The Songs of The Sirens

The Songs of The Sirens

Local all-female band plays at Firehouse Grill this weekend.

The Sirens are an all-female rock band based in Alexandria. Melissa Duncan (lead vocals, percussion) is from Springfield, Kristin Gray (bass, backing vocals) is from Vienna, Cindy Chambers (guitar, backing vocals) is from Alexandria, and Kaeri Johnson (drums) lives in Washington, D.C. They describe themselves as "professionals by day and rock chicks by night." Recently, Chambers and Duncan answered some questions about the band and their upcoming show at Firehouse Grill via e-mail.

What is the history of The Sirens?

Chambers: The Sirens were originally formed in January 2002. Melissa and I and our former drummer, Tammy Hooper, were in a band together. When the bass player in that band left the group, we decided we wanted to form an all-female group so we put an ad out looking for a female bass player. Kristin was a perfect fit. Although we each come from different bands, backgrounds and influences, we all share a great sense of humor, which is reflected in our songs.

We recorded, produced and released our debut CD, "Bad Girls," in 2003 at Cue Recording Studio in Falls Church. Our sound is primarily high-energy rock and roll with a classic punk edge. In 2003, we received three Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) award nominations, two for the CD itself (for Debut Recording and Rock Recording) and one in the New Artist category. In 2005, we experienced our first lineup change. Tammy moved on to pursue other interests, so we put out another ad for a female drummer and we were fortunate to find Kaeri who had just moved to Northern Virginia from North Carolina. We are currently working on material for our second CD.

What do you like about the Northern Virginia music scene?

Chambers: There are lots of great bands and musicians in the area, and the fans that come out to support local musicians are awesome. I also think the music scene is pretty diverse for the most part. It's great to have a few clubs that feature local music like the Firehouse Grill in Fairfax City, Jammin' Java in Vienna, Jaxx in Springfield, and the Laughing Lizard Lounge in Alexandria. These venues not only offer musicians the opportunity to showcase their own material but give music fans the opportunity to hear diverse musical styles.

Musical influences:

Chambers: My biggest influences in terms of playing guitar are Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. I spent hours in my room as a kid trying to learn every song note for note! Unfortunately, there are not a lot of female role models when it comes to playing lead guitar.

Duncan: The ones that immediately pop up in my head include Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, REM, The Velvet Underground, and of course the Ramones.

Non-musical influences:

Duncan: Most of my influences come from the people I come in contact with on a daily basis. My life experiences have been my greatest influences. They make for great songs.

Chambers: All the songs on our CD are about "bad girls," and tell a story about a fictional character with some sort of unique twist and a sense of humor. The influences for our songs are mostly based on observations of people and society. Human behavior, dysfunctional relationships and social interactions are great fuel for a Sirens song, whether it's from a real life experience or from an article you read in the newspaper. I don't think we'll have a shortage of song material anytime soon.

Most surreal band moment:

Duncan: Opening up for the Misfits. They are one of my favorite bands and I don't know what was more fun — playing or hanging out backstage like a couple of teenagers trying to meet Marky Ramone. It was such an adrenaline rush and very surreal.

Chambers: I agree, it was very surreal, but we did get to meet him and get his autograph, Another surreal moment was getting a phone call late one night from a friend who was listening to the radio and heard a song from The Sirens CD on the radio! How cool is that!

It seems like you take a lot of pride in being an all-female group. Why is this important to you?

Chambers: There are not a lot of all-female bands around, especially playing our type of music, so we have a particular niche to fill. It's also pretty cool and powerful to have four women on stage rocking out in a genre that is pretty much male-dominated. It's also amazing the number of guys who come up to us after a show to say how much they liked our music.

Duncan: Our society in general has always been male-dominated, including the world of rock and roll music. Being in an all-female band sets a good example for all women. I'd like to think we project a positive influence and can show that rock and roll music is just another arena where females of any age can succeed.

Future plans?

Chambers: As Cyndi Lauper says, "girls just wanna have fun." Seriously, as long as it's fun and our friends and fans keep supporting us, we'll keep rocking. Right now we are writing more material for our second CD and hopefully, we'll be heading to the studio soon to record again.

The Sirens play Friday, Oct. 21, at 9 p.m., at the Firehouse Grill, located at 3988 University Drive in Fairfax. Tickets are $5. Call 703-383-1030.