Million Billion
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Million Billion

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The best kept secret in music

Press


"Million/billion thinks it has something special going on"

Think of the last time you said, in earnest, "million, billion."
You were probably an excited child guessing how many stars are in the sky or how much money you thought your parents made.
There's nothing childish about Los Angeles indie band million/billion. But the name conveys a certain youthful excitement, which is exactly the state of mind of the recently signed trio of twentysomethings embarking on its first West Coast, then national, tour in support of its debut album.
The West Coast arm of the tour wraps around Cozmic Pizza today with an early show. The album, "Ready. Fire. Aim.," is on soft release. The official debut is in September, so this is your chance to snap up the indie version of the CD with album art and layout by the band's lead singer and songwriter, Gavin Bellour.
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An independent European record company paired the group with Karl Derfler, the engineer and producer whose previous clients include No Doubt, Dave Matthews Band and Big Head Todd. But that deal dissolved when the company didn't hold up its end of the bargain, single-name band member Yonatan said.
Derfler adjusted his schedule to continue with the project, and the band secured a new distribution deal.
When Mercy Records puts out the disc, it will have a different song order and slicker packaging, but will more or less be the same product, Yonatan said by telephone from Los Angeles.
The trio has been together for less than two years, but Yonatan said members had an instant chemistry from the first time they played together in Bellour's living room. At the time, Bellour was pursuing the solo singer-songwriter path.
The idea was that Yonatan and Brian Ulrich would only join him for a few gigs as a backup band. But they quickly realized they had something special, like a million, billion stars in the sky.
"There was something about it that just really clicked," he said.
Now the main goal is simple:
"Our focus is world domination," said Yonatan, whose last name is Elkayam, but he doesn't use it.
"We really just want to play to as many people as possible - also to inspire dreams of doing a certain something. 'Hey, you can do it, we're doing it. We're doing it every day, and you can too.' "
Million/billion has that catchy-yet-cool, college-radio vibe. It would not be shocking if "Reciprocation" and "All the Times" were in heavy rotation in fraternity houses by winter term.
At this stage, it may be a matter of what crowd gets hold of the band first and claims it. In Southern California, the band has been gaining an audience steadily, but it's anyone's bet how the rest of the world, will react.
From the band's vantage point, the audience could be anyone. In the band bio, Bellour recounts an incident whenmillion/billion shared the bill with "screamo or hardcore" bands.
"Everyone was done up with the makeup and chains and tight pants," he says. "Our response was, to hell with it, let's play. Because there's nothing more punk rock than getting up on stage at a show like that and playing music that's not punk rock.
"We were backstage after our set and all these kids kept coming up to saying, 'You guys are amazing! We loved you!' "
The band's sound has punk and ska sensibilities, perhaps informed by drummer and percussionist Ulrich's teenage exposure to bands such as Bad Brains and Biohazard. He was the driving force behind the punkiest song on the album, "Apocalypse Now," but he also has background interest in dance music as a trance and house disc jockey.
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"Iceberg" is a sensitive and introspective slow tune with traditional rock instrumental interludes. "The Moped Song" is fun; both hummable and danceable.
Members concede the music is eclectic and hard to classify. The sound "combines punk-folk intensity, classic-rock hooks, pop jangle, Western twang, jazz-tinged filigrees and soul grooves with ease," the bio says.
But the style on the album, and Yonatan insisted the during live performances, are consistent in terms of style.
"I think the continuity comes from the band. Our vibe," he said. "It's our overall sound that holds everything together.
"It's funny, because last night one of the bands that was playing was so obviously a mix between Radiohead and Coldplay. And I turned to Brian, the drummer, and said, 'I'm so happy that you can't pick two bands and say we're a cross between them and them."
- The Register-Guard


"Group gives fans a million/billion"

