"Dreampt of marimbas made from the bones of our relatives..."
We recently caught up with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin singer/songwriter/drummer/guitarist, Philip Dickey before their Charleston gig. While taking an evening stroll through the massive strip mall parking lot adjacent to the venue, we talked about their new record, what it's like being blog darlings and playing in the glorious homeland of their namesake. All under the romantic lighting of a giant neon Arby's sign...
Chocolate Bobka: So this is right in the middle of your tour... how's it going so far?
Philip Dickey: It’s going really well. We were gonna try to do the whole country in one tour, but when we do that, everything kind of falls apart, and we start to try and kill each other.
CB: Is it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel at this point?
PD: A little bit. Because it really is a lot of fun, and you get really caught up in it all, and then you’ll just remember how nice it is to be home, and then it just hurts. You’re trying to have a good time on the road, and then you just want to be at home all of a sudden, want to be home with your girlfriend or something.
CB: Let's talk about the new record, Pershing…What was it like recording it?
PD: By the time we started recording it, we were just so ready… we just had so many songs, we still have too many songs to record. I think we kind of psyched ourselves out by waiting so long. We just had to get it over with. At one point we were nervous about what everyone was going to say…Pitchfork, fans, all that stuff. Once it was just us in a room, it made it easier. That’s when we forgot about everyone else. The weird thing about our band is we all want it to sound a little different; no one has the exact same vision. When we made Broom, we were doing it separately, we didn’t know we were making this album that a lot of people were going to hear, we thought it was just for our friends. We weren’t really self-conscious about it.
CB: It’s been a while between since Broom... do you feel like that will place more scrutiny on this one, with such a buildup?
PD: At first, it seemed like a bigger deal, having a second record. But it’s just a record, you know? It’s just ten songs. And we have so many more, and we’re always writing new ones. I think the buzz is a little distracting, because it builds it up into something it’s not. I mean, we hope people like it, but this is just one phase. This record is more about riding your bike, driving in a car, that feeling. Broom was more about being in a bedroom, being sad… I think the next one will be a little more intimate.
CB: How does the songwriting process work for you guys?
PD: The one thing about songwriting in our band, is no one ever finishes a song from start to finish, everyone helps each other out.” [Phil starts strumming a new song they’ve been working on.]
CB: Kind of sounds like "Oregon Girl" a little bit.
PD: [Laughs] Yeah, I guess it does! So what I’ll do, is I’ll take this riff to John [SSLYBY singer/songwriter/bassist/guitarist] and say ‘Make this not sound like "Oregon Girl"’. That’s how songs are generally written. Also, Will [SSLYBY lead guitarist] didn’t really have a lot of input on Broom, just because he wasn’t there when John and I wrote most of the songs, but on this record, he has way more of a presence. "Modern Mystery" and "Boring Fountain" both are based on riffs that Will wrote in high school, stuff he just dug up. And we just kind of turned them into more polished pop songs.
CB: Are you already looking forward to the next record?
PD: Yeah. Honestly, right now it would be awesome to record this summer, and put it out by winter. I don’t know if we’re legally allowed to do that, with the label, but that would be really sweet. The way the business is now, I think it rewards bands that are constantly working on new material.
CB: I’ve always heard that bands with a big backlog of material tend to avoid sophomore slumps better.
PD: Yeah, I can totally see that being true. Having a lot of old riffs and songs really helped us, and it’s going to keep helping us. We have like twenty songs we’re working on…well, maybe a dozen. With Pershing, everything was kind of planned out, but I think with the next record, it’s going to be half new stuff and half old stuff, like half of it planned, the other half impulse, just in the moment.
CB: You guys have been considered a big "blog success"... are you happy with that, or do you hate the association?
PD: We were just happy to get the exposure. I mean, we have no control over it, except for the material we put out. One thing I really like about the blogs is that, in the 90’s, PR guys were going straight to writers, straight to MTV, and now they’re going straight to the music listeners, and it’s less of a monopoly. I don’t think our band would have had a chance back then. There are certainly people out there who are like ‘What the hell, this band should not be getting this much attention’; people are always going to complain about bands getting too much blog hype.
CB: I think it’s just that blog hype is a new form of the same old exposure; it’s not that certain bands have a monopoly on this new kind of music writing for no reason, it’s just that people really like this music, and they want to talk about it, and this is how it’s done now.
PD: Yeah, definitely. I just think it’s great that these big PR guys, instead of going to MTV, now they’re going to some kid in a basement. I find that really, really funny.
CB: You guys went to Russia to do some shows… what was that like?
PD: Frickin awesome. We just never thought that would happen, it was a weird dream come true, just being there, talking to the people, what they’ve been through. Our tour guide said her grandpa dropped a picture of Stalin on the ground by accident, and they took him to jail.
CB: Yeesh... How were the crowds?
PD: Surprisingly, really great. They really knew all our songs, even the b-sides. When we started playing they held up some signs with our name on it.
CB: Alright, lastly, in what is becoming a running theme with our interviews, I have to ask what it was like to have a song on the OC, especially when you were unsigned at the time?
PD: What happened was Chris Walla [Death Cab for Cutie guitarist/producer] found us through a friend, and he said he really loved the song “Oregon Girl”, and he gave it to the music supervisor of the OC. We were on tour, playing to like two people, and they called us and said they wanted to use the song. It was really nice because it was a time when our parents were like ‘Come on, what are you really doing?’ and we had to borrow money. So yeah, it was great, to finally make some of it back.
CB: Do you guys make much on these tours?
PD: We just now are starting to finally make a little bit, but it’s still borderline poverty. But at the same time, we’re really, really happy. This is the dream, you know?
Behind the Scenes of Pershing with SSLYBY