WIDE OPEN COUNTRY: Embracing the Roots and Music of Theone
by Andrew Winiewski
"A multi-instrumentalist in her own right, capable of playing everything from guitar, bass, drums and piano to the Celtic harp, balalaika (a guitar-like, Russian three-stringed instrument), trombone and accordion, she regularly sits in with other local groups, one of which is Andrew See and his Swinging Jamboree, and has attracted the attention and services of numerous established local musicians including guitarist Brad Bays, drummer Ron James, and most recently fiddle player Hannah Prizznick.
“I like playing with people that make me better, and everyone I’m playing with now makes me better,” she says.
Many of those people that helped her find a home in the local music family also helped lay tracks on her debut, full-length album, Empty Feelings, recorded here in Flagstaff as well as San Diego over the course of several years, and released officially in June.
A solid mix of upbeat western bluegrass and country sounds with melancholy lyrics, Empty Feelings, is, again, driven heavily by her family."
Summer 2015-Front Page of Fullerton Tribune, OC Register
Sisters Mikayla and Marlena Khramov are singers, songwriters and instrumentalists who grew up around Russian folk music, were once awed by an Elvis impersonator and dig ‘80s rock, surf music and the rockabilly scene.
The La Palma sisters, who perform as The Nesting Dolls, invented their own genre to pay tribute to their musical influences: Russian-American Rock-n-Folk-n-Roll-a-Billy.
The Nesting Dolls have been sharing their sound with more and more audiences.They’ve played gigs at Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance at Viva Cantina in Burbank in 2013 and Art Fein’s annual Elvis Birthday Bash at the Echo in Los Angeles in 2014.
They performed at Fullerton’s Day of Music on June 21 and have played at the historic Muckenthaler Cultural Center. Marlena sings and plays the ukulele. Mikayla sings and plays guitar, drums and Celtic harp.
It was fitting that Marlena, 18, and Mikayla, 21, kicked back on a leather sofa in the rear of Roadkill Ranch – a Fullerton boutique as diverse as their music – to tell their story.
Marlena works at the boutique, which caters to the rockabilly lifestyle on one side and offers jewelry and accessories more reflective of the ‘60s on the other side. Their father, Igor Khramov, who died in 2013 at age 50, was from Russia and gained notoriety as a founding member of the Russian folk-and-roll band Limpopo. Khramov also recorded with the Red Elvises, a Russian-American group that performs rockabilly and Russian folk.
“He was a genius,” Marlena said. “You give him anything and even if he never played it before, he would play it perfectly.”
Their mother, Janelle Frese, is a writer, teacher and drummer who briefly played with the Ladies Professional Baseball League.
Mikayla recalls tagging along on tours with her father. Both girls were recording with him before the age of 10.The girls, who’d been performing in musical theater in their early teens, said they got their first inspirational spark while watching noted Elvis impersonator Scott Bruce perform at La Palma’s Central Park about four years ago.
“I thought, we’ve got to do this,” said Mikayla, who gathered together a couple of musician friends. Rad Cats were born.
They played local events such as La Palma’s Battle of the Bands and at the La Palma Days festival. Bigger gigs followed.
“Everything just kept rolling,” Mikayla said. “We started as a little garage band, playing Johnny B. Goode, and we’re writing our own music.”
About a year ago, the sisters changed their name to The Nesting Dolls, a tribute to the sets of Russian wooden dolls that get bigger in size as one is placed inside of another. And influences and inspirations continue to ooze in, especially when writing songs.
“The inspirations I get about my songs are about boys, cause I’ve been through a lot of weird relationships,” Marlena said. “It’s just that story that makes the story of the song.”
“And I write about my dad. He really inspires me.”
Mikayla’s approach is a bit different.
“Jewel (Kilcher) said song writing is like having a conversation with yourself,” Mikayla said. “I really take that to heart because I never know how I’m really feeling until I start writing a song.”
In a few months, The Nesting Dolls will be releasing their first album, which will include 10 original songs and two covers. "Something Strange” is written by Marlena and described by Mikayla as a “punk-blues anthem about the wonder of love.” The other original tune will be “Good, Goodbye, I Love You,” written by Mikayla. She said it is “our Russian-American tribute to that feeling of turning your back on the past.”
Marlena said she has a “crazy vibe” about the album, feeling it “is going to shoot us off.”
If that happens, The Nesting Dolls will undoubtedly have more opportunities to do what they do best.
“I just like playing live,” Marlena said. “I will play every day, every night. I just have to be on stage .. I can’t help it."
Jan. 2012- Orange County Register
There's a deep feeling of apprehension in the air. The stage is split in two, a courthouse on one side, a shabby living room on the other. Mikayla Khramov strides on stage as the confident and strong-willed lawyer, Ann Roberts. This is the first glimpse of "Big Boys Don't Cry," an intoxicating story of the harsh realities of child abuse.
As Ethel and Guy Barnes, Elizabeth Safeik and Devlin Perez, portray a married couple who struggle raising their children, and have quite an abusive relationship with not only their son, but each other. Perez commands the stage with his brooding and vicious demeanor, even when he does not have dialogue. Safeik is the exact opposite, looking physically and emotionally tired, her voice dripping with fear and desperation in every sentence.
Lighting was clearly not a problem for the technical crew of Kennedy. During combat scenes, red lights would pulse on the stage, adding more tension, heightening the amount of pain the actors felt. Blue hues, also set the mood for the courthouse, making confessions and arguments seem more dramatic than they actually were, but tied the whole show together nicely.
Zachery Lewis gives a passionate and truly believable performance, as the truthful and disturbed, Lenny Barnes. Lewis masters all of the physical and emotional aspects of the play, as his character is hit and thrown down constantly, reaching the high point of reality that reflects the gruesome truth that is child abuse.
Cast members of smaller roles also compliment the overall mood of the production. As the aggressive defense attorney Wayne Lee, Alex Valdez gives an outstanding performance as he fights for a case that his character knows is already won from the start. Valdez keeps the audience engaged with his hearty belief in his clients, and infectious charisma.
Even though a few of the performers had trouble with projection, they revived themselves throughout the show, catching their mistakes, and coming out stronger. Overall, the cast excels in mastering the text, taking in the quick dialogue with confidence.
The cast of Kennedy High School's, "Big Boys Don't Cry" ultimately leaves audiences with a thought-provoking outlook on life, reflecting how nothing is sugar-coated anymore, laying down a performance that deals with an issue that will no longer be neglected.