The pop act SIR, which has built a reputation for being a pro outfit, hit a snag recently when bassist Kim O’Hara found herself facing felony charges for cultivating marijuana. The rub: She was working at a grow house for a man who had a license to grow 38 plants. He had eight rooms full.
SIR is set to release its debut full-length album, So Cold, on December 8, but as O’Hara faces multiple court dates and an uncertain future, the group’s schedule is bumpy.
The band, which comprises O’Hara, singer/guitarist Sarah Angela and drummer Luke Mehrens, formed two years ago. Like many longtime Denver musicians, the three have funded their aggressive touring schedule and high-end recordings by doing a variety of odd jobs.
“In 2016 I started working at a really big grow warehouse,” O’Hara relates. “The reason that I started is, like most musicians who have a lot of random jobs, it was another job that fell into my hands.”
The owner had a license to grow, and O’Hara assumed the operation was aboveboard, she says. “I never asked him a lot of questions. He had fire inspections and people coming in to fix and do things, but apparently he was over his plant count by quite a bit.”
Unbeknownst to O’Hara, the warehouse had been under investigation and surveillance by the Denver police since January 2016. At first she had limited knowledge and involvement in the business, but eventually she found her responsibilities increasing, and with that came a set of keys to the building, which increased her liability.
“In June we were supposed to be leaving on tour, and one of our close friends passed away, so we canceled that tour, and that’s when [my boss’s] wife went into labor. That landed me in a full-time role. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but he basically asked that I take care of everything. In November, I was out on tour when they came and busted down the warehouse, which was very fortunate for me.”
O’Hara, who had not been present for the initial police raid, had no idea that there was a warrant out for her arrest.
Around 5 p.m. on July 26, 2017, “we had just finished rehearsal, and I was driving to the studio to finish our newest anti-Trump song, and there was a police car next to me,” she recalls. “I didn’t think anything about it, but I got pulled over and taken in without any real explanation other than I had a warrant for cultivation of marijuana, which is a felony.”
The following evening, SIR was scheduled to play a 10 p.m. slot at the Underground Music Showcase.
“I was supposed to get out of jail, but I didn’t get out until 1:30 in the morning,” O’Hara says. The band missed the set.
O’Hara hired a lawyer that week, and she’s currently fighting the felony charge in court.
The ordeal has made planning what’s next for SIR a challenge. O’Hara is facing possible jail time, along with the much more likely possibility that she will be forced to stay in Colorado on probation.
“It has affected tours already; we’ve had to move stuff around for the court dates, because we don’t know when they’re gonna be,” O’Hara says. “It was great having my own schedule and being able to wear whatever I wanted [at the warehouse] — I could work for a couple of hours and pop over to a band meeting and go back.
But the lawyer fees and everything is way more than I ever made working there.”
Amid all the uncertainty, SIR is finding ways to persevere. The group will celebrate the release of So Cold on December 8 at the Marquis Theater and has plans to continue recording and releasing new material.
So Cold was recorded in response to the death of Mehrens’s fiancée in 2015. In January and February 2016, “we recorded out in L.A., at Serenity West Studios,” O’Hara says. “We got an Airbnb and lived out there for two months. We worked on rewriting some of the songs, and it was just an amazing experience. We all had these emotions and things going on that we weren’t able to say, so this album talks about a lot of that.”
Despite O’Hara’s looming legal situation, the bandmates are happy to have the project wrapped.
“We are finally releasing an album,” O’Hara says. “We’ve been this band for two years now, and it’s taken this entire time to release. We are excited to finally get this out there.”
SIR album-release party, Friday, December 8, Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer Street, $10-$12, 303-487-0111.
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