Red Elvises
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October 10, 2008

THE RED ELVISES are a party band, as you might expect from the title of their latest album, "Drinking With Jesus." A group of mostly Russian emigres playing surfabilly and singing comical lyrics in a Russian accent, dropping "a," "an" and "the," for effect, the Red Elvises' 13th album continues their tradition of reliably enjoyable novelty music with a few terrific tunes per platter. "Jesus" isn't their best album, but considering the political climate, it might be their most diplomatically important.

Since their early albums, they've cultivated eclecticism. Here, there's the klezmer-influenced "Lara's Wedding," the shantylike "Into the Sun," the cabaret "Paris Waltz" and the interesting but unsatisfying N'awlins-inflected album closer, "Bourbon Street." The rest of the songs are less distinguishable, though "Twist Like Uma Thurman" nearly lives up to its nonsensically playful name.

The band has undergone several personnel changes in its 13-year career, but the sound hasn't changed much, as lead guitarist Igor Yuzov and bass balalaika player Oleg Bernov have hewed closely to the surf rock and American kitsch they've been winking at since their first record. The Red Elvises are at their best live. They're silly and fun. What more do you need?

-- Alexander F. Remington - The Washington Post


By Rick Gershman
The Navigator
March 24, 2006
On tap tonight: Red Elvises and Skipper’s Smokehouse, a match made in Soviet surf rock heaven.

Well, it is for now. Get out and see ‘em soon, because you never know what could happen.

Hey, I only worry because one of my favorite local music venues, Ybor City’s the Masquerade, shuttered last month.

Man, I loved the Masquerade. Under that name and in its previous incarnation as the Ritz, I enjoyed shows by the Afghan Whigs to Fishbone to Smashing Pumpkins. All were unforgettable.

And I can’t even remember what I ate for breakfast this morning.

(My editor’s going to want me to clarify the joke, but I’m not giving in.)

I made this next point a little while ago on my blog, The Ill Literate (official motto: Corrupting Debutantes Since 2005). As I’m writing about Skipper’s it’s appropriate to note it again.

Someday some idiot is going to want to tear down Skipper’s to build a condominium.

Don’t panic, I’m not saying it’s going to happen tomorrow.

(However, I am saying that tomorrow the Earth will crash into the sun. Just a heads-up.)

You might have noticed that at this rate, every single good thing in Tampa Bay – and every bad thing too – eventually will be torn down to build a condominium.

And I will laugh and laugh and laugh at their fate.

From my home.

In a culvert.

So until that horrible day when North Tampa’s musical jewel becomes some ungodly combination of the words “Bay� or “Sky� or “Sun� with the words “Pointe� or “Glade� or “Vista,� let’s enjoy Skipper’s as much as we can.

Which brings me to tonight’s Red Elvises, which bills itself as a surf rock group from Siberia. Actually, two members hail from Russia, one from Kazakhstan and one from Minnesota.

I first saw the Elvises when they appeared in the cult film Six-String Samurai, and since then I’ve caught them a solid half-dozen times – most recently a couple of months ago at Skipper’s.

They’re pretty much the perfect band to see at Skipper’s backyard concert area, a.k.a. the Skipperdome, where you have a few beers and dance in the Florida air before it becomes too hot.

Which should happen, oh, by tomorrow.

And when you go, if you feel your body start to shake uncontrollably with an insistent rhythm, don’t worry – it’s not bulldozers coming to clear land for a condo.

It’s just the Elvises.

Well... probably.

Best come out and support Skipper’s just to be safe.

Rick Gershman can be reached at rgershman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3431. His Times blog, The Ill Literate, is at www.sptimes.com/blogs/tampaarts/
- Tampa City Times


Thursday, 03 November 2005
The Red Elvises
November 5 @ The Tractor Tavern
By Tyson Lynn

They learned their English from The Beatles and Queen. They love Thai pop. They won the International Band Competition on Ed McMahon's Star Search. They blend good old rock'n'roll with ethnic music from Russia, and they're influenced by Chuck Berry and Fidel Castro. They are the Red Elvises, and they're coming to kick ass and boogie all night.

