Q&A: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin on Being the Rudy of Indie Rock
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin is just like any other touring indie band trying to make a name for itself in the current American musical landscape. They are not very well known, nor do they have the drawing power of more well known indie groups like Matt & Kim or buzz bands like xx that can sell out a venue like Granada Theater. Instead SSLYBY finds itself hoping to have a decent crowd in the Pontiac Garage. Their drawing power can't depend on a huge marketing team behind them to draw attention to their music, because they simply don't have one.
Is Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin going to make Rock Notre Dame?
And despite the fact the band has found itself with at least one big-name indie rock supporter from the beginning of it's career, the band still relies mostly on word-of-mouth as its best means to bring an audience to them.
So why should you even care about this band in the first place? Because it has the uncanny ability to craft well-written, incredibly catchy indie-pop/rock that's on par with more well known bands whose albums can be hit or miss. The band may only be three albums into its career, but Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin are finding themselves at the top of their game, musically.
I recently caught up with guitarist/drummer/songwriter, Philip Dickey, as he and the band traveled from Lawrence, KS to their show in Denver, CO in advance of their show at The Pontiac Garage inside the House of Blues. I was able to pick his brain about how they were able to get Death Cab For Cutie's Chris Walla as a producer on their latest album, Let It Sway, how he feels about being in an indie band and how they compare to themselves to Rudy.
On your new album, you worked with Chris Walla from Death Cab For Cutie. Can you tell me how he came to work on Let It Sway?
Let me see, we basically did the the first two albums, recording [and producing], on our own. This time we thought it would be a good idea to work with a producer in a real studio. So, we started thinking about producers we wanted to work with and Chris was one of them. So, we sent him an email asking him if he knew of anyone who could help us record, and he actually said he wanted to do it. It was just really good timing.
Did you know Chris before then or was it just a "cold call?"
He had actually heard some of our songs on Myspace in 2005 before we had really gotten much attention at all. So, he was one of the first people we got to know from a bigger band that we liked and had seen before in concert. And actually, when he found us early on he was sending tapes and CD's to music labels for us trying to get us signed, we've actually known him for a while.
Your album Pershing was a big step toward a more indie-pop/rock sound, and Let It Sway seems to be another step in that direction. Was that your mindset going into the studio creating these songs?
We didn't really put too much thought into what the direction was going to be. We spent the whole summer at our guitarist Will [Knauer's] house just rehearsing and trying to come up with some catchy stuff, ya know? And since this was the first time we weren't recording ourselves we could concentrate on songwriting and not worry about, ya know, how the drums were sounding. I think the mindset just to write the best songs possible and to plan it out too much for us wasn't what we wanted to talk about. We just wanted to go in [the studio] and make an album.
You guys have gotten some attention from Spin, Paste and Pitchfork but, it doesn't seem like you have a big underground following, per se.
I'm not sure how to answer that, I can never tell what is going on as far as if we're getting a lot of press, or on the internet or not, it's all really kind of confusing. We kind of gauge it by the amount of people that are in certain cities. We were just in Lawrence, KS and we usually do really good there. But, this time there wasn't as many people at the show, so I'm hoping it was just a fluke or something.
I was reading an article the other day where Caleb Followill from Kings of Leon said he would not want to be in an indie band because they only make two albums and then are never heard from again. Is that something that your band worries about?
Well, I mean, yes. If the Kings of Leon guys were to experience what our band has been through it took us six years to make our first record. And after that we were touring and recording and not selling a lot of records. So, I know exactly what he's talking about. But, it's still really exciting trying to connect all the dots and grow word of mouth and people telling their friends about our music. That's one of the coolest things. If we had [Kings of Leon's] tour manager and got to play on awards shows or some stupid MTV show, which seems like a crazy thing to do in life, it would be cool. But I like the way our career has gone. Sometimes people ask if we would change anything, now that we've toured for a while, would we change anything and I wouldn't. This has been my dream since Junior High to be in a band and travel around seeing cities I've never seen before and playing music on an nightly basis. So, I can't really complain.
Being in an indie band is almost like having someone root for their favorite struggling pro sports team or player who has stayed on the same team and has been struggling forever.
So you're saying you're the Rudy of indie rock?
I guess so, yeah. It's just kinda like, ya know, [we're in] the minor leagues ya know? But, the cool thing about it is people like us just as much as bigger bands with better instruments and bigger shows and stuff like that. There's something really nice about seeing a small band that you really like and getting to hang out with them before or after the show, that's what our shows are like. We like to be able to hang out with our fans.
SSLYBY performs Tuesday, November 23, at House of Blues Cambridge Room