A Sit-Down with Sirsy

An interview with one of the Capital Region’s most prolific bands

By Gavriella Rutigliano

Sirsy is once again on the road, but the pop-rock band from New York’s Capital Region is kind enough to Zoom into an interview to discuss their latest tour, their newest music video, their fans, some plans for the future, and reflections on their past 22 years as a musical duo.

The “little band with a big sound,” as they’ve sometimes been described, was recently nominated for music video of the year for their song “Astronaut,” as well as solo or duo artist of the year in the 2022 Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Awards – aka the Eddies.

“Being from Upstate New York, it’s nice being able to go outside and have it be warm, especially this time of year,” Rich Libutti jokes, as he and his partner in life and music Melanie Krahmer Zoom in from their hotel room during the band’s longest tour in five or six years.

Even before COVID hit, Melanie, a two-time cancer survivor, was kept on a “three-month leash” due to treatments requiring her to come back to Albany, but luckily a successful surgery last fall eliminated that need. Now, the band can be on the road for longer, allowing them to revisit old friends and fans, including in Oregon and Washington, two places they were not able to go in recent years.

“We’re super excited because they have a great music community up there, and we’ve been wanting to go back. We have fans in that area who we haven’t seen in years,” says Melanie.

Fans from all over the country (and the world) were able to tune into Sirsy livestreams weekly during the pandemic, which resulted in a much deeper connection between the duo and their fans.

“There were lots of people who watched every week, where normally we would only see them once or twice a year,” says Rich.

 “It solidified those bonds,” Melanie says. “Even though we couldn’t see them…”

 “We felt like we were all together,” Rich says, finishing her thought.

The bonds didn’t just grow between musicians and fans, but within the Sirsy fan community itself. “These are people who have never met at an actual live Sirsy show, right? Because they’re not all from the same spot, but they all feel like they know each other, because while the [livestream] was going on, they would all chat with each other, and we all shared moments in their lives,” says Melanie.

This led to the creation of a Facebook group called “The Sirsy Extended Family,” so even when livestreams weren’t happening, the fans could still talk and support each other. To Melanie’s delight, “When we started doing live shows, some of them started making road trips so they could meet in person at different shows.”

On April 28, Sirsy will play a special livestream concert at the home of a family they call “Team Green,” with the family participating in the show. “We did a bunch of comedy skits during the peak of our pandemic live streaming,” says Rich. “We already have an idea cooked up; we just haven’t told them yet…. We’ll see if they’re up for it.”

Four days earlier, on April 24, the 2022 Eddies Music Awards will be held at Proctors in Schenectady, New York, where Sirsy’s single “Astronauts” is in the running for Eddies’ Music Video of the Year. Produced by MagicWig Productions, the video was a labor of love for the duo. Rich worked for weeks to edit it and create the stop-motion intro, which left paper stars and hearts scattered throughout the couple’s house, which the duo will probably still find when they return from their tour.

What have they learned from spending so much time traveling on the road? Have as much fresh fruit and vegetables on hand as possible. And take quick stretch breaks while driving hundreds of miles a day. “It’s like we bring an apartment’s worth of stuff…but the little creature comforts make staying in all the different places more bearable,” Rich says.

Many years ago, the pair were near strangers taking part in a female-fronted/disco cover band. They can’t remember exactly when Sirsy started, but their first gig as a duo was around January/February of 2000, and their first album Baggage was released in September 2000. Coincidentally, that was when this interviewer was born, which causes the duo to burst into shocked laughter. Rich dramatically sweeps his arms in an x-motion and jokingly declares the interview over. Melanie dramatically mimes stabbing her chest and declares, “That’s a knife to the heart, Gavriella.”

“We don’t have any kids, so we really look at it like Sirsy is our little baby, and our little baby is…” says Melanie.

“Old enough to drink,” says Rich, finishing the sentence.

When asked about the changes that have happened over time in the music industry, the response is technology. “Kids, there’s a thing called ‘paper,” Melanie starts in a jokingly sarcastic tone. They then describe how they would need to print out flyers with their bios and accomplishments, as well as CDs and DVDs of their demos to ship out to venues to try and get gigs.  The money making was physical too: while CD sales used to be the majority of their income, now Spotify gives “like one cent for every 2000 plays,” although there is still some money in online streaming, such as Bandcamp Friday’s, where 100% of the sale is given to the artist. (Sirsy has one exclusive single available there, titled “Hey Disaster”). Most of Sirsy’s funds come from other avenues, like merch sales. As Rich says, “We sell a lot of t-shirts.”

