When Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin chose their name back in high school, they never had any intention of making a political statement. Thirteen years later, however, recent events have brought them closer to the man in question than anyone could have dreamed.
After being specially invited by the Boris Yeltsin Foundation, SSLYBY became the first American band to ever play and headline Old Nu, Russia’s largest winter music festival, this past January. But that’s just where the story begins.
“I thought it was horrible joke and one of my friends was messing with me,” says Phil Dickey. “We figured out that it was real and the Boris Yeltsin Foundation was sponsoring a big music festival in Yekateringburg where Yeltsin began his political career. The US Consulate heard about us going there and worked out a program with an English speaking school in the same town where we would interact with the students for a cultural exchange. They named us cultural ambassadors for a day—which we are all putting on our resumes. We did a rock show at the festival and then an acoustic show at the school. We ate lunch with Boris Yeltsin’s friends and his personal translator at an elementary school. We ate borscht and they gave us 7 bottles of vodka. A national news crew followed us around the whole time and they made us perform Boris Yeltsin’s favorite song on the spot. We had to learn it by listening to an iPod. A lot of the stuff that happened we couldn’t make up.”
Taking those memories home with them, the band immediately returned to their attic studio in Springfield, Missouri to start writing and recording a new album. “We were sleep deprived and jetlagged, but I was itching to get these songs down. Any band that gets to play music and travel is very fortunate. But you lose the plot when you start thinking about popularity and the business side. This really was the true moment where we thought about how this nonsense band name in high school connected these words that we put together, and our whole art project somehow got us to Russia and connected us to these foreign leaders and the US Consulate. It was the one time in my life where I thought ‘words have power, art has power’. I think it says something more powerful than you can say politically. People get along when they’re talking about art or music. That’s why we had to do it right away.”
The resulting ‘Fly by Wire’, won’t be out until September, but the results are filled with rhythmically ripe tracks of sentimental revelry fit for the last rays of summer. Taking bits of Russian imagery from the people, literature and art they internalized oversees, the record soars and swoons with lush melodies, hushed harmonies and catchy-as-hell, gentle pop gems.
“Each song had a different place we were coming from,” says Dickey. “We were just trying to make the parts dance together and sound simple and really warm, like it could be played on your sister’s cassette player.”