Founded in 1995 by singer/songwriter Igor Yuzov and actor/bass-balalaika player Oleg Bernov in Los Angeles, Calif., two Russian political refugees, The Red Elvises grew out of the ashes of a Russian folk-rock band Limpopo. Yuzov and Bernov soon added guitarist Zhenya Kolykhanov (or Zhenya Rock as he is legally known now) and Texas drummer Avi Sills to the lineup. Within months, the band outgrew Santa Monica's famed 3rd Street Promenade, eventually being politely, but firmly, asked to leave as their crowds interfered with the shops' business.

By 1996, the band had recorded and released their debut CD on their own Shooba-Doobah Records. Entitled Grooving to the Moscow Beat, it was quickly followed by 1997's Surfing in Siberia. Continuing to tour as they recorded and released their albums, The Red Elvises became known to fans as "America's Singing Sweethearts", a motto that drew crowds into the bars and onto the dancefloor.

But it was a different type of dancing that their 1998 album promoted. I Wanna See You Bellydance dropped to growing acclaim, followed soon after with their appearance in both Lance Mungia's independent film Six-String Samurai and its soundtrack. Not long for the big screen, the Red Elvises stopped by both Melrose Place and Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular, womehow making the leap from movies to TV drama to variety show seem easy, natural, and right.

Instead of slowing down, the Red Elvises spent 1999 releasing three new albums. "Better Than Sex, Russian Bellydance, and Live At The Great American Music Hall were a new collection of songs, a Russian language version of I Wanna See You Bellydance and a sweaty and stellar live set from San Francisco's famed Great American Music Hall respectively. Not only that, but the band returned to TV melodrama by playing in Malibu to promote Beverly Hills 90210.

2000 saw a transition in the Red Elvises. Their seventh CD, Shake Your Pelvis, turned away from the guitar-oriented rock for a more electronic techno style, and longtime drummer Avi Sills left the band. Choosing not to replace Sills, on tour the band traded off drumming duties song by song, often culminating in a percussion freakout to end the show.

During 2001, the prolific Red Elvises released two new studio albums. The first, Welcome to the Freakshow, was written entirely by Igor, the second, Bedroom Boogie, by Zhenya. The writing division proved to be the beginning of another major shake-up in the band.

But first: another year, another Red Elvises release. This one entitled Rokenrol and recorded almost entirely in Russian. In the midst of touring and recording, Zhenya began a side project that eventually became his main band. By the end of the year, he announced his departure from the Red Elvises.

Again, the split only sped the band along. This time the band added leg "Schramm" Gorbunov on keyboards and accordion and new American drummer Adam Gust to the line-up and it was this permutation of the Red Elvises that returned to the big screen (and speakers) with their appearance in Mail Order Bride and on its soundtrack.

This iteration proved shakier than usual. By the end of the year, both Schramm and Gust decided to pursue other opportunities, forcing original members Igor and Oleg to reinvent the Elvies anew. To that end, they added three new members: American-of-Ukranian-descent Roman Dudok on saxophone and flute, American drummer Craig Pilo, and a new Russian, Alex "Sasha" on keyboards. Back on track, the band started off 2004 with a brand new CD entitled Lunatics and Poets.

Their history might read like a Tolstoy novel, but live they're hornier than Lolita and hungrier than Kafka. Show up and get ready to proclaim them "your new favorite band."

- NadaMucho.com


Author: David A. Kulczyk
Added: 03/20/2001
Type: Interview
www.maximumink.com

Imagine growing up in the old Soviet Union and playing Rock and Roll music? But you have a bigger dream, to play Rock and Roll in the country where it all started, The United States of America.

That's what the Red Elvises did and have been making America a better place to live. The "now" Venice Beach, California based band have been taking their Eastern Europe style of Rock and Roll to everywhere and anywhere they can plug in their amplifiers. "We speak the language that people understand," said Oleg, the former balalaika player.

Oleg Bernov, Igor Yuzoz and Zhenya Kolykhanov have throughout their Red Elvises career, played bass, guitar, and lead guitar respectively, but now because of the loss of their longtime American drummer Avi Sills, the Red Elvises all take turns playing bass, drums and guitar. "Now it's a 3 piece band," said Oleg. "Our American drummer is gone, spontaneously combusted like in Spinal Tap."

