Photo illustration by Theresa Berens/Senior Staff Photographer

SSLYBY learns from the past

Phil Dickey explains the merits of Chris Walla and '16 and Pregnant.'

By Joey Vergara | Jan. 29, 2010

Tags: Band interviews Concerts Music


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Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin's recent history is a miscellany of interesting moments and fortuitous opportunities. There was the music video with the girls of Eisley. Writing a song for the Springfield Cardinals (of the band's hometown, Springfield, Mo.). Being the first band featured on Daytrotter and more recently playing a barn tour sponsored by the Web site.

The latest — recording an album with Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla (Tegan and Sara, Nada Surf) — was both a continuation of this lucky streak and a chance to not repeat history.

"We knew that we were going to start working on our new album, and we knew that we wanted to do it a different way this time and not record it ourselves," multi-instrumentalist Phil Dickey says. "We thought that if we recorded it ourselves, we would probably break up or something, 'cause it was really stressful."

They began recording the album in September in Madison, Wis., continued in Portland, Ore. and are now completing it at home. Both of the band's past albums, Broom and Pershing, were recorded in Springfield with the bare essentials. This time around, Dickey and co. were able to create an album according to their vision without the added stress of recording it themselves.

"We want to make a classic rock album but through our filter," he says. "I think it's like Tom Petty played by us or just things that we actually listen to. A little less emphasis on the indie stuff."

The title remains top secret for now ("This name is way different than all our other names. That's what I can tell you — it's not one word."), but the excitement in Dickey's voice is clear. This is the album the band has wanted to make for years, one that will be influenced by Walla's gift for bringing out a band's honest sound and his Zen-like focus.

As the band slept on the record engineer's wooden floors in Madison, Walla set up shop in the backyard.

"He just slept in a tent every night for like three weeks while we made this record," Dickey says. "I think he had a Buddhist book or something. That was pretty awesome for us to work with someone who likes to camp out when he could be staying in a really nice hotel."

When his band isn't active, Dickey feels a resurgence each time one of these lucky moments come into play. Last year, for example, he was surprised to hear how well several SSLYBY songs fit into MTV's "16 and Pregnant."

"I mean, you never know on a reality show if it's going to be horrible or if they're actually trying to make a good show," Dickey says. "I've watched all the episodes, and a couple made me cry."

A devoted fan of the show ("I like 'Teen Mom' all right, but I thought '16 and Pregnant' was better"), Dickey sees the benefit of greater exposure.

In speaking with Dickey, whose answers are punctuated by a series of nervous "ums" and "likes," it's clear he and his bandmates are completely earnest in their goals. They're four Nirvana fans from Springfield with a desire to bring their brand of pop to the masses. They want to be liked, and it's certainly hard not to like them.

"We want more people to like us," Dickey says. "We're just trying to get to the point where you can play us for anybody, whether it's somebody who likes indie music or they don't know what indie music is, and they'll like it."

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