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Entertaining men of Yeltsin play two CD-release shows.

Byline: Serena Markstrom The Register-Guard

Yeltsin defies all sorts of rock stereotypes.

If we're typecasting based on instrument, the drummer is dumb, the lead singer is gregarious and attention grabbing, and the bass player is meek and overlooked.

In Yeltsin, the drummer can't stop talking, often has smart things to say and often takes off his shirt and plays like a wild man live; the lead singer and songwriter is shy and the bass player takes care of business and provides capable backing vocals.

Together they put on an entertaining live show and are one of the more beloved groups in town with many fellow musicians counting themselves as fans.

The three original members, singer and guitarist Jake Pavlak, bassist Dana Axon and drummer Jivan Valpey, have been together since 2003 and put out their first EP within months of forming. That demo was to get gigs, and they haven't had a problem doing that, even playing the coveted Eugene Celebration shortly after forming.

They released "We Will be a Factory" in 2005 and it has been three years for the follow up. It's here this weekend as the band plays two CD-release shows Saturday at Sam Bond's, including an early all-ages show.

The newest member of Yeltsin is Frosty Davis, who will play keyboards.

"A Closer Walk with Yeltsin" is a fine collection of indie rock songs. The new batch has aggressive drums and beefy bass lines but the songs aren't so loud that you can't hear the vocals. This collection, though spending time with dark themes, is peppier than the group's debut full-length.

Yeltsin is not trying to reinvent rock; the band members are trying to make music they want to hear. As a byproduct you want to hear it, too. It's fun, energetic and addictive.

Just as with their debut, the Yeltsin men find writing the lyrics to be the most difficult part of the songwriting process.

"We usually play a song for a while before it has lyrics," Pavlak, who writes most of the words, said during a recent interview at Jameson's bar just before the band was to play a show at Luckey's. "Melodies come first."

All three original members of the group contribute vocals, and Yeltsin has a knack for sing-songy bits that even first-timers to the live show can sing along with if they are inclined.

It's not surprising melody comes first. Axon and Pavlak played together for many years in the instrumental band Buckhorn, and Pavlak is still a member of the retro surf band Heavenly Oceans that also gets by with no singing.

That background doesn't keep Pavlak from some good lyrical ideas. "Thornbirds" has a clever repeated lines: "There are mills for grain and wood and for failure/ What other mills are there? Oh no/ Mills of despair."

Get it? Failure mills.

To Pavlak "Thornbirds" is one of his favorites; he said it's like a fusion of the Smiths with Metallica from the 1986 release "Master of Puppets."

"Which really just all sounds like the Cure," Valpey chimed in. "You throw enough words together and let it marinate it's going to mean something."

Pavlak, a soft-spoken guy with a big red beard, still struggles with words but is more comfortable bringing in ideas and letting the guys in the band work on or reject his stuff.

"We all kind of get together and say, `This is lame, this is rad,'?" said Valpey, who is generally pretty jolly but was in extra good spirits that night after the recent birth of his daughter, Rosemary Delores, his second child.

All three are married with two children each, so traveling is not very practical. There they go breaking another rock stereotype. Their biggest goal for the release is for as many people to hear it as possible.

"I can't imagine a world where we were on the road as much as bands with dreams are," Valpey said. "I'd like to see more people hear us. That's our biggest dream."

Their motivation for making a recording was to mark where they are creatively at this point in time.

Axon said he knows it's cliche but he just wants to keep making music.

"The records we've done have been little checkpoints for us," he said.

Concert preview


With: Tractor Operator

What: Rock

When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m. (all ages) and 9:30 p.m.

Where: Sam Bond's Garage, 407 Blair Blvd., Eugene

Admission: Early show is $3 and late show is $5

On the Web: Listen to samples at

Also: Yeltsin plays a free show Saturday at 4 p.m. at CD World, 3215 W. 11th Ave., Eugene
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Title Annotation:Ticket; The band has earned a dedicated local following?with its lively live shows
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 25, 2008
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