Uncovering a Modern Mystery with Phil Dickey of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

Its already our first Modern Mystery interview of the new year and we are pleased to have with us Phil Dickey from Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin! Of course this band is one of our favorites. I mean, after all we did  name the blog after one of their songs!

2008 was a pretty big year for Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. They released their second (and incredible) album on Polyvinyl called ‘Pershing’.They did a whole lot of tour dates and put out some pretty hilarious music videos that made us love them even more. Oh, and there was that Mastercard commercial!

Phil talked to us  about everything from the band’s drummer rotation to playing proms in the future…..Enjoy!

How did Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin form?

I met Will at a Super Bowl party in high school. We were both really anti-social at the time, so it’s amazing we even talked to each other. Anyway, we decided to merge bands. I started playing and singing with his band, but the songs were totally different, so we made up the Boris Yeltsin name. That was in 2000. Then I met John Robert a year later in college. We were roommates and we wanted him to be our singer. We’ve had a lot of people come and go. At one point my best from elementary school, best friend from high school, and best friend from college were in the band. That only lasted a few weeks.

The band  has had a few different drummers over the past few years. Why is that?

This is all pretty trivial and hard to remember, but I’ll try to explain. Our original drummer went out of town for college, so I became the drummer. Every once in a while, I would write a song on guitar, so someone else would play it on drums. Jonathan became a full time member in 2005 and he plays drums better than me. But then he quit in 2006. So I started playing bass, which was a terrible idea, and we got different friends to play drums on tour. Now Jonathan is back, so we take turns playing drums.

What does Pangea mean?

It’s when all the land on Earth was one continent and then it drifted apart. Our song is about a girl. We only talked about this once, when John made it up and played it for us.

What was more intimidating, putting out the first record ‘Broom’ and hoping that people would like it, or releasing ‘Pershing’ and having the feeling that you kind of had to live up to what people loved about the first record?

Totally. Half the band wanted to make another bedroom record. The other half wanted something more professional. I think we all felt good about the songs, though. The execution was the hardest part.

How long did it take you to record ‘Pershing’ and where was it recorded?

Probably about 4 or 5 months because we did all the mixing too. We recorded it at Will’s aunt’s house because the neighbors didn’t mind the noise.

How was ‘Broom’  recorded? I had heard that Polyvinyl originally wanted it re-recorded for release.

‘Broom’ was recorded at Will’s house. Actually, Polyvinyl didn’t ask us to record anything. But we all agreed that it might sound slightly better if it was re-mastered, which really didn’t make a difference in the end.

Which do you prefer more…being in the studio or being on tour? and why?

I like them both. It’s apples and oranges. My favorite part in the studio is doubling vocals. And listening to a song when it’s almost finished 20 times in a row. My favorite part of touring is hanging out with friends we made on the road and going crazy on stage.

How would you describe the band’s relationship with each other?

Very weird. To be honest, I think about this more than anything else. Most of the time we’re really good friends but sometimes we’re jerks.

How did you get involved with the Mastercard ‘Priceless’ commerical? I always sort of love when my favorite bands pop up in a commercial. Seriously, its just pretty cool when you are watching tv and a song you recognize just comes out of nowhere.

The ad agency just called me up on the phone. I don’t know how they heard it. It just kind of mysteriously happened. But I know what you mean. My mom happened to be watching it when it aired. We were doing a photo shoot with our friend, so we didn’t see it.

Do you ever officially plan on releasing the newer and very different version of ‘We Can Win Missouri’? That has to be one of the greatest tracks I’ve heard in quite a while.

You can actually download that song on itunes, or order it from our record label online. I have no idea if we’ll ever release it on a full length.

What is your favorite city, or country even, to play a show?

Springfield, MO. Beloit, Wisconsin. Amsterdam. Italy. Germany. Russia. Northfield, Minnesota.

How has the band grown as songwriters from the first record to the second?

Dang it, I don’t know.

Who are your influences, new and old?

Oh boy. The Beatles and oldies stuff like that we listened to when we were growing up. Now I think we’re mostly inspired by our friend’s bands.

What inspires you to write a song, and is it easier if it comes from your own personal experience?

I think it’s all personal experience or just a thought or an idea. I can’t be like Paul McCartney or Fountains of Wayne when they make up hypothetical characters and stories.

How does the songwriting process work for SSLYBY? Is it more collaborative or does everyone bring in songs or ideas and it goes from there?

We all work on stuff on our own and then bring it to everyone else. That’s usually what happens. Although, the guitar part of Modern Mystery was originally a song called Red Tree that Will made up a long time ago.

What other songs did you play with before you were in Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin?

Thinking Version, Wharf, and Mr. Punch. All were very unpopular.

Where do you come up with the ideas for your music videos? They are surely very amusing! There is never a dull moment.

We just try to think of things that aren’t too embarrassing.

What was the first instrument that you learned how to play?

Piano.

What band or artists was your first ‘musical obsession’?

Church music because I was a little kid and I got to see a live band every week. I would bring a cassette player to church and record the band.

If you weren’t in Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, what would you be doing right now?

I have no idea because it’s been a part of my life for so long.

What is up next for the band in 2009? I’m sure you have some exciting things coming up!

Hopefully a new album later in the year. Lots of touring in the midwest. Lots of new t-shirts.

Where do you see the band in 5 years from now?

Playing weddings and proms as the Top Dawgz.

What board game can you kick anyone’s ass at?

Trouble. When I focus really hard I can usually win.

Check out Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin on Myspace

Be sure to check out their new TOUR DATES there!

Indie Goes A Cappella….Again?

Its been less than a month since we were exposed to the college A cappella group, The Stereotypes, peforming Of Montreal’s ‘Wrait Pinned to the Mist (And other fun games).’ While looking for something today, I have come across this brilliant video of  another college A cappella group called The Carleton Singing Knights from Minnesota. They chose one of my favorite songs, which is ‘House Fire’ by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. How could this be? When did this all start to happen? I’m not sure, but I love it.
What a brilliant twist on this song. The harmonies are nothing but astonishing. I’m almost at a loss for words.

Check out the band on their Myspace
They cover Death Cab for Cutie’s ‘Soul Meets Body on There’ (What?!)

Watch The Carleton Singing Nights perform Somone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin’s ‘House Fire’

Also Check Them Out on Youtube which they perform everything from MGMT to Vampire Weekend to the Postal Service to Flight of the Conchords.