But being the competent musicians that they are, they are enjoying playing even more, as if that's possible. "Everybody is loving it," said Oleg. "We got that spirit like at 15 we were just learning to play guitars; we got the same vibe going on, so much enthusiasm. It's more hard rock now, not so schmaltzy."

Last year I had the pleasure of watching "The Red Elvises Live on the Pacific Ocean" video at a reporter's conference. The video is hilarious with the Red Elvises choreography, their great stage outfits and innocent love of rock and roll music. Trying their hardest at playing good and more importantly feeling the passion. "The point is to have fun," said Oleg . "Otherwise there's no point in doing it. So we just having fun and let everyone else have fun too."

It usually takes an immigrant one generation to adapt to a new culture (my grandparents were all from Poland), but the members of the Red Elvises compounded their time by all that playing and touring. The two new CD's simultaneously released in March, "Welcome to the Freak Show" and "Bedroom Boogie" captures the isolation of the rugged individualist that America has been known for throughout the world. James Dean's eyes captured it 45 years ago. The Marlboro Man summarized it with a cowboy hat, a fire and a cigarette. Tom Waites , Chris Issac, Jeffery Lee Pierce, Marques Bovre, Gary Heffern, Peter Case, Mark Eitzel, Nicholas Cage , Spike Lee, Richard Hell, William Burroughs, young Marlon Brando and Paul Newman all have it in their voice or manners. The Red Elvises have it, the sound of America. "The songs really go into the heart," Oleg told me. "We can really relate to the songs."

- Maximum Ink


Notes From Underground
The Red Elvises join the party

by Glen Hirshberg

It's raining, December, well after midnight, and inside Rusty's Surf Ranch, the Russians have stormed the floor again. They come in a torso-wriggling, leg-jiggling wave. They are smoking, laughing, shouting to the music. The girl with the perfect pale skin and streaked red braid circulates through them, strewing laughter and mischief; right now, she's dancing with the towering man. The man obviously knows her - they all do. He's more serious about his steps than the others. Shifting his weight. Dipping his head with awkward but undeniable grace. Occasionally, he looks up at the Red Elvises onstage, as if making sure they're real, and there. Which they are - blazing dyed hair, bass balalaika the size of a steam shovel, gonzo glasses and all.

"Yeah, it's strange," muses Oleg Bernov several days later, balalaika stowed and hair freshly re-dyed. "When we played Russian music, Russians rarely came. But now that we're the Red Elvises, it's 'Hey, those are our boys!'"

What the Red Elvises play now is hard to define. Elvis, for starters; they do a thundering "Blue Moon" that generally ends with singer/guitarist Igor Yuzov in the audience, poised over (or on) a table, his entire skeleton shuddering, not merely mimicking but channeling The King. They also do blistering surf tunes, country stomps, tango, klezmer. They sound like committed career musicians who, as one Yuzov lyric goes, "belly-danced in Istanbul/To songs by ABBA and Nirvana."

And they perform with the practiced abandon of street musicians. Which is what Oleg Bernov has been ever since he arrived here seven years ago from Vologda, northeast of Moscow. First he hooked up with fellow expatriates who had already formed Limpopo, a dance band specializing in ethnic Russian music, and became a fixture on the Venice Boardwalk. "We made a living pretty fast," Bernov remembers. "We played parties, weddings. We won International Star Search" (in late 1993). And then, he says, they stagnated.

So, having reunited with a childhood Vologda friend, guitarist Zhenya Kolykhanov, Bernov returned to the Boardwalk, and the Third Street Promenade, to play rock & roll. "Just for fun," he says. Yuzov, another Limpopo veteran, joined them, followed by drummer Avi Sills (recently arrived from far-off Austin).

Then people started to watch.

And dance.

The street has trained them well. Onstage, the Elvises run a relentless circus of movement, costume changes, synchronized hand gestures and leg kicks. The energy they generate can galvanize 50 fans in Rusty's or a few thousand on the Santa Monica Pier, where the Elvises stole an evening from El Vez this summer and recorded a videotape they've recently licensed to PBS for national broadcast.

