MANCHESTER, NH – There are certain bands that are a must to see live due to how they exhibit their craft on stage and Sirsy definitely belongs in that exclusive group.
The husband and wife duo of Rich Libutti and Melanie Krahmer have an extraordinary way of making music that incorporates both substantial pop and alt-rock to create an engaging sound. It’s garnered them a reaction that gets people exclaiming their abilities days after they perform along with acclaim for their shows.
On September 23 at The Shaskeen Pub & Restaurant in Manchester, folks from around the area will get the chance to see what Libutti and Krahmer can do with their instruments. Starting at 9 p.m., the duo will be performing for nearly three hours so expect a one-of-a-kind experience right when you walk through the doors.
I had a talk with both Libutti and Krahmer about doing multiple things at once while performing, the importance of muscle memory, the bands and musicians they’ve shared the stage with and not being totally sure on how to release new music in the present age of streaming services.
Rob Duguay: When you both perform together as Sirsy, you both are doing multiple things at once with Melanie singing and playing bass via a keyboard while drumming while Rich presses bass pedals with his feet while playing guitar. What inspired this approach at first? Was it from watching another band doing a similar thing or was it just an idea you both had to have a low-end element to your sound as a duo?
Rich Libutti: It’s definitely something that we just kind of came up with and we weren’t sure if it was going to work. When we first started doing it, Melanie was playing the drums and we found this unit where she could basically play a keyboard with a stick. She has these nice pads that she has access to and a thing I have at my feet connects to that. For the first few songs we worked out that way, it took us two days to figure it out where I would play the verse and Melanie would play the chorus instead of one of us playing it the whole time. Honestly, we weren’t sure if it was going to work at all, but it somehow did.
Melanie Krahmer: Starting out, we were an acoustic duo and then we played with other people for a short time. That didn’t work out, so we decided to play the instruments of the other people. We booked a gig two months ahead with this act that didn’t exist to sort of light a fire under ourselves and then we practiced every day for 16 hours a day for two months, had several nervous breakdowns and then we just managed to play the gig.
RL: We had seen a bunch of other bands who were kind of just looping or just ditching the bass player and doing drums, guitar and vocals. We write kind of poppish-type songs and we really wanted to get some bass elements in there. Our live bass parts are much more simplistic than when we record, when we’re recording I play actual bass and Melanie plays a sit-down drum kit so she doesn’t have to deal with the bass when she records. When we do it live, it’s boiled down to its essence.
RD: Very cool. When it comes to the beginnings of forming this approach to now, how much of a routine has it become when it comes to doing all of these things at once? Has muscle memory played a big part in how the both of you perform live?
MK: Yeah, during that first gig we played this way, a lot of it was us staring at the instruments, freaking out and trying to look like we weren’t freaking out. Now, we really don’t think about it. It’s total muscle memory like you said, the bass parts are total muscle memory so I just really focus on being the lead singer and being the drummer. The bass isn’t really something I focus on because we’re both songwriters, so for me the thing that I focus on the most is singing.
It’s the song that I’m singing and the lyrics in the song while connecting with the audience, that’s what it’s all about for us. It’s looking at the audience, feeling what they’re feeling and this back and forth between them, so muscle memory is totally what’s going on for us.
RL: We both have theater backgrounds so the performance aspect of our show is important. We don’t ever want it to seem like the tricky parts of us playing live overcome the songs, we just want it to make it so people can enjoy watching the performance in general. It’s weird when we often do acoustic shows where I’ll play acoustic guitar and Melanie plays piano, sometimes we’ll get to a point in a song where I don’t know what to play next because I’m so accustomed to doing the bass. It’s kind of like going through a brain fart.
RD: I can see how that can happen sometimes. Sirsy has gotten to open for the likes of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Maroon 5, Cheap Trick and Collective Soul among others. What would you say is your favorite experience when it comes to sharing a stage with a headlining act?
MK: There’s a lot of them, but for me one of my favorite experiences was opening for Grace Potter. It was the fourth time we opened for her, because we’ve opened for her several times, and she remembered us, she came running up on stage. She’s just so incredibly talented and also incredibly beautiful, she kissed me on the cheek and I got completely tongue-tied. I said something really idiotic like “I like your sparkly dress” or something like that, but she was so gracious to us. We’ve also had a bunch of shows where we’ve opened for the Adam Ezra Group out of Boston, who we now feel like they’re family.
It’s just a big love fest when we get to open shows for them and we’re going to be touring with them for a bunch of shows in a row this December, so those are two of my favorite memories.
RL: I would agree. The Maroon 5 show was weird because we had played with them very early on in their career at a small club in Albany. There probably were 10 people in attendance, we became friends and we did a bunch of shows as they had a meteoric climb. When we stopped playing with them, it was when they jumped to arenas but that was an interesting experience and they were mostly cool.
RD: Being from Albany, what are your thoughts on coming to Manchester to play The Shaskeen?
MK: We’ve played Manchester before and we’ve played The Shaskeen a few times. For us, it’s a place that makes for a very high-energy show. The crowd is generally pretty enthusiastic and they give us a lot of love there. It’s a lot of cheering, screaming and dancing, it’s pretty great.
RL: I always look forward to it when it’s on the calendar.
MK: Yeah, it’s definitely one of my favorite places we play.
RD: That’s fantastic. It’s been a while since Sirsy released a new album, so can we expect one to come out in the near future?
MK: We don’t know how to release music these days because when we first started playing CDs were a thing and they’re not really a thing anymore so we haven’t released a full album in a while.
RL: We’ve released four singles so far this year.
MK: Yeah, that’s what we’ve been doing instead of putting out full releases. We’re hopefully going to have a full recording out by next year though.
RL: It’s getting harder and harder to justify it. The reason why musicians used to wait until they had an album’s worth of material was so they could press CDs, but that seems to not really be relevant anymore.
MK: I guess we’re wondering what the people think, so bands still need to make a whole album or are we good with just streaming singles? I don’t know the answer to that.