And Now a Few Words about Yevtushenko

No, not the Russian rebel poet:

114893-004-148D1886

The band:

yevtushenko smaller

Yesterday on ComicMix.Com, the always interesting Emily S. Whitten came up with the brilliant idea to make this week “Promote Your Awesome Friends Week,” and our most awesome friends are – yeppers, you guessed it – Yevtushenko.

Inspired by Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s anger/attitude/talent, Yevtushenko the band is the #1 Indie Rock band on the Seattle scene, which is a pretty damned high achieving scene, come to think about it.

Last week, they released their first EP, Do, and next week they hit the road for their first tour down the Left Coast, including a stop at L.A.’s famous (infamous?) Roxy Theater on April 18th, where they’ll be rocking a stage that gave a hot welcome to another Seattle band by the name of Nirvana, as well as Ziggy Marley, David Bowie, Guns N’Roses, Bruce Springsteen, etc. etc. etc.

Who are Yevtushenko? What’s Do like? Here’s what PatrickGalactic.Com has to say:

“I’m of a certain mind with a certain will”

– Amber Shine, Yevtushenko, “Tarmac”

Romance and reality. Some could argue that these are diametrically opposed forces. Some would say that one cannot exist in the same habitat as the other. Romantic love as portrayed in movies is clearly unrealistic. The romantic portrayal of the starving artist is a lovely notion…but going hungry with little to sustain your hopes and dreams as you give up your emotional privacy, predictability, and comfort is…less so. But somewhere between Hollywood and the emotional outhouse, a truth exists. A truth that isn’t obvious to the eye. A truth that constantly calls to us but is rarely heard.

Yevtushenko’s three members, Amber Shine (vocals, guitar), Jeff Bazz (guitar) and Jeremiah Johnson (drums) embody that truth as well as anyone I’ve met. They are a band without a land, all three transplants from other places (Shine from Los Angeles, Bazz from Vermont, Johnson from Alaska). They live together. They think together. They write together. They are like the Indie Monkees without the commercial breaks (Author’s Notre: Don’t EVER shit-talk the Monkees, there will be consequences). They are spiritual together. They are a band’s band. Yevtushenko is their life. Art is their life. And, as it turns out, they have all sacrificed deeply for that life.

But with sacrifice come rewards. And I don’t mind telling you that their debut EP, “Do” is a reward for everyone. Recorded over Christmas in a walk-in closet at their house, “Do” is a victory for DIY believers. Utilizing Bazz’s background as a recording engineer, Yevtushenko mixed and produced the album themselves. For a band that has only existed publicly since November 2012 that is quite a feat.

“Tarmac” kicks the album off with a gradual swell that rises to a dizzying crescendo of noise and dissonance before finally breaking, guitar and drums settling into major key, indie pop. Shortly after, Amber Shine’s voice makes it’s first appearance. “Forgotten friends I truly missed you,” she declares “All I say is ‘Hello, Farewell’”. “Tarmac” is a bittersweet love note to all those who don’t understand the unbridled pursuit of personal truth. Mothers, brothers, friends, lovers…the ones who hold on so desperately when they need to let go. “All these years I’ve been chasing dreams,” Shine continues, “I’m starting to wonder if they’re selfish things.”

Any ambiguity left in the wake of “Tarmac” is wiped the fuck away by the opening notes of “Afield”. Starting fast and dangerous, this song is a showcase for the wonder that is Jeff Bazz’s guitar playing. The song begins with a pulsing guitar riff, heavy but with serious swagger, the kind of dance music you can stab someone to. About halfway in, without notice, Bazz and Johnson on drums change suddenly to a flamenco-by-way-of-polka-by-way-of-gypsy-punk-rock vibe. Jeremiah Johnson’s manic dance beat interlocks with Shine’s aggressive vocals, sending sparks of anxiety and menace flying in every direction. “Short wave pulse by a popular hand annihilates me.” This is music to dance, fight and fuck to. Take your pick.

Perhaps recognizing the need for a comedown,“Drown” takes the anxiety out of the sound and puts it all in the lyrics. It sounds like an uplifting song, almost a pop track. But when described by drummer Johnson as “a warning and an indictment”, the lyrics take on a darker shade. Shine sings soulfully to “Drown, baby, drown all the lies in your life” before advising the listener to “be someone else, try as someone else, to love someone else.” Major chords and mid-tempo drums fill the space well while allowing Shine to take center stage. This is a quality of Yevtushenko that I like a lot. Everyone is talented enough to know when not to play.

“Last Criminal” is a shit kicker. This is old-school punk rock done through a modern filter and done really well. Written collectively, this is a track for driving fast with gritted teeth. Shine’s voice is augmented with some creative filtering through the breaks. Jeff Bazz is in Greg Ginn mode here, alternating between harshly distorted guitar and cleaner tones. The sense of disorientation is delicious, the song is just the right length. A lot of ground covered here.

“One Cup of Coffee” takes the pace down a step and may be my favorite track. Bazz’s guitar once again takes center stage but in a different way. Dissonant guitar chords hold the song together, nearly giving way to a wall of feedback…but never quite. The throbbing menace contrasts beautifully with Amber Shine’s weary lament, “Where do we go? I don’t know. I don’t care.” This is music for people with regrets and hangovers. Tom Waits is smiling…if he does that.

“I Don’t Mind” concludes the album…loudly. Jeff Bazz, guitar god and purveyor of all things hooky, makes a triumphant return. Johnson and Bazz create some good ol’ rock riffs that wouldn’t be out of place in 1973 (or 1993). There is absolutely nothing vague about this song. It’s upset, it’s been wronged, it thought you loved it, and now it’s gonna rip your face off. In fact it ends with Shine declaring boldly that she “could get me a gun and find a quiet place. I could end it all if not for your face.” Goddamn. This is love as a weapon and Yevtushenko fires it with conviction.

I took a lot from this record. No two songs sound much alike but the album remains cohesive. As bands have been pushed to find a “consistent sound” by the music industry, it seems too many have simply written the same song over and over again. Yevtushenko rises far above all that. As Amber Shine put it to me, they are “true believers in the art of the song.” This EP does nothing to dispute that.

“Do” projects strength through it’s contradictions. Because the band doesn’t have a primary lyricist, the album benefits from a broad palette of emotional insight. Shine’s self-determined swagger in “Tarmac” is a far cry from Jeremiah Johnson’s scorching indictment in “I Don’t Mind”. But the sincerity of both is evident.

Romance was not invented by cinema. The romance of a young Irish novelist drinking heavily while preparing to share his literary epic with the world is a lovely notion…but alcoholism and premature death certainly aren’t. Oh wait they are (see every dead rockstar always). But to me, the real romance in life is living truthfully. Knowing yourself well enough to sacrifice, to be wounded and to continue the struggle, no matter the cost. “Do” is a snapshot, a documented record of a band that’s existed for a very short time. Yevtushenko has presented one hell of an honest document.

Listen to “I Don’t Mind” from Do.

yevtushenko-album-banner

Click the image and hear the song

Watch a video of “One Cup of Coffee.” (Caution: Nudity…sorta)

yevtushenko-album

Buy this album on Bandcamp! (Yeah, we mean NOW!)

EDITED TO ADD: Truth in Journalism Dept. Yevtushenko front woman Amber Shine is our Mighty Leader L.B.’s daughter. (So you know she’s good.)