Mischievous Muscovites
bring a taste of borscht to Kerrville

by Lindsey Eck

Originally appeared in Austin Songwriter 2:7, July 1997

Q Are you all from Moscow?
Fedorko Yeah, mostly from Moscow and [the] Moscow region, and I'm from Novosibirsk, Siberia.
Q Other than the hot weather, what differences do you find in playing in Texas versus playing in Russia?
Fedorko Oh, the atmosphere is just amazing. I just love it being here, all the time. We have such good response, people are so nice here, … so far it’s [the] best place for … festivals.
Q And you’ve been coming here [to Kerrville] five years, you said?
Fedorko Um-hmm.
Q Do you have a management company that arranges your American apperances?
Fedorko We have an agent that lives in Florida.
Khramov He's an agent and management at the same time.
He does both. …
Q You live in Russia?
Fedorko No, we live in Los Angeles now.
Q For how long?
Fedorko For a while. For seven years.
Khramov Six or seven years, yeah.
Q How would you compare Los Angeles to Moscow?
Fedorko Very different. Palm trees and freeways, of course. Very different.
Q How about the people?
Fedorko Also different, also — you can notice right away. If you went to Russia, for Americans it would seem very foreign. … But we got used to it; it was, like so easy to adjust to the differences, I don’t know. Venice Beach — you see all kinds of people, seems to be more free … accepting of differences … no matter how you are, you fit into Venice Beach.

Q Tell me about the instruments that you play.
Fedorko He [Khramov] plays the —
Khramov Small balalaika, triangle and trombone and sing.
Q And the big one is also a —
Khramov It's a bass balalaika. And he [Dmitri Mamokhin] plays trumpet as well. Now we're getting into more jazzy stuff. Mixed Russian folk with jazzy stuff.
Q Like the song “Traffic Jam in Moscow” [title track from the group's new CD] is more jazzy.
} Yes.
Khramov There’s more songs coming; it’s just we had to have a short set [for the children’s show].
Q Sure — I'll be there tonight [for the Main Stage performance]. — And what else? You’ve got a drum —
Khramov Keyboard, drums, what else? Accordion — Yuri does accordion.
Fedorko Just a Russian-style accordion called bayan.
Q Have you listened to much Tejano music with the accordion?
Fedorko I listen to all sorts of music. … I like more classical music. Bach is my favorite, and Mozart. …
Q How hard is it to get strings for your balalaikas?
Fedorko We buy them in special stores in Hollywood. There’s like a secondhand … like grand piano strings, the old ones that you can use on the balalaika. They sound very bright.
Q If one breaks on the road are you out of luck?
Fedorko We have extras all the time.
Khramov … With the drumsticks on the balalaika, sometimes …

Q Suppose an American artist wanted to tour Russia — how would he or she begin?
Fedorko Before it was very easy if they found connections, got to know some people.
Q You’d have to know someone over there already, or —
Fedorko Yeah. I think so, because otherwise — they couldn't just get there. But now you can go and [you’re] always welcome. I [haven't been] there for quite a while and I don't know how Americans are doing there right now, but I heard from friends here in Dallas — [one friend] really liked it and it really went well. Appreciation and everything.

Q I notice that you use a lot of physical comedy, a sort of slapstick approach to your performance. Is that to keep people interested who don't speak the Russian language? or is that just how you are?
Fedorko It’s mostly how we are. It was the same thing in Russia, this dancing and craziness. Before, you see, when we started the band, we wanted to call it like, Theater of the Absurd. Absurd theater. And we had much more like crazy stuff, humor, and joking and acting and … then it sort of digested and there was changes in the band. Now what you saw … it tends to be more musical. Like great musicians starting to play but less of this comedy or absurd theater … and crazy humor.

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