On a crisp November morning at The Bagelry in downtown Santa Cruz, Heather Houston swoops in like a hippified Uma Thurman, or perhaps an urban sherpa on a vision quest. Her quartet of a cappella singers, Sirenz, whose music sounds like a cross between Zap Mama and a goddess choir, has been seeking higher ground together for three and a half years. The project grew out of an earlier band called Dis Moi, which featured Samantha Keller, Houston and Tamara Fogel. When Fogel moved back to Canada, Houston brought in friends Molly Hartwell and Amber Mendez, and Sirenz was born. The group performs original compositions, as well as traditional songs from different cultures with original arrangements. Not your typical a cappella group, Sirenz is fresh, real, and eclectic. Mendez provides a "steady percussive beat which is different then you would hear in most a cappella groups—a little heavier on the bass,” explains Houston, and their voices lift and twist like a Celtic knot. She adds that their friendship "informs the way we sing and write with each other." The women will write independently and then come together and mid-wife each other’s songs in a creative birthing process that supports one another’s vision. Not merely seeking to entertain, Sirenz strives to create a deep connection with its audience. "We want to help create a beautiful planet, and touch people’s hearts, and inspire them,” says Houston. "We come together onstage to bring together an evolution of consciousness and heart. Our lyrics are very potent, very visionary." The foursome’s performances at the Beloved Festival in Oregon and opening for Michael Franti in Bali were highlights of 2011. And their self-titled debut full-length, now available at Streetlight Records, will be released at the Backstage Lounge on Saturday, Nov. 26.
INFO: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26. Backstage Lounge, 1209 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $15. 469-9900.
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