By Cady Kuzmich
CLIFTON PARK — Albany-based rock band Sirsy fit Clifton Park into their jam-packed touring schedule to play a free show at Clifton Commons Sunday July 10. The band is known for its relentless touring schedule almost as much as it’s recognized for its high energy performances and lead singer Melanie Krahmer’s soulful voice. The band puts about 60,000 miles on their van each year in order to hit all their tour stops. “We average 250 shows a year,” said Krahmer.
The band formed in 2000 when Melanie Krahmer, of Albany, and Rich Libutti, of Rhode Island, met while auditioning for bands in the Capital Region.
In the 16 years since Sirsy formed, the band has gone through more than a few touring vehicles.The band started out with a subaru station wagon and eventually transitioned to vans. They’re onto their third van now, which their fans have named Miles.
Krahmer, Sirsy’s lead singer and drummer, grew up singing with her dad’s band from the time she was three years old. He played “rock and roll and honky tonk,” said Krahmer. “Music has always been part of my life,” she added. Krahmer picked up the flute as her school instrument in the fourth grade, though it wasn’t her first choice. After seeing Snoopy the dog playing saxophone with sunglasses on, she decided the saxophone was the epitome of cool. Still, she was stuck with the flute and has stuck with it to this day. Krahmer also plays bass on a keyboard she has mounted onto her drum kit.
Libutti, the band’s bassist, said his family was “not at all” musical. “I’m not sure they understand what we do for a living,” he laughed, before noting how supportive they’ve been of his career in music.
Libutti’s introduction to the world of music came on the first day of high school when a friend suggested they start a band to get girls. The only problem, he said, was that the bass player never gets the girls. They named the band, “The Stud Muffins” and made music throughout most of high school together. Libutti said each of The Stud Muffin’s five members are still involved with music in one way or another today.
“We owe all of our success to the Spud Masters,” said Krahmer. “ Sorry, Spud Muffins,” she corrected herself.
Both Libutti and Krahmer are completely self taught, except the flute of course, which Krahmer learned in school.
Along with their love of music, a love of science fiction movies brought the duo together. Krahmer had gone to see a Star Trek movie with a friend who later suggested she audition for a cover band. While auditioning, she met Rich. “He was wearing a Star Wars shirt,” Krahmer recalled. Libutti and Krahmer hit it off and left the cover band a couple months later to start writing their own songs together.
At the time, Krahmer was in a pre-law program at Siena College and Libutti was on a pre-med track at RPI. “A bit of a change, eh,” said Krahmer.
When it comes to the writing process Libutti joked, “It’s a lot of fighting, basically.” He continued, “It’s always a bit different. A lot of our ideas start on soundchecks. Sometimes on the road we’ll work out different aspects of songs.”
While much of the process is collaborative, Krahmer said she typically writes the lyrics. “If Rich wrote the lyrics, they’d all be about Star Wars, Aquaman and maybe pie. [His favorite things.]” Libutti shot back, “What else is there?”
When she’s feeling stuck in the songwriting process, Krahmer said she’ll often ask herself, “What would the Beatles do?” Though she doesn’t think their sound resembles that of the Beatles, she said, “we always try to learn from their genius [ when it comes to songwriting.]” One of her favorite vocalists of all time is Brandi Carlile. The two share a soulful, powerful voice with an impressive range.
Libutti looks to bands like The Black Keys, who “play together organically without studio manufactured crap” for musical sustenance. Band of Skulls and Muse are a couple other bands he looks up to.
The band’s song “Cannonball” from their last album, “Coming into Frame” was featured in the TV show Shameless featuring William H. Macy on Showtime. “That’s kinda neat,” said Krahmer. The band recently launched a new website and is in the process of writing a new album which they hope to record this year. “That’s the plan anyway,” said Krahmer.
With 16 years of non-stop touring under their belts and no end in sight, one begins to wonder what fuels Sirsy.
“Coffee, in a word. Besides coffee…it sounds corny but passion. For us, this is what we want to do and it’s not just a job. It’s something we pour our hearts and souls into,” said Krahmer. She added, “We’re very lucky to have a job where people are very vocal about telling us that they like what we do. Fans tell us how music affects them and that speaks to me.”
Libutti seconded Krahmer, and said there’s something about live performances that’s just more powerful than listening to music through a computer or a phone. “Just having your music on iTunes or Spotify… it’s not enough. We want to get out there and get in front of them,” he said.