At the core of their considerable appeal is a goofy naivete, the sense that they are four repressed Soviets let loose on the playground of capitalist pop. And Oleg Bernov is canny enough to know it. "We have a huge advantage not growing up in the capitalist system," he says. "We came up with a product, learned how to sell it. So many other musicians here are trapped in the system. They run from band to band, look for club dates, the record deal. We just played on the Promenade, refined our craft." On the Promenade, "If you're bad, no one cares. If you're good, you get immediate feedback. Besides," he says, delivering what feels like a polished gullible-Soviet line, "this is a great place for street performers. It's illegal to rain here."

When I point out that it's raining as we speak, he says, "Yes, well. Illegal to rain on weekends." Then he laughs. "The truth is, it's not that complicated being a capitalist. You just be true to yourself."

On the back of their 1996 Grooving to the Moscow Beat CD, the Elvises proclaim themselves "the legendary legends of Siberian surf music." They do not proclaim themselves the best party band in Los Angeles, but they may well be. They're also a rarity here these days - a neighborhood band, spawned in this place and unmistakably of it, equal parts flash and shrewdness and wild-eyed hope. Their third CD appears in the spring. In February, VH1 will run a documentary on street performers featuring the band. A movie deal may be looming for the Red Elvises' story. There's a Web site (www.redelvises.com).

Most of all, there's the live show. On that December night, I stand at the bar and watch my wife and her sister and the Russians and the bartenders grin to the goofy lyrics ("My darling Lorraine/you dance insane"), glance up during the interludes of startlingly soulful soloing from Kolykhanov and - mostly - carom around the dance floor like dreidels perpetually re-spun. And I suddenly remember watching some TV special about the birth of rock & roll with my father, who had a regional hit single in the late '50s.

The show talked about parental fears and teen rebellion. And my father stirred and said, "No. That's wrong. We weren't rebelling. We couldn't even imagine why anyone was objecting. It was just the happiest sound we'd ever heard."

- LA Weekly


March 22, 2000--by Arsenio Orteza

"The name Siberia," writes the historian W. Bruce Lincoln, "comes from the Tatar term Sibir, meaning ‘sleeping land.’" Exactly how that land got any sleep, however, with Igor Yuzov, Oleg Bernov, and Zhenya Kolykhanov honing their chops in its frozen wastes neither Lincoln nor any other competent authority has so far ventured to guess.

Yuzov, Bernov, and Kolykhanov native Siberians each, comprise three fourths of the Red Elvises, as rousing a combo of rock-and-roll rebels as has ever rocked a joint, a casbah, a jailhouse, or a gulag. Since their 1996 relocation to Los Angeles--and their recruitment of the Austin-Texas-based drummer Avi Sills--they’ve released five albums on their own Shooba-Doobah label (six if you count Russian Bellydance, the Russian-language version of their 1998 masterpiece I Wanna See You Bellydance), made numerous television appearances (Melrose Place, Penn and Teller’s Sin City Spectacular), played all over the soundtrack of Six-String Samurai, and toured with an enthusiastic determination not necessarily uninspired by their belated access to Western capital. "And for the past three years," reads the "Highlights" link of their website, "they’ve performed just about daily on the very populated 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica."

Beginning on Thursday, March 23, at the Bayou in Baton Rouge and concluding on Saturday, March 25, at the Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans, the Red Elvises will attempt a Louisiana hat trick, the middle gig of which will take place this Friday, March 24, at the Grant Street Dancehall. The ostensible reason for their current tour is the promotion of their new long player, Shake Your Pelvis. The real reason, though, may be something closer to a covert operation: had the U.S.S.R. offered the free world rock and roll this sharp, satirical, and sexy, even the coldest Cold Warrior would’ve had to get out of the kitchen.

The Elvises spent their first two albums, Grooving to the Moscow Beat (’96) and Surfing in Siberia (’97), transforming their "Siberian surf-rock" from a parodic novelty into a genuinely infectious and affectionate mock-up of the original California kind. On originals such as "Love Pipe," "Boogie on the Beach," and "Scorchi Chornie," as well as on their surf-rock rendition of Brahms’ "Hungarian Dance #5," they proved that neither the Ventures nor the Shadows had anything on their ten-hanging guitar twang or ubangi-stomping drum ruckus. And with a "Good Golly Miss Molly" that wasn’t Little Richard’s and an "I Wanna Rock n’ Roll All Night" that wasn’t Kiss’s, they also began what has since become a band tradition--the matching of original, none-too-shabby material with classic rock-and-roll titles.