Sirsy will be on this leg of their tour until the end of May, when they return to rock the Capital District in June. They are slated to play the inaugural NipperFest on July 23rd at Music Haven in Schenectady.

They duo has two new (unreleased) songs called “Seven Seas” and “Hell No” slated for possible recording this summer and are in the process of writing other new ones, including one called “Stupid Little Heart.”

Check out the “Astronauts” music video if you haven’t already and watch the Sirsy Facebook page for information on livestreams, tour dates, and other updates.

Mixed media painting by street artist Scout

“A More Perfect Union” Exhibit Features New Works by Street Artist Scout

Art by street-artist Scout
“The Children’s Teeth Are Set On Edge,” 2019. 36″ X 48″ – mixed media on canvas

Scout creates graphic mixed-media pieces influenced by graffiti and street-art that juxtapose colorful paint, vintage clip art and found images to create vital works of protest.

Artist Reception: Saturday, August 10, 4-6 PM
Thompson Giroux Gallery
57 Main Street, Chatham, New York
Exhibit runs August 10 — September 22, 2019

For information, contact kirsten@jetpackpromotions.com

He’s an artist for the Resistance. In the aptly titled “A More Perfect Union,” an exhibit of new works at Thompson Giroux Gallery in his hometown of Chatham, New York, street artist Scout (aka Scout Pines) takes a hard look at what it means to be an American today.

“I want to challenge the notion that being a patriot is blindly going along with what your government tells you. Being a patriot is fighting for the notions of equality and true freedom,” says Scout, née Brian Buono, a self-taught artist who combines his background in graffiti and street-art with a love of American folk-art to create graphic, layered works.

There has always been a political element to Scout’s work. The Capital Region native, now based in Chatham, is known for his folk-art portraits of people who are overlooked and marginalized. When working in the street, he installs his stencil-art paintings on abandoned buildings, where they disappear as fast as they went up.

Scout’s paintings are typically rendered with spray paint or house paint on reclaimed plywood, often on old metal, wood or other found materials sourced from abandoned and derelict buildings. For this show, for the first time, he decided to use large canvases – “a conscious decision to try something different,” he says.

Art by Scout Pines
“There Is Nothing In The World More Dangerous Than A Defeated Army Heading Home,” 2019, 60″ X 60,” mixed media on canvas

One colorful piece, “There Is Nothing in the World More Dangerous than a Defeated Army Heading Home,” a 60” X 60” mixed media on canvas, combines an image of a Black Lives Matter protestor staring directly at the camera with vintage clip art of a young boy with his hand over his heart reciting the pledge of allegiance.

“It looks like he’s covering up the mouth of the protestor,” Scout says. “That sums up the dialogue that I’m trying to have with these pieces.”

The pieces contain a lot of red, white and blue, and flag imagery. There are also blue, white and orange color schemes – in a nod to Albany and its Dutch influence and notions of colonialism. Much of the clip art hails from the 1940s and ‘50s. “I take that imagery designed for advertising companies to help sell people things, and insert it into a new context,” he says. “I still use stencil as a base, but I often paint over and obliterate it.”

For Scout, the work is about trying to remain hopeful in trying times. And about making people think. “You really can feel disenfranchised in this political climate. It feels like we’re regressing in so many ways,” he says. “The act of creation is a coping mechanism – a form of therapy to help process what’s happening in this country. It becomes important to find something local and grassroots to focus your energy on, where you can really see actual change.”

Download high-res images of art featured in the show:

“”There Is Nothing In The World More Dangerous Than A Defeated Army Heading Home,” 2019, 60″ X 60,” mixed media on canvas
“Tomorrow Will Come to Strip Us of Our Crowns,” 2019, 36″ X 48,” mixed media on canvas
“The Children’s Teeth Are Set on Edge,” 2019, 36″ X 48,” mixed media on canvas
“Custer Died For Your Sins,” 2019, 48″ X 36,” mixed media on canvas
“I Dream Only of the Fire,” 2019, 48″ X 36,” mixed media on canvas

Scout brings his work to Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham, New York, for a show of new paintings that runs from August 10 — September 22, 2019. Check out Scout on Instagram (@scoutpines) or at www.scoutpines.com.