Do you love Boris Yeltsin?

By Jerene-Elise Nall

Does anyone still love Boris Yeltsin, first president of the Russian Federation? According to one band playing this year’s Middlewest Fest, someone does. The Northern Star got the chance to chat with Philip Dickey (guitar, vocals) of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin about what’s in a name, as well as SSLYBY’s 2007 journey to Moscow, its rise to international recognition and its upcoming set (much closer to home than Moscow) at DeKalb’s second Middlewest Fest.

Northern Star: Now, I’m sure you’ve been asked this before, but what’s with the name? Is there any deeper meaning behind it, or is it just a name?

Philip Dickey: [Laughs] I like how you asked that. Mostly it’s just a name. When we started the band, we thought it would be a good idea to have basically the longest band name we could think of, but then we started talking about changing it. We’d say, “Let’s change it this week, this is the week we change the band name,” but it never happened, obviously. We’re actually a little embarrassed of the band name, but it’s been a curse and a blessing. At least people remember it, most of the time.

NS: Do you think Boris would have dug your music?

PD: You know what, I hope so. I’d actually really like to find out more about him. I always find myself wondering if maybe I’m hanging out in the same room as someone who’s Boris’ long lost relative, or that knew him somehow, or that knows someone who knew him. But I think he’d like our music. He seems like a guy who knew how to party.

NS: I read that you guys played a show in 2007 in Moscow just a couple of months after Boris Yeltsin’s death. What was that show like?

PD: Wow, that show was surreal on a few levels, actually. We never thought we’d play a show anywhere beyond Springfield [Missouri], let alone outside the United States, let alone Russia. A record label in Russia actually put out one of our releases, and the CDs were for sale in Russian gas stations. While we were in Russia, we met this one man who really, really didn’t like Boris Yeltsin – well, actually we met a lot of people who really didn’t like Boris Yeltsin there. He’s not the most popular guy in Russia. But, this one guy in particular really didn’t like him, and didn’t like us because of our name. We had to explain to him that it wasn’t anything political, that it was just a name. We were just trying to be funny by having a really long band name. Once we got that taken care of, the guy was actually really nice. We became friends with him and hung out with him a little while we were in Russia.

NS: That does sound pretty surreal. SSYLBY also played and recorded about a year ago at another interesting place: Daytrotter. What was recording there like?

PD: It was incredible. The studio is in this unassuming building in the middle of downtown. Inside, there’s just tons of people hanging out, walking around. I think something like three or four bands record there every day, so the place is always filled with musicians. We were actually the first band to record a set there back in 2006. The blog didn’t even have a name yet. Sean [Moeller, creator of Daytrotter] was just playing around with the idea at that point. It sounded fun and promising, so we recorded there. Daytrotter is awesome, because you’ll see huge tour buses pull up sometimes, but [the studio] also records bands that people may never have even heard of. Daytrotter sessions are really good exposure for tons of bands. While we’ve been touring in places like Austria, Germany, even in Croatia, people have asked about our Daytrotter sessions.

NS: You also recorded your third album, Let It Sway, with Chris Walla [of Death Cab for Cutie] about a year ago. What was working with him like?

PD: Chris is a really great guy. He’s very chill, we felt like we were just hanging out with one of our friends. His attitude calmed our nerves a lot. Before that, we had always just recorded in our parents’ houses and in our aunts’ houses, so this was a pretty big deal for us and a big change.

NS: You’re telling me that up until your third album, everything you had put out was recorded in a relative’s home? But it all sounds incredible, there’s so much going on in your music.

PD: Thank you. Yeah, actually, we recorded in a lot of houses. This was a real studio. It was so professional. Chris was great to work with.

NS: And you have another release coming out soon, called Tape Club. What’s that going to be like?

PD: Well, in addition to the studio albums we’ve put out, we have something like 70 or 80 tracks recorded that we haven’t released. The first one I can think of is from 2002, and we recorded it at my mom’s house, but we also have tracks that we recorded at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin, which is kind of cool – bands like Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins had recorded there. It was really cool to go back through these tracks, because you can see all the different stages our music went through. We picked the ones we were least embarrassed of and put them together for Tape Club.

NS: I’m sure there’s plenty to be proud of on Tape Club. Let’s talk more about the past, have you ever played DeKalb before?

PD: We’ve actually played DeKalb two or three times before. We’d play with a band called Light Pollution when we’d come through, I’m pretty sure they’re from DeKalb, or pretty close to it.

NS: You had a good time playing here, I hope. Did past experiences here have a part in confirming for Middlewest Fest?

PD: Definitely. It was always a really fun time in DeKalb. We always meet some awesome people there. We also looked up the other bands that were playing and got really excited about that. We’ve toured with Tokyo Police Club before. They’re a great band and great people. We’ve also played with Company of Thieves, and they’re awesome as well. We’re also trying to get to Middlewest Fest on Saturday afternoon. We want to get the chance to wander around and hang out before we play. I also want to try to see MC Chris’ set on Saturday. DeKalb is also a cool place for us because it’s a lot like Springfield [Missouri], it’s a smaller college town with tons of students and that gives it a certain energy.

NS: It sounds like you’re looking forward to being at the fest as well as playing it. What kind of crowd do you think you’ll play for at Middlewest Fest?

PD: We want to play for anyone who likes to party. And who knows how to tootsie roll…and who would be willing to teach us how to do it.

NS: I think you’re going to have a huge audience, then. DeKalb is known for two things: its corn and its dance moves.

PD: Awesome, we’re coming to the right place then!

NS: What about people who can only Dougie or Bernie? Can they come party, too?

PD: We’ll take those, too. Here I am still stuck in 1994, trying to learn to do the tootsie roll. We need some fresh dance moves. That’s really why we’re all so excited for Middlewest Fest.