Hi, Everybody. I’m delighted to be writing from a country where the Covid situation is not preventing lots of rock’n’roll concerts and events. At the time of writing, we have a bit of a Covid spike here in Moscow. But provided you have proof of vaccination, or proof of Covid immunity, or alternatively proof of being Covid-free, you can go to rockin’ events, jive dance, etc; in other words, do all the things we did pre-Covid. Myself, I’ve had the Russian Sputnik vaccine and haven’t looked back since ! Like I said in my column last month, hats off to the Russian Federation.
This month the focus is on an excellent Russian rock’n’roll band. Some time ago in this column, I wrote about a great Russian group, the Hi Tones. I saw the Hi Tones quite a few times in Moscow and still remember those great evenings. Well, the Sparks Boys were kind of born out of the Hi Tones, as you will see below. In the Russian rock’n’roll world the Sparks Boys are “heavy hitters” i.e. a big name. I booked them to appear at the Esse Jazz Café in Moscow on 12th June. The photos you can see were taken at that concert. It was a real hot rockin’ show and the audience loved it. It was their premier appearance at the prestigious Esse Café. So now, let’s hear the story of the Sparks Boys. The best person to tell you it is Dmitry Kryuchkov, the band’s saxophonist. So Dmitry, over to you:
The Sparks boys band was founded towards the end of 2016 by our guitar player Vladimir Khoruzhiy, who was the composer along with Alexey Schukin of lots of songs by his previous group, The Hi Tones, which were released by Wild Records. Alexey was also a member of the Hi Tones and his leaving the band and moving to Saint Petersburg was a major factor in the founding of the Sparks Boys.
The Sparks Boys was also officially signed to the music label Wild Records in the autumn of 2017. At that time the band had a very traditional list of instruments, such as drums, double bass, guitar and vocals, plus acoustic guitar. They were working on playing their own music material at concerts in Moscow clubs.
In the beginning of 2018 the Sparks Boys made their first studio recordings in Berlin. As a result they launched 2 songs; a cover of Johnny Burnette’s “Touch me” and a self-composed song “All my way”.
In July 2018 the music range of the band was enriched with a tenor saxophone sound (that’s me!). That’s why all music was revised and it started to sound brighter and richer. The repertoire got widened with new songs and by the autumn the band was working hard on their first full album.
In the second half of 2018 and into 2019 the band was playing concerts in Moscow very actively (approximately four a month) and they also performed at the Wildest Weekender in March in Belgium, where 23 rockin’ bands took part as well.
On the occasion of that Wildest Weekender in Belgium, the Wild Records label released a mixed album of the songs of all the bands, which included the Sparks Boys’ song “Hobo Bop-O-Bop”. In May 2019 the band made a cool video clip of that song, which included some scenes of the Sparks Boys’ performance at that Belgian rockabilly fest.
In the summer of 2019 the band was joined by Marat Gizatullin on vocals. With his addition to the group, we finished the recording of our first album ‘Upside Down’ and released it in the autumn of 2019. ‘Upside Down’ was released on the Wild Records music label. Some songs from the CD get a lot of play on the internet on “Rockabilly Radio”.
Nowadays the musical repertoire of the band contains songs based on the roots of 50s and 60s music and also most of our music comprises songs of our own compositions. We usually perform our album songs and add new songs that we plan to release on our second album. Anyway we always keep our hit “Hobo Bop-O-Bop” in the play list.
We came to rock’n’roll for the first time by listening to the most famous music icons that made the history of the style. I can admit that we all focused mostly on foreign musicians.
As mentioned above, one of the most significant events for us was the Wildest Weekender festival that took place in Belgium in March 2019. On the one hand it was the first foreign performance for The Sparks boys. On the other it was a great opportunity for us to meet new friends from all over the world like USA, Mexico, Japan and lots of European countries. All of them are musicians from our musical label Wild Records, created by Mr Reb Kennedy. During this festival we realised the message of our label: Wild is a big and friendly family whose members support and love each other. It’s an international musical community that shines in the modern rock’n’roll world, with its bright and unique music style and aims to develop this music and its edges.
One reason for the Sparks Boys’ success involves regular auditions twice a week, where we create and clear new songs and even make some changes into already finished material. We work hard on every single song before releasing it. We never play new songs on our shows until we feel it’s ready to be presented to our public. Performing frequently helps us to feel each other and our public better. Inter-acting with the audience gives the fantastic vibe of creating music here and now.
As I advised, the band first began with our leader Vladimir who plays guitar and writes music and songs. As soon as our band was joined by a saxophonist (Dmitry) all the music was revised, which increased the progress in the creating of new material significantly. And for sure the welcoming of our front man, vocalist Marat, changed the history of our band. We get on well, there have been no significant personal differences within the group.
It’s quite hard to pick out individuals in the history of Russian rock’n’roll that we particularly admire, for their contribution to the rockin’ scene here in Russia. There were a lot of bands that appeared in 1980s and 1990s in the post-Soviet area. They started performing at clubs and on stages and it all made the whole sub-culture appear. It also raised the interest and popularity of the dancing culture. In different times I listened to different music and musicians. Unfortunately in these current times I can hardly distinguish any musician or song.
I am positive about the future of Russian rock’n’roll, especially if Russian bands will pay more attention to the creating and promoting of their own musical material and not just cover versions. Of course the contribution of the foreign rock’n’roll super stars is priceless, but we should mix this massive experience with our own feelings and perceptions, letting it through and create new music that expresses our own ideas. Anyway music will always stay an international language. That’s why I would like to advise everyone to try and explain yourself with your own music. Don’t re-tell stories that everyone already knows.
The style of our group’s music is old school, savage rock’n’roll; wild and crazy but with soul.
There were many events in Russia that helped us to discover rock’n’roll culture, not just for us but for many people, that contributed to Russian rock’n’roll history. Plus there were festivals in Russia, Ukraine and Europe, participating and performing in international events and inviting foreign bands to perform in Russia. And last but not the least – style, fashion and dancing. These things are very important in the promoting of Russian rock’n’roll culture and history.
Outside of our lives in the band, our lives revolve mostly around our families and our pets. All of our band members have one or two pets.
Thankyou, Dmitry. And I am confident the band will go from strength to strength, as part of our great rock’n’roll culture.
And I hope all you rock’n’rollers in the UK will soon be able to enjoy rock’n’roll concerts again, similar to the way you did pre-Covid, as we have been doing in Russia for some time now. Despite the Covid, over here we are getting the better of it and rockin’ hard !