It has been 14 years since a certain Springfield, Missouri, trio with a most unlikely name emerged as an indie-pop underdog. Now, four records in, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin has found its sweet spot: its own roots.
The band recorded its latest album, Fly by Wire, entirely in lead singer Will Knauer's attic — just as it did for its debut album, Broom. The result is a well-planned assembly of soft, airy pop songs that are catchy without being showy. The audible imperfections give it a cherished, homemade feel — it sounds like something you'd beg your older brother to burn a copy of for you.
Ahead of SSLYBY's show at RecordBar Friday, we chatted with Knauer by phone.
The Pitch: So, the attic.
Knauer: Yeah. We got back from Russia at the end of January. I had to ask my stepmom and my dad if I could go back to the house and record in the attic again because we didn't have a place to go to, which is kind of a funny conversation. And they said yes ... and it was a pretty big mess. I think I spent February cleaning it up and started to kind of assemble a little bit of a studio. I think we probably started really seriously recording in late March. About half of the songs may have been written while we were recording them, which has never happened before.
I like the new record, but it feels like you kind de-popified it.
I think I've seen people describe it as our "dreamiest" record, and I hadn't really noticed that was happening while we recorded it. But, looking back at it, it does feel really dreamy. Our last album was recorded in a professional studio, and a lot of the songs were tracked live, and I think that kind of captures a different energy than when we have to do the albums ourselves. I think this album kind of came back to more of how we used to record. Some of our sounds were tracked live together, but others were just kind of assembled in different ways.
Sometimes when we record, there's more opportunity for our moods to have an effect on how the songs come out. And with it just kind of being the end of winter and just getting back from Russia, I think we were all a little maybe jet-lagged during the recording.
You were invited to visit Russia earlier this year, and it seems like you had a grand old time.
It was pretty crazy. We were contacted and asked to perform at a festival, in the city of Ekaterinburg, which is kind of the city where Boris Yeltsin became famous. There's a statue of him as well as the Boris Yeltsin Center. I think for the festival, somebody was probably just searching Boris Yeltsin and found us and thought that we'd be a good band to play. But then the State Department found out that we were going over there, and they thought it was a good opportunity for us to go to a school and meet with the other people that knew Boris Yeltsin, and that it would kind of somehow strengthen relationships between us.
Did you get the feeling that they were expecting a different type of music?
[Laughs.] OK, I don't know what they were expecting. But they were so happy that we were keeping the name Boris Yeltsin alive, and even a little bit popular in the U.S. They were so happy that people had been hearing about him because of us, and so that really meant a lot to them — especially the president of the Boris Yeltsin Center and Boris Yeltsin's former minister of foreign affairs. Both those guys were there, and they both had suits and looked very professional, exactly what you would expect a Russian political figure to look like. That was intimidating at first, but they were so nice. And they were so curious about Missouri.
Fourteen years is a long time to keep a band together, and by industry standards, you haven't hit big. Do you enjoy where you are?
Yeah, I think so. A couple years ago, we were really trying to make a big push to get bigger, and we opened for some bigger bands on tour and kind of ran through the circuit of trying to do things like that, but I think it never quite happened the way we were trying to make it happen. I think we realized that we were kind of happy that it never did get crazy because we were able to fly under the radar at this perfect altitude. It was always enough just to support us, but it never got so crazy that we fell apart because of it or ever felt overwhelmed. We ended up in a perfect place without trying to.
I think we're all really content with how we're able to live, which is kind of casually. It's just nice being here in Springfield and having a screen door and a front porch. I think Springfield is really our home, and the country kind of appeals to us. We've just learned to be really appreciative of what we've gotten to experience. It took me awhile to learn how to do that.