Sirsy Interview: Band Has a Unique Style and Flavor

When first approached about Sirsy (pronounced sir-see), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My friend Kristen had gushed over them for as long as I can remember and begged me to see them live. Of course, being the amazing friend that I am I packed up my car and headed down to Asbury Park, New Jersey to see them perform at The Break for the Battle of the Bands. I really had no idea what to expect because no one was able to categorize their music they just knew Sirsy rocked.

Truth be told, this group does rock and they rocked it hard that night. Fans came in droves and the fan club, as I like to call them (but they go by Smuckers Inc.), was on hand to show their undying support for Melanie and the guys. Sirsy is a mix of pop and funk but really rather hard to describe, you’d have to venture out to a show to really hear it. I knew after that show that I had to interview them.

Sirsy is made up of four members, Melanie Krahumer on vocals and flute, Rich Libutti on bass, Gregory Nash on drums, and Andres Jatombliansky on guitar. From time to time, Sirsy becomes an acoustic duo of Melanie (vocals, flute, drums) and Rich (guitar and bass). When this group plays together their music seems to come out effortlessly and each note is like a work of art. Not only are they serious artists but they like to have a bit of fun as well. Each with their own personality they come together with one purpose, making great music.

Melanie’s voice commands her audience with such a large range that it seems she could sing any type of music with little to no strain. Her energy resonates with each note and fun is her middle name. The lyrics are raw, emotional and to the point you can tell it comes from a very sacred place in their lives whether it be from personal experience or an outside perspective. Their CD, Ruby is an emotionally-fueled album with really awesome tracks from start to finish.

They say all their parts define a really great band equally and this band personifies that. Each person is an important part of the band as a whole and without one you wouldn?t feel the same effects. Check out what they had to say about their lives, the band, and picking favorites.

EC: Seeing you guys play live was truly an awesome experience so much energy. What’s your favorite aspect of playing live and what gets you pumped before a show?

MELANIE: My favorite aspect of playing live is being in the moment and letting everything else go but the performance… letting go of the bad day you might have had and the distractions that might be happening around you and just playing and feeling the song and the music. It’s a freedom that I know I’m very lucky to feel. When I look out at the crowd and I can see that they are feeling it too, it makes me a very happy girl. What gets me pumped before a show? I do a vocal warm up and some stretches before every show and whenever I get to that point in the night I know the show is right around the corner and I can feel the excitement in my belly.

RICH: I love playing for people that have never seen us before (well, when they are digging us) you can always tell when you’ve won over a crowd there’s an excitement in the room. Diet coke gets me pumped up before a show.

GREG: If the atmosphere is positive and the sound is good, it’s usually enough to get excited about playing. My favorite aspect of playing live is recognizing it’s the most important part of my life while its happening and getting caught in the moment, this is not as easy as it seems sometimes…distractions, equipment failure, etc.

ANDRES: Before the show our fans are really looking to listen to our songs. Seeing their faces and enthusiasm makes me really wanna play with all my heart.

EC: How did all of you hook up as band members? Was it that one of you wanted to start a band and you started looking for other members?

MELANIE: Rich and I met in a cover band but we wanted to do more. So, we started writing together and we formed Sirsy. Greg answered an ad we placed in Metroland (an Albany music paper) and Andres answered an ad in the Village Voice (a NYC music paper).

RICH: I’m sure everyone else already answered this…

GREG: I answered an ad in a local rag…sometimes it works

ANDRES: I had a bunch of bands in my native Argentina. When I first got to the US, I looked for a band for a year, but it was not until I found Sirsy that I really felt that all the band members had the same commitment.

EC: Do all of you co-write the songs, does everyone contribute?

RICH: Mel and I usually work out the core of the song. We all get together to add the fleshy pulp.

MELANIE: Yeah, what Rich said!

EC: Melanie you have an amazing voice, very strong. When did your passion for music begin? What was it that made you want to do this for the rest of your life?

MELANIE: Thank you very much, Erin. I have wanted to sing since I have been able to talk. I used to put on performances for my family and the neighbors and sing in my father’s band when I was very little. Then I grew up, got shy, and “got practical.? So, I decided to focus on school and tying to have something stable to fall back on. Fortunately, I am not very practical and my passions won the battle. So, I decided to drop everything, quit the day job, and give this a go.

EC: Many reviewers have recognized your talent. What are you most proud of out of all the reviews and accolades?

