The Red Elvises

by David A. Kulczyk
April 2001

The Red Elvises on the cover of Maximum Ink in April 2001

The Red Elvises on the cover of Maximum Ink in April 2001

Imagine growing up in the old Soviet Union and playing Rock and Roll music? But you have a bigger dream, to play Rock and Roll in the country where it all started, The United States of America.

That’s what the Red Elvises did and have been making America a better place to live. The “now” Venice Beach, California based band have been taking their Eastern Europe style of Rock and Roll to everywhere and anywhere they can plug in their amplifiers.  “We speak the language that people understand,” said Oleg, the former balalaika player.

Oleg Bernov, Igor Yuzoz and Zhenya Kolykhanov have throughout their Red Elvises career, played bass, guitar, and lead guitar respectively, but now because of the loss of their longtime American drummer Avi Sills, the Red Elvises all take turns playing bass, drums and guitar.  “Now it’s a 3 piece band,” said Oleg.  “Our American drummer is gone, spontaneously combusted like in Spinal Tap.”

But being the competent musicians that they are, they are enjoying playing even more, as if that’s possible. “Everybody is loving it,” said Oleg.  “We got that spirit like at 15 we were just learning to play guitars; we got the same vibe going on, so much enthusiasm.  It’s more hard rock now, not so schmaltzy.”

Last year I had the pleasure of watching “The Red Elvises Live on the Pacific Ocean” video at a reporter’s conference.  The video is hilarious with the Red Elvises choreography, their great stage outfits and innocent love of rock and roll music. Trying their hardest at playing good and more importantly feeling the passion. “The point is to have fun,” said Oleg .  “Otherwise there’s no point in doing it.  So we just having fun and let everyone else have fun too.”

It usually takes an immigrant one generation to adapt to a new culture (my grandparents were all from Poland), but the members of the Red Elvises compounded their time by all that playing and touring.  The two new CD’s simultaneously released in March, “Welcome To The Freakshow” and “Bedroom Boogie” captures the isolation of the rugged individualist that America has been known for throughout the world. James Dean’s eyes captured it 45 years ago.  The Marlboro Man summarized it with a cowboy hat, a fire and a cigarette. Tom Waites , Chris Issac, Jeffery Lee Pierce, Marques Bovre, Gary Heffern, Peter Case, Mark Eitzel, Nicholas Cage , Spike Lee, Richard Hell, William Burroughs, young Marlon Brando and Paul Newman all have it in their voice or manners.  The Red Elvises have it, the sound of America. “The songs really go into the heart,” Oleg told me.  “We can really relate to the songs.”

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Red Elvises
CD: Welcome To The Freak Show Record Label: Shoobah-Doobah
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