It was 2015, six weeks before the soul-pop act Sarah and the Meanies was scheduled to leave on tour. The group’s guitarist, who had taken the reins of the band, sent his bandmates an email that said he was quitting. He said he would play the next couple of scheduled shows and then he’d be finished, recalls bassist Kim O’Hara.
O’Hara describes the guitarist’s attitude as “my way or the highway” in regard to both music and life. He had a domineering vision that clashed with his bandmates’ view of the way things should be done.
Nobody was exactly heartbroken by the resignation notice; in fact, the musicians wanted to speed things up.
O’Hara met with drummer Luke Mehrens and singer/guitarist Sarah Angela; the three decided that they wanted to level the playing field, make decisions as a team and put whatever money they earned as a group back into the band. Without the guitarist around, they could do all that, so they renewed their commitment to each other, started revamping their sound, and toured without him.
When he discovered that the group was more receptive to the news of his departure than he had expected, things got messy. He withheld some recordings and gear, refusing to let his bandmates take them on tour.
Nonetheless, as the other bandmembers tell it, they’re better off without him.
“Losing a bandmember was a catalyst,” Mehrens says. “We [realized we] don’t need him, we don’t need that, and here’s what musically we can do without that.”
In October 2015, around the same time the guitarist left the group, Mehrens’s fiancée, Abby, passed away after fighting a four-year battle with cancer. She had been a close friend to all of the musicians and a supporter of the band. O’Hara says the grief-stricken bandmates started spending more time together, writing songs and mourning.
They decided they needed to leave Denver and take some time to write music, so in early 2016, they went to Los Angeles. They spent two months living by the ocean, writing and recording all-new songs, investing every penny they had into the band’s future.
As they re-evaluated their sound in the wake of their bandmate’s departure, they pushed the act into a more electronic direction — what they now describe as “sexy, alternative pop rock.” They also changed the band’s name from Sarah and the Meanies to SIR.
“We had the opportunity to look at the music and see if what we were playing was really and truly the style of music that we adored,” O’Hara says. “Turns out it wasn’t, and our musical style drastically shifted.”
To achieve the sound they hoped for, the musicians began to focus more on producing beats, musical hooks and melodies; they also brought in electronic elements, like a drum pad and synthesizers.
Los Angeles proved to be a transformative city for them; they were thrilled to learn from pros in the music capital of the world. “If you want to feel small, go to L.A.” says O’Hara. They’d needed a change in perspective, and Los Angeles gave them that.
They invested all of their savings and emotional strength into recording, and the more they worked together, the clearer it was that they were ready to move forward with their music. The three friends were still sorting through their emotions surrounding the loss of Mehrens’s fiancée, and they used those feelings to fuel the music, grounding each song in stories from their lives.
“Every song on the new album is about something that we experienced firsthand: breakups, losing a loved one, politics, going to music festivals with our friends and being inspired by other musicians,” O’Hara says. “We hope that in each song, we were able to express emotions that people connect with and that resonate with them.”
After recording, they decided to return home to Denver, armed with a new sound — and with a new name that actually worked to their advantage. When they were Sarah and the Meanies, venues tended to lump them in with women singer-songwriters. And while they respect the artists they played with, they didn’t feel that the gigs were in line with their image and sound. The name SIR gave them a more neutral identity and allowed them to play with artists that they feel are better aligned with their music.
“We’ve experienced people associating [us] with other bands due to the name,” O’Hara explains. “Like ‘Oh, this must be a chick band.’ But is it? Just because the band has two girls doesn’t qualify it as a chick band. [Renaming ourselves SIR] was a big change for the better.”
Since recording new music in early 2016, SIR has been busy touring the United States in support of the band’s first single, “Go.” Now there’s a second single, “So Cold,” and a brand-new music video. “So Cold” was one of the first songs that came out of the Los Angeles recording sessions.
In the video, a romantic relationship falls apart. It opens with a fight. Doors slam, an ex’s belongings are collected in a cardboard box and then tossed into a raging bonfire in the middle of a desert. Despite the tumultuous emotions associated with breakups, the video maintains a triumphant tone. It even shows all three bandmembers supporting the woman going through the breakup, dancing in the desert with her. They say the feelings they experienced in losing a bandmember were similar to those around a romantic split. Breakups, whether related to business or love, just aren’t easy.
The music video documents the feeling of wanting “to let go of something you know is bad for you,” O’Hara says.
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These days, SIR has one goal: to hit the road and play full-time, and its members are ready to do so as a team.
“[We] depend on each other like family — emotionally and work-wise,” Angela says. “It’s a different bond. We’re dream partners and are following the same dream [in our] hearts.”
All three have a matching tattoo that sums up their relationship. It reads: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
SIR, Thursday, September 7, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, 303-733-0230.