Alibi V.16 No.9 • March 1-7, 2007 

Music Interview

Red Elvises

From Russia, with love

Oleg Bernov
Oleg Bernov

I like to believe that, in my daily life, I exercise at least a small degree of free will and have some say in what my body does or does not do. So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself in a dive bar on my hands and knees, waiting for the Red Elvises' Igor Yuzov to sing the chorus to "Rocket Man," which would serve as the audience's cue that it was permissible to stop wallowing on the filth-coated floor. It is rare to see a band with that much control over a crowd (of 200-plus people, no less), but for these surf-rockabilly purveyors, it happens every night they put on a show.

The band is the brain child of Yuzov (originally from the Ukraine) and Russian bassist Oleg Bernov, who traveled our country singing Russian folk songs before their understanding of the language allowed them to start writing American rock ’n’ roll lyrics in English. Fresh from a vacation in Thailand, Bernov was kind enough to speak with the Alibi as his band begins preparations for their upcoming U.S. tour. His diction has not been altered in order to give the reader a sense of the thick Russian accent Bernov possesses.

How did you and Igor meet?

I used to know Igor back in the Soviet Union, and when we both came to the U.S. we started playing together in L.A. and having so much good time with all the funky people in Venice Beach, and things just went from there.

Did you speak English when you first moved to America?

Yeah, I mostly learned English from listening to rock ’n’ roll songs, but it took about five years before me and Igor really understood much of the inside jokes and things in America. I remember watching, like, a stand-up comedian when I first got here and being like, “What the fuck is he talking about?”

Your band uses a lot of crowd participation on stage. Is that something you’ve always done?

Yeah, we’ve always done that. It just comes down to having fun, and people really like to be a part of the show. For me, performing on stage is about not being afraid to make fool of yourself. It’s just serious foolery.

You tour all over the country a lot, but is there anything in particular you like about Albuquerque?

Albuquerque has interesting vibe. There seem to be a lot of rockabilly people and a rockabilly vibe. We don’t party as much as we used to but we seem to always have good parties in Albuquerque.

The party hits the Launchpad on Sunday, March 4, for a 21-and-over show. The Red Elvises are the only band on the bill, so get there early and make sure to brush up at before you go.