Simon Vozick-Levinson
April 23, 2007 AT 12:00 PM EDT

When I heard this morning that former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin had died at age 76, my mind flew instantly to a city that I knew would be deeply affected by this sad event. No, not Moscow or St. Petersburg; I thought first of Springfield, Mo., home of plucky young indie-rockers Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Their excellently tuneful 2005 debut, Broom, marked them as one of our nation’s finer up-and-coming outfits — and certainly one of its oddest-monikered. How, I wondered, were the SSLYBY boys handling the news about their beloved namesake?

I wasn’t the only one wondering, as I discovered when I gave singer/guitarist John Robert Cardwell a call this afternoon. “We’ve got about a hundred e-mails,” Cardwell told me. “It’s really weird.” The band is currently on tour, sleeping in their van on the side of the road between shows; this morning, drummer/guitarist Philip Dickey woke Cardwell up to tell him that Yeltsin had passed away. Cardwell recalled the confused scene: “We knew it would happen eventually, but when it actually happened it felt kinda queasy. Like a distant relative that you didn’t really know very well that died — you’re supposed to feel bad about it, but I dunno.”

Turns out their band name was just a lark chosen at random — “somethingthat we thought was funny in high school,” Cardwell admitted. All daylong, people had been asking if they plan to pick a new name in lightof recent events. “I don’t see any reason why we should. It probablyworks better as a legacy than as a living tribute,” he said.

So do they have any plans to pay homage to the man who gave them theirname? “We’re actually going to Russia in July,” Dickey chimed in.”We’re going to fly from Springfield to Moscow, then we’re hanging outin Moscow for a day… I guess we’ll visit his grave.”

For now, he and his bandmates will remember Yeltsin in their own modestway. “We might pour out some beer for him tonight,” Cardwell quipped.”Or some vodka.”

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