Saturday, July 12, 2008

Moscow Times Article

Family Harmony

Cabaret duo Vermillion Lies plays in Moscow.

By Sergey Chernov
Published: October 12, 2007

The Vermillion Lies is one of the most exciting bands on the U.S. cabaret scene. And it's likely the only one that cites Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets characters from children's television, as its main inspiration.

The Oakland, California-based group, made up of sisters Kim and Zoe Boekbinder, is performing in Moscow on Friday and Saturday to promote the Russian edition of its 2006 debut album, "Separated by Birth -- One Album in Two Acts." It's the first time the band has visited the Russian capital.

Their eclectic songs include dark circus ballads, soft lyrical melodies, rock love songs and even an instrumental tribute to Italian composer Ennio Morricone. But first and foremost, the duo tries to weave narratives with its music.

"We are storytellers and our songs tell stories," Kim Boekbinder wrote in a recent e-mail from Portugal, where the band was on tour. "Some of our songs sound like myths or fairy tales, some sound like old time folk-songs from the 1930s. We love to create a world for the audience."

Although in the United States, the Vermillion Lies frequently use a live band, in Russia they're planning to perform as a duo, and will bring only guitars and an accordion. But household objects will flesh out their sound.

"We will also play the piano and typewriter and pots and pans and more surprises," Boekbinder wrote. "We usually play lots of strange things like that, but couldn't bring too many things with us, so we'll see what we find in Russia to play. We like to play things we find in each city."

Videos are also expected to feature in the concert. "We are visual artists as well as musicians. We combine all of our art into the Vermillion Lies show," Boekbinder added.

Although Vermillion Lies formed in Monterey, California, in 2004, the members have been learning music together since they were children. "We had music lessons when we were younger, but it wasn't until three years ago that we started to play music together as a band," Boekbinder said.

"We started playing much prettier American folk music with just guitars, but we quickly evolved to add things like typewriters and gas cans and barbecue grills."

She noted: "We love Jim Henson, who created The Muppets. He is our foremost inspiration. We also love Tom Waits, Billie Holiday, Django Reinhardt, and many other old-time jazz players."

The album "Separated by Birth" featured a range of alternative musicians and was produced by guitarist Myles Boisen, who also produced the 2004 Grammy-nominated album "The Gorey End," by The Tiger Lillies and Kronos Quartet, and has worked with Tom Waits.

The duo's friends include Jason Webley, a Seattle punk troubadour and a frequent sight in Moscow. "I think Russia will love them, but I hope that the audience will be gentle and will listen," he wrote in a recent e-mail. "Their show isn't as bombastic as mine."

"They play twisted, tangled songs with clever lyrics and instrumentation. They sing about lobsters and taking off your clothes, and they put on a really fun live show. And they have nice underwear."

Vermillion Lies will play Fri. at 9 p.m. at Gogol, located at 11 Stoleshnikov Pereulok, Metro Teatralnaya, tel. 514-0944, and Sat. at 10 p.m at Zhest, located at 13/16 Bolshaya Lubyanka, Metro Lubyanka. Tel. 628- 4883.

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