When you hear Albany duo Sirsy, you think Grace Potter meets the White Stripes. The bluesy rock band has gained somewhat of a cult following over its career, but its newest release, Coming Into Frame, might just land it some fans in a bigger market. The group has delivered an album that's grandiose and soulful. Lead singer Melanie Krahmer doesn't only belt it out; she does so while hitting the sticks on a full drum kit... while standing.
We caught up with the band members to talk before their show at New Moon in Wilton Manors. We spoke about their consistently intense touring, what it was like working with two Grammy-winning producers, and about commuting from the moon via jetpacks.
New Times: The first thing I noticed about you guys is that you don't use any gimmicks. You put out good old rock 'n' roll, and it works. People respond to it. Your site says that the Boston Globe summed it up perfectly; "little band, big sound." Has there been any pressure for you guys over the years to change your sound?
Melanie Krahmer: Not really. I guess there have been folks that have asked us to be more "fill in the blank here" or less "fill in the blank here." But we like to do our own thing.
You worked with two Grammy-winning producers on your newest album, Coming Into Frame. Was it an organic experience for everyone?
Yes. It was actually the best studio experience we've had to date. It can be intimidating knowing you're working with guys who have worked with some really famous people. It makes you feel like you might not measure up. But, Paul and Sean approached the sessions with the attitude of "let's get the best version of SIRSY we can-- and then capture it on a recording." It's a very positive and encouraging way to record.
Even when Paul and Sean were suggesting changes to songs we'd lived with for a while, we were able to see that their suggestions made sense and made the song better. Rich and I also submitted some pretty involved and produced song writing demos. Paul (Kolderie) and Sean (Slade) actually kept a lot of our original ideas from these demos. It just seemed like we clicked and were on the same page. And it was an exchange of ideas. They never made us feel like we had to do it one way or another.
Also, Paul and Sean taught us that there are really no "rules" for recording. They came to see us live so they could get a feel for our live vibe and then capture that on the recording. We recorded a lot of the songs without a click track, so we could speed up and slow down where the song needed it. They also had me sing the songs only a couple of times each, so the vocals are not "over-thought." There is no Auto-Tune or stuff like that on vocals either. It's all very real and organic.
You guys tour a lot. A lot, a lot, 200 plus shows a year a lot. Does it ever get to be too much? How do you guys adapt to being on the road for so long?
We try to look at it as an adventure. That we're discovering new places and meeting new people. It's never boring! We also spend a lot of time with our fans on the road and they become part of our family. So we feel like we're home, with them. Being on the road has also taught us to enjoy the moment. We do get homesick sometimes though, and we miss our friends and family at home. But with today's technology, it's easy to keep in touch.
I understand that you've opened up for big name artists like Grace Potter, Maroon 5, Train, Ra Ra Riot, and tons more. Whether its from gaining notoriety through that, or from your relentless touring, you guys have gained a pretty devout fan base. Has it taken some time to build up fans?
It depends on the market. There are markets where we build up a fan base pretty quickly and others where we have to work at it longer. We're not sure what makes the difference.
Why New Moon? Don't get me wrong, we love the bar, but why not opt for a music venue or lounge?
Actually, New Moon functions as a listening room whenever we play shows there. We have some very respectful fans in the Ft Lauderdale area. You can hear a pin drop while we're playing and then thunderous applause after the song is over.
Also, New Moon has helped us build up a fan base in the area. We're not opposed to other venues in addition to this venue, but so far our experiences here have been great. Also, one of the things that's made us successful as a touring band is to explore non-traditional venues. It opens the door to many more options for live shows.
Rich, I know that you play a pretty impressive range of instruments, but Mel, you not only provide seriously amazing vocals, you play the drums as well. That's a rare thing, especially nowadays, unless it's backing vocals. It has to be incredibly difficult no? What made you want to do both originally?
Well, I'm a terrible guitar player. Honestly, my drumming was born out of necessity. Rich and I played in a four-piece band when we first met, and we tried to tour this way. It was a bit of a nightmare. We played with some talented folks, but it was very hard to keep that many people on the same page. And we had a lot of turnover with drummers and guitar players. Rich played the bass in that configuration. So, it was natural for him to become the guitar player. And when we wrote the songs, Rich would write on guitar, and I would often come up with the feels and beats on a drum program.
So, when we became a two-piece band, it was natural for me to try the drums. I am not a trained drummer -- I just play. And I clicked with the instrument. So, it's natural for me to sing at the same time. I play the drums sitting in the studio because it gives me more versatility with my high hat and such. But live, I play a full drum kit standing up because it's better to be standing as the front person and it's easier to sing while standing, since you breathe from your diaphragm.
Who are your greatest influences musically?
The Beatles are our all-time favorite band. When we get stuck writing a song, we always ask ourselves, "What would the Beatles do here?" But we are influenced by everything we hear, from David Bowie, the Raconteurs, Mutemath, the Black Keys, Fun, Muse, and the Crash Kings, to Amiee Mann, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone. Just so many. Too many to name, really.
I'm sure with the release of Coming Into Frame you're both looking forward, but taking one quick look back, what's been a career highlight for you thus far? What has been one of your favorite moments?
There are many great moments. But one that comes to mind is when we met our manager, Mike Lembo from Funzalo Records. We played a live showcase in Chicago and he flew in from Tucson to see us. We were really nervous. We have some great fans in Chicago who came out to support us. But we were far from home, and knew we were being evaluated more than usual. Eight friends, and fans, of ours from New York rented a van and drove all day and night to Chicago to cheer us on. Having those eight people in the crowd may seem insignificant, but it made all the difference to us -- and that showed in our performance on stage. Mike offered us a record deal after seeing this show, and we know that we have those eight people to thank for it.
Now looking ten years into the future, where are you?
On the moon. And travling to shows with jet packs. Or maybe just playing bigger venues to folks that want to hear us play our music.
Sirsy. 8 p.m., Sunday, March 10, at New Moon, 2440 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors. Visit sirsy.com.