By I Wanna See You Bellydance, they’d added not only a "Rocketman" that beat Elton John’s and an "All I Wanna Do" that rivaled Bob Dylan’s but also a stylistic breadth that verged on virtuosity without endangering the group’s sense of humor. Yuzov’s and Kolykhanov’s lead vocals, while still occasionally self-mockingly Russian sounding, had taken on that international lack of accent the existence of which Beatle fans used to acknowledge when they’d say, "Funny, they don’t sing British." Furthermore, Yuzov had mastered English idioms: "I gave her a ring," he sings in "Sad Cowboy Song." "She gave me the finger." And in the delicate instrumental "After the Carnival," the group achieved actual beauty.

Bellydance also began the Red Elvis tradition of risqu� album covers, a tradition that would continue with Better Than Sex (’98). Less ambitious than Bellydance, Sex nevertheless represented more than a holding pattern. In "Strip Joint Is Closed" the group added a spot-on Tom Waits impersonation to their growing list of assimilations. In "Mamasita" (rhymes with "I really like your body, Senorita") they assimilated Doug Sahm.

But Sex’s most pregnant number was "Closet Disco Dancer," a song in which Yuzov confesses to having traded Police records for Bee Gees ones back in 1985 and a song that turned out to foreshadow the uncloseted disco that thumps through much of Shake Your Pelvis (a title, incidentally, that constitutes the Elvises’ first idiomatic misstep in some time--one thrusts one’s pelvis, one shakes one’s hips).

In addition to "Everybody Disco" (a funnier disco send-up than Frank Zappa’s "Dancin’ Fool"), there are "Beat of a Drum" and "Techno Surfer," cool, hooky excursions into ’80’s-style electro-throb that would be the best songs ever recorded by this ever-evolving foursome if not for "Rocketship" (cosmic double entendres set to Bangly jangle) and "Girls Gonna Boogie Tonight," a song so catchy that the dancefloor denizens at whom it’s clearly aimed may be the last to notice the deftness with which it bends surf, R&B, and rockabilly to its own mercenary designs. "Ve are no longer Communists," they proclaim inside the cover of Better Than Sex, "so ve vill take your money."

And, if rock and roll were an Olympic event, the Red Elvises would take the gold. - The Times of Acadiana


Discography

Drinking With Jesus - 2008 Album

30 Greatest Hits - 2007 Compilation

Live In Moscow - 2007 DVD

Lunatics & Poets - 2004 Album

Rokenrol - 2002 Album

Welcome To The Freak Show - 2001 Album

Shake Your Pelvis - 2000 Album

Better Than Sex - 1999 Album

Russian Bellydance - 1999 Album

Live At The Great American Music Hall - 1999 Double Live Album

I Wanna See You Bellydance - 1998 Album

Surfing In Siberia - 1997 Album

Grooving To The Moscow Beat - 1996 Album

Photos

Bio

RED ELVISES have been conquering the hearts of screaming fans all over the world for over ten years with diverse, upbeat music and amusing lyrics that demand (quite literally at times) that you "shake your ass". Constantly touring the globe, with tours all over America, Europe and Russia, they have gained a long-standing reputation as "the hardest working band in show business". They are also known to be extremely talented, over-the-top showmen, complete with outrageously sexy costumes and personalities to match. Their shows include audience conga lines, bellydancing and a drum "solo" that includes the entire band playing one drum set simultaneously. These acts, among others, continually justify their title as the world's greatest "Rokenrol Vaudevillians".

Red Elvises have maintained their independent status by declining several major record deals, instead producing all their own work. Their eclectic career includes 10 studio albums, a double live album, a live concert DVD and a "Greatest Hits" compilation. Along with work in cinematography (Six String Samurai, Mail Order Bride, Armageddon, Skippy) and television (Melrose Place, Fastlane, Penn and Teller's Sin City Extravaganza, VH-1 Behind the Music, MTV), Red Elvises remain one of the best live performance bands ever. Currently they reside in Venice, CA, where they continue to pursue numerous film and music projects.

See videos and hear more music on the Red Elvises MySpace profile at www.myspace.com/igorandredelvises and the official website at www.redelvises.com