Hailing from Venice Beach, California, Russian “Rockenrol” band Red Elvises made their way through Syracuse, NY on a warm Tuesday evening, a much welcome blessing from Mother Nature for these parts.
Touring machine they are, and with 11 studio albums under their belt, Red Elvises certainly have enough output to start a raging party. And lets not forget to mention the plethora of additional goodies, like TV and film credits, in their bag. The group stays in constant motion, and if you want to be in the music game, that’s just what you need to do.
Thanks to my bartender-extraordinaire, Colleen, over at Beer Belly Deli, I managed to sit down with Igor Yuzov to talk about Red Elvises vast stylistic inclusions in their music, how the group stays as active on the road as they do, and where the second half of 2013 will take them.
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! How is everything going?
IY- Great. It’s great in Syracuse and I’ve never seen it so beautiful, warm, and inviting. It’s great! I love it.
G- That’s funny, because neither have we! It’s winter about 10 months per year here it seems.
IY- (laughing) Yeah we’ve been here before. Now is a great time to visit.
G- You brought some Venice Beach with you, huh?
IY- Yeah. We put it in the van and brought it over here.
G- Right on! Well, I have to admit a secret… This is the first time I’m ever going to see you. I’ve listened to some of the Youtube stuff, and for some of our readers who may not know who you are, please introduce the members in the group. I know it kind of revolves, but tell us what they play?
IY- Well, it’s revolving all the time, but tonight we have Oleg Barnov on bass, Sarah Johnson on flute and saxophone, Dres Maithe on keyboard and vocals, and Garrett morris on drums.
G- Very good. Now to get into your history a little bit, when did you start Red Elvises and how did everybody come together in the first place?
IY- We started about 17 years ago, maybe 18 by now. It’s a long time ago. We started playing on the streets in Venice Beach and Santa Monica, and we kind of picked up people and started hiring for parties and festivals. After that, it’s all history. 17 years ago.
G- And you guys spend a vast majority of your time on the road, correct?
IY- Yeah a lot! Like about 8-9 months per year. Almost like The Rolling Stones (laughs)
G- Almost, except your tickets aren’t $830.
IY- Yeah it’s $10 or $15. I don’t know. (laughs)
G- That’s good! I’d actually pay that to see The Rolling Stones, and I’d pay that to see you guys as well!
I want to talk a little bit more about your touring, because you guys are road dogs, constantly on the road and always playing shows. How do you keep up such a schedule on the road, and what was the inspiration behind that in the first place?
IY- I don’t know. There was nothing else we could do… Not much. It’s just a fun job going to new places, meeting new people, and I think we see people on a much better side, so we’re very grateful. It’s a great thing. People love the band, they love the music, they want to give something back, and it’s a great feeling. Your day is not wasted!
G- And do Red Elvises have any fun rituals or anything you do on the road that is partial to the band on their own?
IY- We used to get drunk, but after so many years on the road, we don’t do it as much. We’re taking it slower.
But, I guess that was the ritual.
G- Drunk is good! I’ve been drunk before, and if I’m not careful I’ll be drunk by the end of the set tonight!
Now, you guys have 11 recorded CD’s, correct?
IY- Probably. I kinda lost track (laughs.)
G- Alright! That’s because you guys are so busy, and that’s a good thing! But do you guys have any studio plans in the works?
IY- Yeah we’re actually playing lots of new songs which we haven’t recorded yet. We wanted to see people’s reactions from the fans and see if they’re liking it. It’s a great thing… We just decided to play the songs live and only if the people like them (will) we put them on tape. Kind of sneaky move, but why not?
G- There’re no rules in this game… Give them what they want!
And do you have plans to jump into the studio after this tour, or are you still working?
IY- We’re probably just going to go there for a couple of days. We don’t want to spend much time in the studio. And also, I don’t really like spending much time in the studio. It’s a little bit of a different job, so… you know.
G- I can agree with that. I’m a live guy and not a studio guy, so I know.
Now, it might be a difficult one, but give me 4 albums that anyone who likes Red Elvises should own… GO!
IY- Red Elvises “Drinking With Jesus,” Red Elvises “I Want to See You Bellydance,” Red Elvises “Live in Montana,” and Red Elvises “Lunatics and Poets.” Those are my favorites.
G- Ok so you heard it here from the man himself… If you like Red Elvises, buy Red Elvises! You don’t need anything else if you’re into them!
Now let me ask… You have a large catalogue and a lot of songs, but if you could give one album or one song to someone who’d never heard Red Elvises before, what song or album would you give them and why?
IY- I’d probably give the song “Rocketman.” And probably “Bellydance” or our earlier stuff. But that’s, I guess, how people know us from, and kind of created that trademark sound. It’s surf and rockabilly and Russian music, so that’s a trademark, I guess.
G- Now, you play many different styles of music, so do you find yourself changing sets up every evening?
IY- Definitely. We don’t even have a song list, and pretty much try to keep it as entertaining as possible, because we do like 6-7 shows a week, and I would hate to play the same songs over and over again.
But we have a catalogue of about 50-60 songs which we can pick out.
G- Keeping it fresh! The band has to be entertained, too!
Now, if you can recall, do you have a particularly memorable show that you’ve played or do you have a favorite performances that you’ve had as Red Elvises?
IY- One of the biggest shows that we ever played was Live Aid in Moscow.
IY- It just happened to be that way, and it’s great when you get emails from all over the world, like Korea and Japan and US, and they say ‘Ahhh we saw you guys!’ They were broadcasting it all over the world, and it’d be Madonna, Paul McCartney… We were in good company.
G- That’s awesome! And to finish it up today because you have to get inside to play, you’ve been on the road for a long time and you’ve done a lot of recorded output and performances… Clearly a professional who does this for a living.
There are a lot of kids out here who want to do the same thing, and a lot of up and coming bands as well. From your experience, what advice would you give some of these young kids who want to try to do what Red Elvises are doing and play music and tour?
IY- My advice would be what Bob Hope gave when he was asked ‘What advice would you give to young performers?’ He said “Always take your wallet with you on the stage!” So, I agree with Bob Hope. (laughing)
G- That’s a good one! That makes a lot of sense, especially if you’ve ever had anything stolen from you while you’ve been on tour.
IY- (laughing) That’s my big advice. The rest, they’ll figure out themselves.
G- That’s excellent! Well look Igor, I want to say thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! Play a great show tonight, travel safe, and we look forward to doing the again!
IY- Thank you very much.