Some Loves You Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
A guitarist for the Missouri four-piece speaks out on the state of the Boris

By Brandon Forbes



Formed in the early ‘00s, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin’s ascension to indie prominence has been a long time coming. Recorded over the course of two years, 2005’s Broom, the band’s first official release, bears all the marks of shimmering pop genius in a playing time that barely breaks the 30 minute mark. Opener “Pangea” utilizes the metaphor of primordial continental drift to capture the struggles of a relationship, with main vocalist and guitarist John Robert Cardwell opining that “We used to be together/Why’d we have to drift apart?” Sounding like a B-side from The Beatles’ White Album, “What’ll We Do” utilizes saloon piano and delicate tambourine to soothe the anxieties of a significant other. Cardwell channels the spirit of Rivers Cuomo in “I Am Warm and Powerful”, a track that divides itself between free-spirited stomp and punk progressions from guitarist Will Knauer. The pop of “Oregon Girl” and “Anna Lee” derives its power from Phillip Dickey’s organic drumming and Cardwell’s melodic know-how, the latter track evolving from whispery longing into driving rock thematics. Stand out “House Fire” again harkens to Weezer, though succeeds in its quieter elements much more than anything on the Blue Album. With a tight grasp on endearing songwriting and confident musicianship on display throughout the record, it is no wonder that Polyvinyl picked up the band for its own quirky pop lineup. The Illinois imprint will re-release a remastered Broom on October 22 on both CD and vinyl format.

After watching SSLYBY burn through a scintillating pop set on a rather hot summer’s day at this year’s Wicker Park Festival in Chicago, a set which included a spot on cover of Guided By Voices’ “Bulldog Skin”, I caught up with guitarist Will Knauer on the past, present, and future of the band.

How did you guys get involved with the Wicker Park Fest?

Our booking agent is based out of Chicago and he got us onto this bill. He’s been getting us some really good shows recently. He works with Catfish Haven so we met him on the tour with them last year and decided to hire him. It’s been one of the best decisions we’ve made so far.

Your website mentions that you are “the third best band on Weller Street in Springfield, Missouri, on Route 66.” What’s the story behind that?

First of all, Phil does the website and he likes to keep things confusing. There are a bunch of bands that live on our street, but I don’t know why he did that.

What’s the music scene like in Springfield?

It’s pretty good. It’s picked up a lot lately. It’s getting a lot of momentum, even though downtown has gone through some rough times. A lot of bars have closed, but a couple are staying open and a lot of good bands are coming through. A scene has definitely developed.

What are some of the other bands you’ve played with locally?

Sweetwater Abilene. They have a CD coming out soon that’s really great. The songwriting is rocking, but it’s themed. The songs are fun and people really like to dance to them. They put on a really good show. Another band, Amsterband, has a great name and puts on a great show.

Speaking of great names, you guys have a very interesting name.

It’s not really a name – it’s more like a sentence (laughs).

True. What’s the story behind choosing the name?

I was in the car with my Mom on the way to the mall and there was a story about Boris Yeltsin on NPR and I just thought, “Someone still loves you, Boris Yeltsin.” I told the other guys and they were like, “Whatever.” This was a long time ago, like in 2000, when we were just fooling around in my attic.

Most of the songs on Broom were recorded between ’04 and ’05. How did that process of recording go?

Yeah, God, we took forever. We could not get it together. We didn’t know what we were doing. We’d never recorded anything before. We recorded ourselves on my Boss digital recorder, doing each part one at a time. We started in August of ’04 and two weeks would go by and we wouldn’t do anything, and then we’d record a bunch of parts in a day. For one of the songs, we just wrote and recorded it in one day, which was a big advantage of being able to do it ourselves. You can’t do that in the studio where you’re under pressure to meet a deadline. Sometimes the songs come to you when they come to you. Recording at home doesn’t cost you any money and you can do it as many times as you need to get it right. Of course, we weren’t worried about sound quality because we didn’t think anyone was going to like it anyway. (Laughs) It was just something we were doing for fun.

Did you record everything live and then dub in vocals?

Vocals were all done later. In fact, everything was recorded separately.

It’s funny, the record comes off sounding like it was recorded live in a very loose and comfortable way. I’m thinking of the song “Anne Elephant”, which definitely has a live jam feel to it with a lot of different parts and stops and starts.

Yeah, that was one of the great things about recording to capture the spur of the moment. I started recording and John started playing guitar and there was no structure to the song and he kept playing until he wanted to stop. Then Phil went back and recorded drums to it, and you can tell he has no idea what he’s doing because he starts and he stops randomly and it ended up working better than we could have planned. It’s just another reason to let things happen how they happen when you record.

