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The Eternal Sunshine Of Mayya Feygina - By elle-carroll - July 12, 2017 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

The Eternal Sunshine Of Mayya Feygina

Mayya Feygina (Photo by Pauline Aulioua)

I hear Mayya Feygina before I interview her.

I’m at a backyard party somewhere in Ingleside — the kind for which you have to know someone to even know it’s happening and then hop the fence to enter — and it feels like some bygone era of the Bay Area indie scene. Everyone is clad in contemporary hippie garb, passing joints, chain-smoking, and sipping on Yerba Mate mixed with God-knows-what. A girl in a beaded shawl flutters by, peddling her wares. (And by wares, I mean shrooms.) It’s a truly transcendent afternoon, and not just because I’m already two shots of vodka and three cans of Tecate deep.

Feygina takes the makeshift stage with her five-member band, The Revolutionary Hell Yeah!, relatively early in the day, firing off songs from both of their albums. It’s summertime music: bright, optimistic indie-rock that flits effortlessly between funk, blues, good ol’ rock ’n’ roll, and punk. There’s not much room to move around on stage, but that hardly stops Feygina, guitarist Spencer Owings, and especially percussionist Alex Pollak from grooving. The comfortably twisted crowd responds in kind.

A few weeks later, I meet Feygina in Bernal Heights. She picks the meeting spot: Wild Side West, an old-school lesbian bar with a faded poster of Marilyn Monroe stuck to the ceiling and a back patio that resembles a secret garden. We sit on a stone bench outside, her guitar case leaning on the table between us. A bouncer comes by to check her ID, and she pulls out a Russian passport while searching for her license.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about passports because I’m renewing my Russian one right now,” she tells me. “It’s a long process. I went to the consulate yesterday.”

Feygina holds dual American-Russian citizenship, having moved to the Tenderloin from Russia with her mother and grandmother when she was two. Although her family played plenty of Russian music around the apartment, she also recalls jumping on her mother’s bed to One Step Beyond by Madness as a little girl.

“I would still do it today if I thought I wouldn’t break the bed,” she says.

Feygina sees less of the Tenderloin these days, especially since her move to the Mission last December. She works at a coffee shop nearby, loves Iggy Pop, and has Richard Hell’s memoir and the Tao Te Ching in her bag. She lists off an eccentric smattering of local and international musical heroes as inspirations: David Bowie, The Kinks, Bjork, Nina Simone, Kamikaze Palm Tree drummer Dylan Hadley, The Avengers’ Penelope Houston, and Persephone’s Bees frontwoman Angelina Moysov. But for all the greats she counts among her idols, there’s a sense, too, that Feygina also pulls inspiration from her friends and bandmates — which are often one and the same — and from the local indie scene at large.

She’s known mainly as a frontwoman these days, but Feygina actually got her start playing solo. She joined the S.F. Rock Project at age 12, then started writing and performing her own songs three years later.

“I loved listening to other people’s songs so much, and I was just like, ‘Well, I want to give that a go, too,’ ” she says.

That she did, commuting to Oakland every day after school to record her first album, Tea and Chocolate, released in May 2013. She offered to play keys for The Strangers, a band formed by a few former classmates at Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts — including Owings, Pollack, and drummer Sam Jones. She formed her own band called Mayya and the Evolutionary No No, whose members’ ages spanned 15 to 48 years. When that fizzled, Feygina was left looking for a new group. It took her a moment to realize her new band was right under her nose.

“I realized, ‘Hey, I have really talented musician friends.’ Maybe I was too shy to ask them to play with me for some reason,” she says. “But then I did, and they were down. It’s a really sturdy crew.”

Despite a few lineup changes, Mayya and the Revolutionary Hell Yeah! has been going strong since 2015. The group released their sophomore record, Open Minds Open Minds, this March, and people have compared the band’s dynamic to a family band and Funkadelic.

The record was enough to land the band its first D.I.Y. tour down the California coast earlier this year, and Feygina is hoping both the Revolutionary Hell Yeah! and her life as a musician only expand from here. She recently started playing drums for a punk band called Hot Laundry — “I don’t even have drumsticks, let alone a drum set, but I auditioned and they wanted me,” she says — and plays bass in local indie rock band Periwinkle. For Feygina, the endgame is easy enough.

“I don’t want to be a major celebrity, but I want to be able to travel to different places around the world and have people already aware enough of who we are to come out and be super excited about it,” she says. “I’m lucky to know what I want to do with my life.”

Mayya and the Revolutionary Hell Yeah! play at 9 p.m on Saturday, July 15 at Brick and Mortar Music Hall. $8-$10, brickandmortarmusic.com