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Better red than dead


Once you get past the iron curtain shuck and jive, Igor and the Red Elvises will rock your world. Mixing everything from surf to polka and traditional Russian folk into its party-gone-out-of-bounds cocktail, the band goes way beyond your textbook kegger soundtrack. The band calls it Siberian surf rock or rokenrol.

The Red Elvises Formed in Los Angeles in the mid-90's by Russian ex-pats Igor Yuzov and Oleg Bernov, who originally played together in the Russian folk band Limpopo. Mixing a rock spectacle with traditional folk instruments — ever see a cat rock out on a big bass balalaika? — the band started busking in Santa Monica before authorities lowered the boom and shut the band down citing the large crowds it drew. So the Red Elvises hit the road and the studio, producing its own records, including its 1998 breakthrough "I Wanna See You Bellydance."

The Red Elvises, now known as Igor and The Red Elvises have gone from stage to screen — "Six-String Samurai" — to television, appearing on shows like Penn & Teller's "Sin City Spectacular" and "Beverly Hills, 90210." The band continues to tour, including Mother Russia, and crank out records — 12 and counting. The latest album is 2014's "Bacon."

We tracked down comrade Yuzov for a little Q&A. The man was funny and brief to say the least. Here's what we said. An edited transcript of the interview follows.

City: What gave you the idea for the band? I read somewhere that Elvis came to you in a dream.

Igor Yuzov: Yeah that's true, and he told me to call the band Red Elvises, and he was wearing red. And he sang "Blue Suede Shoes" so I knew he was serious.

What was it like growing up where rock 'n' roll was illegal?

You start loving rock 'n' roll even more because it's illegal. It's like drugs: The more illegal it is, the more attractive it is.

So you think this made you appreciate rock 'n' roll even more?

Yeah, much more.

How did you get your hands on rock 'n' roll records?

On the black market.

What would happen if you got caught?

I was never caught.

The members in the band are hysterical songwriters and yet serious musicians. Do you have trouble balancing both?

Yes we do. Lots of trouble.

What makes a good Red Elvises show?

Lots of money.

What makes for a bad one?

No money at all.

What is your favorite city to play?

Rochester, New York, of course! Where else?

Not everyone in the band is Russian. Where does the current lineup come from?

Guess. Ha-ha ... Los Angeles.

You play a lot of rockabilly and psychobilly. What are some other styles that make up your sound?

Surf music, polka, rock, rokenrol.

One hundred years from now, what will they be saying about Igor and The Red Elvises?

This is the oldest living band in the history of the world.