair released its self-titled debut album last July; the celebration at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub was full of children and parents alike and featured Connor’s songs, Karlee’s songs and Connor and Karlee’s songs.

“I have my own personal songs, which are so different from his personal songs,” Karlee says. “We share both of those on the album but also do things together.”

The result is a mix of acoustic, indie folk and keys-driven, upbeat pop. Some songs feature the vocals of just Karlee or Connor, others feature both.

But now Connor says he’s hooked on co-writing, which presents some difficulties now that his sister’s living in Los Angeles. In August, she started her first year in the University of Southern California’s Music Industry program. Connor, meanwhile, is finishing up his second year at American River College studying audio engineering. They collaborate digitally and play solo shows out of necessity.

“It’s so much harder to keep the audience when you don’t have your other half,” Connor says. “Even just talking to the audience is harder. We’re so used to bantering and talking shit to each other.”

Aw, sibling love.

Connor and Karlee are determined to keep up their momentum, though. They’ve added Trey Grayem on bass and Daniel Blackburn on drums. They plan on performing locally during Karlee’s breaks from school, such as an upcoming Shine Cafe show on Thursday, January 8. And after Connor finishes up his classes at American River, he hopes to join Karlee down in Los Angeles.

But in the mean time, it’s all about writing and honing in on their true sound.

“We tried a lot of genres on the first album,” Karlee says. “We were just trying to discover what we wanted. After listening to it over and over, we’re writing new songs that are more electric than acoustic.”

More pop, she says. And a little alternative.

“For a while it was hard to admit that we’re pop,” Karlee says. “We love folk and indie so much. But we’re pop. We’ve come to terms with it.”

Still, Connor and Karlee maintain their folk and indie influences—Lord Huron, The Tallest Man on Earth, Matt Nathanson—even if their output sheds much resemblance to them. Their updated sound is more likely to reflect beloved acts such as 1975, John Mayer, Sara Bareilles and Young the Giant.

“We’re trying to pull a lot of inspiration from a lot of different bands,” Connor says.

“To create something new,” Karlee continues.

Aw. They even finish each other’s sentences.