MELANIE: A few reviewers DIDN’T try to compare me to other singers and also mentioned that they thought I have a lot of versatility in my voice. One guy said, “capable of a floaty whisper and a lion’s roar.” Another said “the lungs of a teenage athlete and the growl of a sixty-something blues singer. These are things that I am honored by because of the sweat I put into working at these goals. I work very hard at not singing everything the same. (I HATE that!) I also try never to steal the style of another singer… to learn from another singer is great but to steal is not the object. So, I HATE being told that I “sound like” someone else.

RICH: Some guy liked the backbeat in So Good. I thought it was nice that he picked up on that. I was proud of that as well.

EC: Melanie how do you feel women are doing these days in the music industry. Do you think it’s as promising as it was during the reign of Lilith Fair?

MELANIE: I get depressed when I see a lot of music videos. I am all for women being able to be sexy but it seems like that has somehow become MORE important than what they’re trying to say with their music. Whatever happened to intelligence and strength being components of what we consider sexy?

RICH: No, it sucks. People think that female singers are a genre, that male singers are the “norm”.

EC: Your sound is very unique. What do you think sets you apart from what is being played on the radio today.

MELANIE: THANK YOU! I think, unlike a lot of bands you hear on the radio, we’ve had a chance to develop our own sound. We haven’t been forced to try to sound like everything else on the radio because we’re not signed and we’re not being dictated by a label. We had an industry guy tell us that we should “try to make all of our songs sound the same” to be considered “marketable”. We are looking to be signed, but by a music lover… not someone who wants to slip us into some sort of cookie cutter model of everything else that already exists!

RICH: We are much more diverse than most bands on the radio, not as homogenous

GREG: I think Mel and Rich write songs that have staying power, which is to say they will still be relevant years from now?ageless, unlike many fly-by-night power pop or nu metal-rock or emo acts.

EC: Ruby is a great CD. I’ve listened to it quite a few times and really enjoy it. Every band or artist seems to have his or her own process that goes into recording a studio album, what is yours?

RICH: Painful. We try to prepare as much as possible. We record the whole CD at our rehearsal space. We do all the tracking and mixing very involved pre-production. It never seems like we prepare enough. Things evolve in the studio, things happen when you realize that your performances are going down on your “permanent record”.

MELANIE: Yes, the process is really scrutinizing. So far we have worn the hats of producer and performer for all of our records. So, it’s a bit exhausting at times. We try to play the songs live at least a few times before we start on pre-production. That way the song starts to take on a personality. Pre-production allows us to work the bugs out and start to experiment with some of the flashy production ideas we have for the songs… but we’re “off the clock” so it doesn’t cost us a cent because we do all of the pre-production stuff on our own computer at home. Since we’re on a limited budget, the pre-production becomes the most important part of the recording process, really. Then we go into the studio and try to lay down the tracks as we’ve prepared them … but not in a nervous or anal way because we want to maintain that personality and emotion that the song requires… it’s HARD! There are moments of fun and joy amidst the process but I’ll take playing live to recording any day!

EC: What do you want to say to all your fans out there who support you and keep supporting you. Have any interesting fan stories?

MELANIE: Of course, we all want to say THANK YOU to our undeniably amazing fans. Without our fans, we most certainly could not do what we do. We owe them everything, which is why we try to give them everything we have every time we perform for them.

RICH: Our fans are great. Often fans that used to come see us all the time can’t anymore because they’ve moved our gotten married or had kids. But they still support us and keep in touch through our website. When I retire I’ll write a book about some of the crazy fans check back for details…

GREG: We have the best fans out there, they seem to never get tired of supporting us and we love doing new things for them and keeping the shows exciting and fresh, not only for them but for ourselves as well.

EC: Do any of you have a favorite song off of Ruby?

MELANIE: Lie to Me, Hostage, and Pet. (And for selfish reasons: I’m proud of my lyrics in By July).

RICH: Hostage.

GREG: Lie to me.

ANDRES: Blacker than Blue.

With each passing moment I am reminded of how lucky I truly am to meet and see such amazing artists. Sirsy is a group that truly is one-of-a-kind and it’s those small but integral moments when you realize it just doesn’t get any better than this. I don’t normally gush over groups or singers because I’m somewhat of a cynical bastard but I can honestly say this group impresses me. So now when those crazy kids in Smuckers Inc. beg me to see a show I know I’m going to be there because, damn, do they rock! Check out Melanie, Rich, Greg and Andres at www.sirsy.com and listen to some tunes. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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