BY RUSSELL CLEPPER
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
March 10, 2014
When Siri Bardarson decided to leave the security of her teaching career to pursue her muse and her dreams of artistic fulfillment, she didn’t know much about Steve Trembley.
Now, not quite two years later, the two of them will headline as Siri and Steve for the second show of the 2014 “Local Artists Series” on Friday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley.
When Bardarson decided not to return to her job at the end of her sabbatical year in 2013, she knew she wanted to play a lot of music, to write a lot and perhaps to paint. While traveling abroad that spring, she’d learned how to use a computer application that generates visual creations resembling watercolor paintings. This new capability not only satisfied her desire to produce visual creations; the reaction to the works she created and posted online during her trip convinced her that she could reach people through her creativity.
A contract to do some ghost writing for a children’s book and a gig as a blogger for Whidbey Life Magazine set her squarely on the path to blossoming as a writer, too. Soon, she was experimenting with a new electric cello and a loop machine and exploring the possibility of developing an act as a solo cellist.
In the meantime, Steve Trembley was looking for a way to base his own musical endeavors more on-island because he was tired of commuting to the mainland. Eventually, the two got together for a couple of gigs and found they connected surprisingly well.
“I think ‘Siri and Steve’ has come as a surprise to both of us!” Siri said. “We are both long-time island residents; we knew of each other and I’d even done some recording at his studio, Seventh Fret Music, many years ago. I always thought of Steve as ‘the’ guitar player who was a working musician, off-island mostly.”
They first played together when another guitarist invited Trembley to sit in with them during a gig at Blooms’ Taste for Wine & Art at Bayview Corner. They had so much fun that they were soon practicing together, rehearsing Bardarson’s set list. After continuing, at first with her electric cello, and Trembley with his nylon string Godin guitar, they soon abandoned those, along with a lot of the songs on the set list.
“One day at his house,” she said, “I brought my beautiful French acoustic cello and he got out his Gibson Johnny A. electric guitar and played it through his favorite toys—his tape delay and his Jim Kelley amp and he said, ‘Well, that’s your real instrument.’ And I said to him, ‘Well, that’s your real instrument.’ And that has been the basis of our sound.”
It wasn’t long before the duo began filling up local venues with fans who watched them progress rapidly. Both musicians have long resumes as professional gigging musicians over the years. Trembley developed his Motown-influenced style from his rock and roll days in his hometown of Flint, Michigan and later worked as a musician in Los Angeles before ending up on Whidbey. He currently plays with the group Locomotion here on the island and with Type A, a Tower of Power-style big band in Seattle. His Steve Trembley Band will headline at the Penn Cove Musselfest this year on Saturday, March 8 at 5:30 p.m. (in the big beer tent.)
Bardarson performed folk music with her twin sister, Karin, in the 70’s. Later she was lead singer for a seven-piece swing band billed as The Rhythm Boys featuring Siri Blaine. They played KPLU jazz stages, Bumbershoot and many local clubs. She wore vintage gowns and fox furs and threw rubber chickens around while ‘warbling’ Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan and Manhattan Transfer tunes.
“Trembley jokes that playing music is the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” said Bardarson. “I think that’s corny, but true. We have a really good time when we play. Steve agrees when I say we’re lucky with our creative partnership. We each have strengths that we bring to the endeavor and we really appreciate our differences.”
To prepare for their performance at WICA, the two are practicing three times weekly, up from their original once-a-week rehearsals. “And guess what?” said Bardarson, “We have really improved. Hah! Our fans even comment, and it has been really rewarding to get feedback from our listeners who have been with us while we build this thing.”
After their performance, they plan to begin work on a Christmas CD project. They also have begun developing more of their own original tunes.
Audience members at their WICA show will get to see and hear a couple of long-time area musicians hitting their stride as a duo at a privileged point in their collaboration. That is precisely the moment when mojo works its best magic.
Tickets for their performance on March 14 cost $15 and are available online at www.wicaonline.com or by calling the box office at 360-221-8268 or 1-800-638-7631.
(Photos courtesy of the artists)
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Really nice article, Russell. Having heard both Steve and Siri in their other musical endeavors over the years, I can attest to the excellence that they have brought to their individual musical pursuits. Together they create something unique. While her classical cello teachers might shriek when they see what she’s doing with her cello now, I say go for it.
Looking forward to hearing them at WICA this week.