The Red Elvises: Your Favorite Band
The Red Elvises are an energetic band that are a lot of fun to see live. I like to describe their music as Russian surf rock crossed with Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. Their music isn't about art, it's about entertainment. They are great showmen, performing in wild costumes and always cracking jokes. They take their roles as entertainers seriously -- I've seen them in subdued and unhappy moods prior to a show, but they don't let that carry over into their performance. Their recorded material is enjoyable, but pales in comparison to hearing them live. When seen live, their songs are catchy and get people dancing in a hurry.
Although one of their taglines is "Kick-Ass Rock 'n' Roll from Siberia", the band actually formed in Los Angeles in 1996. The original lineup consisted of Igor Yuzov, Oleg Bernov, and Zhenya Kolykhanov (aka Zhenya Rock). Igor and Oleg had previously performed together in Limpopo, a Russian folk rock band that achieved fair success. Unlike Limpopo, most of the Red Elvises songs are in English, although they have recorded a Russian version of one of their albums, and their latest album is primarily in Russian. In concert, they sing in English unless someone requests a Russian song.
Sometime between 1996 and 1998, Avi Sills (from Austin, Texas) joined the band on drums. He left the band in December 2000. The reasons for this have not been made clear. When I asked the band about it at a concert, they were evasive and would not give a straight answer. They appear to be on somewhat good terms now, but I sense that the split was not entirely amicable. My theory is that Avi was frustrated with his lack of creative input in the band. The songs are all written and sung by the other three members, I was a disappointed about the departure of Avi -- when he was with the band, their encore set usually included Avi singing Play That Funky Music, White Boy, which was a lot of fun.
The band usually consists of drums, guitar, bass, and the electric balalaika. When Avi was with the band, he would always play drums, and the other three would switch among the rest of the instruments. Zhenya is recognized as being the superior guitar player, and so he frequently plays lead guitar. Now that Avi is no longer with the band, they each take turns playing the drums.
The three of them also take turns singing the songs, usually with the person who wrote the song being the one to sing it. It appears that their songs are not written as a collaborative effort. This became particularly clear in 2001, when they released two albums: Bedroom Boogie and Welcome to the Freak Show. Bedroom Boogie was eseentially a solo album by Zhenya, while Welcome to the Freak Show was basically a solo album by Igor. Despite this, both albums were released as Red Elvises albums, and songs from both albums are played regularly at their concerts.
Most of their time is spent touring, both within the United States and around the world (most often in Russia). When they're not on the road, they play frequently in California, most often at Rusty's Surf Ranch in Santa Monica, California.
The Red Elvises received their greatest public exposure in November 1998, when they appeared on the television show Melrose Place. They appear in a couple of scenes. Parts of the songs Stewardess In Red and Gypsy Heart (both from I Wanna See You Bellydance) can be heard.
Also in 1998, the Red Elvises provided a number of songs for the soundtrack of the movie Six String Samurai. Many of the songs used came from their other albums, but the songs Love Pipe and Boogie on the Beach appear only on the soundtrack. The band also appears in the movie itself.
Contrary to popular belief, the Red Elvises did not cover the Kit Kat jingle. In fact, Limpopo did this. Likewise there have been rumors connecting the Red Elvises and Ed McMahon. Again, it was Limpopo that won the international band competition in Star Search 1993.
The Red Elvises have released many albums over the years, and it is clear that they've learned and improved their craft over the years. If you enjoy live music, you should definitely go see them. Their current tour dates can be found on their web page, www.redelvises.com.
- Grooving To The Moscow Beat (1996, Shooba-Doobah Records)
- Surfing In Siberia (1997, Shooba-Doobah Records)
- I Wanna See You Bellydance (1998, Shooba-Doobah Records)
- Better Than Sex (1999, Shooba-Doobah Records)
- Russian Bellydance (1999, Shooba-Doobah Records) -- Russian version of I Wanna See You Bellydance
- Your Favorite Band Live (1999, Shooba-Doobah Records)
- Shake Your Pelvis (2000, Shooba-Doobah Records)
- Bedroom Boogie (2001, Shooba-Doobah Records)
- Welcome to the Freak Show (2001, Shooba-Doobah Records)
- Rokenrol (2002, Shooba-Doobah Records)
- Personal experiences