Published Jun 24, 2010It's hard to be humble when you're burgeoning indie rock darlings, but Springfield, MO's Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin already have humility all figured out. It's something that should endear them to listeners even more when they release their third album, Let It Sway, August 17 via Polyvinyl Records.
In a recent interview with Exclaim!, vocalist/drummer/guitarist Philip Dickey says the band are very conscious of listeners' expectations, to the point where every time they put out a new album, they worry about disappointing fans of their previous releases.
"When we put out the second album [2008's Pershing] we got a lot of people who wanted it to be more mellow like the first one. And other people said the opposite," Dickey explains. "When you hear stuff like that it messes with your head a little bit, especially with the way my personality is. I really hate disappointing people. This time we've got some stuff that should keep both sides happy. And a couple of songs, like 'Back in the Saddle' and 'Banned (by the Man),' kind of rock out in this vibe that we've never really had before. It's the first time we've had any type of swagger at all."
Some of that swagger might be from the high of working with Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie. Walla, who's been a proponent of the band since their inception, recorded the album at Madison, WI's Smart Studios (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins), along with producer Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie, Sparklehorse). SSLYBY self-produced their previous two releases, 2005's Broom and follow-up Pershing.
"Chris found out about us right away when we first started, and he sent our albums all over the place and really helped us make some good connections," says Dickey. "Recording with him was great; he was really nice and easy to get along with. The way he handles being in the studio, and the pressure we felt with having to do a song a day... I was having panic attacks about it before we went into the studio. Once we were in Chris's hands a lot of that pressure, and my insanity, went away."
Another thing that helped create a significant diversion was the band's fascination with all things Nirvana, despite sounding nothing like them. Recording in a spot where Nirvana had laid down some of their classic tracks really tickled the band's fancy, especially for Dickey and guitarist Will Knauer.
"We've seen every Nirvana clip on YouTube, we know every outfit they ever worn, so any place they've ever been, when we're actually there, it's really fun. It's like going to a museum. I tried not to let people know how excited I was, but I really like visiting places like that. It was really cool to imagine Kurt being in the studio and playing 'Polly' there."
The new album's cover art was another thrill for SSLYBY, as it came together in such a meant-to-be kind of way. Dickey says the lyrics to "Let It Sway," from a poem Knauer wrote when he was sick with mono, lent themselves perfectly to an image he came upon in happenstance.
"We knew the album was going to be called Let It Sway. It automatically sounds like a classic record name, like Let It Be, and we just liked it," Dickey says. "Then one of my best friends in Springfield gave me a magazine called Horizon and I opened it up and the cover art we ended up using was the first picture I saw, of these guys at a religious ceremony. They were Indonesian men were swaying for the monkey god dance or something. And I was like, 'Oh my god, let's use this.'"
The photo is by photographer Co Rentmeester, the first person to ever win World Press Photo of the Year for a colour photograph of the Vietnam War he did in 1967. The band approached Rentmeester about the image used on their album cover, an overhead view of Balinese men performing the Ketjak dance.
"We wrote him telling him how much we loved his art, and we really wanted to use it, and obviously we told him we appreciated it has a much higher meaning, and we were just a rock band, but we wanted to use it. And he was really good about it," says Dickey.
As for touring the album, SSLYBY are taking most of the summer off in preparation for its release, but they do plan to tour the U.S. and Canada, most likely in September. In the meantime, the first single from the record, "Sink/Let It Sway," is available for free download here. Also, a demo version and accompanying video for the track "Phantomwise" can be seen below.
Let It Sway:
1. "Back in the Saddle"
2. "Sink/Let It Sway"
3. "Banned (By the Man)"
4. "In Pairs"
5. "My Terrible Personality"
7. "Stuart Gets Lost Dans le Metro"
8. "All Hail Dracula!"
9. "Critical Drain"
12. "Made to Last"