The whole album definitely has that organic atmosphere. I saw on your MySpace site that “Oregon Girl” got played on Fox’s The OC. What happened there?

We were in L.A. and Fox called us out of the blue and said “We want to use your song on our TV show.” And we were like, “I guess that’s a good idea.” And about a week later we were in Denver and were frantically running around trying to find a TV to watch the episode on. We ended up watching it in our hotel lobby.

What went down in the scene where the track was featured?

It was really disappointing because I had heard rumors that this was the prom episode and there was going to be a fight, so I thought it was going to be played during a brawl with lots of chaos or something. But it ended up being played in the background while two kids talked on cell phones. It was overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time.

Did you ever find out how Fox heard the song in the first place?

We had a booking agent who booked our April tour and she’s friends with Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie. He heard our song from her and really liked it because he was evidently dating a girl from Oregon. So you can see, it all comes down to chance. I think he sent it to The OC, which probably influenced Fox to put it on the show.

Maybe they’ll end up putting it on one of The OC soundtrack compilations.

Yeah, we’re definitely hoping that happens. At the end of the episode, we were watching to see if we were mentioned in the credits but we weren’t. I think that’s because we’re not on iTunes yet.

Have you guys chosen not to go on iTunes on purpose?

Not really. For some reason it hasn’t happened yet. It will happen, though, when Polyvinyl re-releases Broom this fall. Since we recently signed with them, we’re just going to let them handle it.

What are the specifics of your deal with Polyvinyl?

It’s a three record deal, including the re-release of Broom. So we have two new ones to do in the future.

Do you have any idea when you’ll sit down and start recording a new record?

We’ve talked about doing it soon. We’ve been looking at good microphones online because before we used just really cheap stuff. It will probably be this fall, but we’re going out on tour in September. We’re doing Polyvinyl’s ten year anniversary show. Of Montreal is headlining and that’s going to be a big show. It’ll be in Champaign, Illinois, where Polyvinyl is based.

You just toured recently with Sound Team. How was that tour?

It was a good tour. It was so fluid. Everything was prepared and ready for us when we arrived. We had money guarantees, which was a big thing. The tour we did in April wasn’t like that. We’d make $15 and have spent $100 in gas to get there. We were completely in the pit on money. So this time money wasn’t a concern, and the venues booked were bigger and better. We played the Troubadour in L.A., that was a big deal, and then the next night we played at The Independent in San Francisco, which was probably the biggest venue we played. There were a couple hundred people there.

There seems to be a clear love of authentic pop on Broom. Upon first listen I was reminded of Weezer’s Blue Album, Elliott Smith’s XO, and multiple Pavement songs. Do you count them among your influences?

Weezer, yes. I’ve never listened to either Pavement or Elliott Smith. It’s really weird for me because people keep saying that’s the style I’m playing.

I think people say that because your sound is a seasoned pop sound, which is something all of those bands had. The Weezer comparison makes sense especially because of your harmonies and the way the keyboard parts sound.

I think our melodies are the most important thing. A catchy riff, a circular melody that gets stuck in your head and just sounds nice, lyrics that are just fun with nothing too deep or serious about things like divorces or how terrible our lives are - all of these are parts of our songwriting. Our thought is, “Why don’t we just have fun and play fun songs for once.” Our major influences, I would say, are Nirvana and the Beatles.

There are a lot of allusions to relationships on the record, with three songs having girl names in their title. Perhaps the best relationship song, “Pangea”, has a great vocal and conceptual hook. The first time I heard that song I was struck by how well it worked.

It’s so funny. I don’t know if Phil or John wrote that, but I would never have written it – I thought it was too cheesy. But we get complemented on those lyrics the most out of everything. Everyone’s like “I love those lyrics, they’re so great.”

Another song that got a lot of attention among the blogging community was “House Fire”. There’s an interesting narrative duality that goes on in the song, and you find yourself asking, “Is it about a car crash? Is it about a home disaster?” What’s the story behind the song?

There are no metaphors, you know. It’s just about being in a car crash, or having a house burn down. A lot of people say it’s about being in a relationship but it’s really not. It’s funny, a lot of the lyrics on the record were written at the last minute. I can remember John writing lyrics at my dining room table and then doing vocals while my Mom was making dinner in the other room. There really wasn’t a lot of planning to the whole thing. Another reason we were excited to sign with Polyvinyl is they will let us be laid back like that as far as recording goes. They trust us enough to know that if what we’re doing now is working for us, there’s no reason to change anything up by going to a studio.



All opinions expressed by Brandon Forbes are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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