Sad cowboys, middle-aged hookers and a Jose Cuervo-shootin’ savior are just some of the topics one can find in Igor Yuzov’s music of the Red Elvises.
The Slavic rock act will perform Monday (Sept. 25), 8 p.m., at Taos Mesa Brewing, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west.
Through his thick Russian accent and California area code, he expressed his fondness for Taos. “I think it’s a great place – very unique, very laid back. I like the vibe, also being at the brewery. It’s a good creative place,” Yuzov said.
From underground Russian hideaways to Santa Monica, California, crossing international datelines and previous music festivals, such as Live 8, Igor and the Red Elvises will return to Taos to perform their brand of “Siberian surf rock.”
“We started as street performers. At a certain moment, the crowd got so big they decided to get rid of us and we started touring. Otherwise, we’d still be playing the streets,” Yuzov said as he discussed the early days of the Santa Monica scene.
Yuzov grew up in the former Soviet Union during a time when rock ‘n’ roll was not only misunderstood, but illegal. In a dream in 1995, Elvis Presley came to Yuzov and bestowed the gift of playing rock ‘n’ roll and the Red Elvises took the torch on the musical pursuit.
Drums, saxophone, flute, guitar, trumpet, keyboard and bass are the instruments that create the boogie music of the Red Elvises. Transitioning from his native Russian tongue was difficult for Yuzov, but he accomplished a variety of psychobilly, rockin’ and disco styles to create the humorous and satirical music that is now the Red Elvises. There is such diversity in composition, one can see the ‘60s rock influence, the country progressions and even foreign influence. From Chuck Berry to traditional Eastern European music, the Red Elvises embrace diversity.
Yuzov said, “It wasn’t easy, but I’m glad it somehow worked out. People know my song in both languages, they sing along in both languages. I think it’s a great thing. Sometimes I sing half a song in Russian and the other part in English and the people can relate to it from all countries.”
Not only is the band incredibly instrumental, but style is a focus. The band wears costumes to add an extra element to the performance. Yuzov’s primary musical approach is that it should be a good time, a dance party, a way to celebrate life. “I feel much better wearing space clothes – helps me have a good time,” Yuzov said.
He thinks of stage attire as a “uniform,” the extra element. Like an athlete, a champion marathoner doesn’t merely wear jeans and a T-shirt.
Yuzov’s philosophy is that music is meant to entertain and uplift people of all demographics and audiences. “I think our music is very democratic to every kind of people,” he said. “Could be young, could be old, rockabilly people, nerds, hippies – they all enjoy our music. It’s an uplifting happy music. It’s good music to dance to, have a party and bring a bunch of friends and go crazy. We aren’t really trying to reach some social layer of society. It’s very universal music, so anybody who can shake their booty – they’ll enjoy it.”
Being on the music scene for more than 25 years, Yuzov has seen some of the growing political tensions, particularly between Russia and the United States, although he is Ukrainian.
“Even now, we were in Moscow and some festival kind of changed their mind about having us there because [of] some kind of political situation,” he said. “They kind of thought, ‘These guys sing in English and they sound like an American band, so maybe it’s not appropriate to do.’ In a day in the city of Moscow, it’s happening all the time. It’s not a big deal. Every place which denied us to play, we find another town which will be happy to have us,” said Yuzov.
Despite changing political stances, hesitation and tension, Yuzov remains neutral and open to all cultures and countries. On the last album, which was recently released, there were nearly 13 featured musicians from Russia, England and the U.S.
“I usually try to stay away from politics because to me, all politicians are a bunch of [expletive]. ... I try not to take any sides and it’s not my thing. I am there to play music and make the change for people from different political beliefs and whatever their social views, my job is to entertain them all, not to discuss politics,” Yuzov said.
He also believes music comes from the heart. He’s been playing the same guitar for many years, an electric Reverend with a P-90 pickup. While he does use pedals, Yuzov doesn’t glamorize or emphasize technical equipment.
Yuzov identifies as a “beach bum.” His favorite places to write music are on the coasts in all territories and countries. “Being on the beach, you walk and some great ideas hit you.” He said he finds a lot of inspiration in the Los Angeles area, where the band originally rooted in the U.S.
Be prepared to jitterbug and feel the whisper of Ukrainian culture when the Red Elvises return to Taos. Tickets are $7. For more information, call the venue at (575) 758-1900 or visit taosmesabrewing.com.