Gavin Bellour fronts the Los Ange-
les-based group Million/Billion, which
has made a name for itself as a pur-
veyor of a genre-spanning, eclectic
sound.
“The comment we get a lot about
our music, and our show, is people
feel like they’ve never seen or heard
anything like it,” he said in a tele-
phone interview, “but they also feel
like they’ve heard it a million times
before, in a good way.
“Whether you like pop, or punk or
country, or whatever, I feel like we
find the essence of what rock ’n’ roll
is about — what good music is about.”
Bellour was in New York recently
when he picked up the phone to talk
about the band’s forthcoming gig at
Posers, 606 S. Elgin Ave., Saturday
night.
The band will no doubt play “Recip-
rocation,” the catchy acoustic ditty off
Million’s latest release “ready. fire.
aim,” but also two of Bellour’s favorite
cuts, “Inhuman” and “Just Not Fair.”
“(‘Inhuman’) has got kind of a dark-
ness, but it’s also vibey and it’s got
kind of a pop hook thing happening
it,” he explained about the breakup
cut. “It’s very complex, I think. There’s
a symphonic element to it later on. I
think it just goes a lot of places.”
As for “Just Not Fair,” it’s a precious
cut to Bellour because it’s very much
the same as it was when he recorded
it as a demo in his dining room.
“That song means a lot to me, too,”
he said. “I don’t know; it’s amazing
that you can sit around, do a demo on
some dorky home equipment in your
dining room and it turns out to be
something that ends up on a record,
gets out there and touches a lot of
people.”
The Televised, Charlie 6thAvenue
and Josh James join Million/Billion
on Saturday. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.,
and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets
are $5 at the door.
—M.G.
- TULSA WORLD


Discography

"Ready.Fire.Aim" due out October 2006.

Hit single "Reciprocation" on radio and streaming all over internet.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

The members of L.A. trio million / billion readily admit that their music is eclectic. Their sound – as evidenced by their debut album, Ready. Fire. Aim. (Mercy Records/Fontana) – combines punk-folk intensity, classic-rock hooks, pop jangle, Western twang, jazz-tinged filigrees and soul grooves with ease. According to singer-songwriter/guitarist Gavin Bellour, however, the threesome’s infectious blend sits firmly at the roots of modern music.

“The original idea behind rock was the spirit of blending good songs that communicate to people with whatever was around – blues, jazz, country, Latin music,” the effusive frontman declares. “We do the same thing, but we have another 50 years of music to draw on. Blending styles with energy is what rock and roll is all about.”

Whether merging scruffy pop with stately, Motown-inflected horns (“All the Times,” “Milk & Honey”), juicing an evocative new-wave melody with a sophisticated groove and riff-heavy coda (“Inhuman”) or shifting effortlessly between jazzy rockabilly and fire-breathing punk (“Apocalypse Now”), million / billion distill a stunning array of influences into a signature style – with energy aplenty.

The band’s unique formula has already made them a BMI Pick of the Month (11/05); earned them opening spots for international music icon Beck and such acclaimed artists as Ray Lamontagne, Shooter Jennings, Keaton Simons and others; garnered offers to share stages with Ben Lee, Supergrass and Joan Osborne; won them a prestigious month-long residency at L.A.’s Hotel Café; and elicited a four-star review from URB Magazine (1/06). Their inimitable songs have been heard on L.A.’s groundbreaking Indie 103.1, KCRW’s Broadband program, KTLA Morning News and Continental Airlines’ in-flight channel.

Bellour, bassist-keyboardist-harmonica player Yonatan and drummer Brian Ulrich find the trio format allows them to stand apart from the unrelenting barrage offered by most bands.
Yonatan’s upright bass and Ulrich’s agile drumming leave the material plenty of room to breathe.

But the musical context, Bellour points out, always serves a storytelling purpose. “We’re always really interested in the song – taking different stories people can relate to and then wrapping them in different clothes,” he muses.

Even when their own clothes don’t look anything like the audience’s, million / billion rarely has trouble winning over a crowd. “We played a show for a local radio station, and every other band was a screamo or hardcore band,” Bellour recalls. “Everyone was done up with the makeup and chains and tight pants. And our response was, ‘To hell with it, let’s play.’ Because there’s nothing more punk rock than getting up on stage at a show like that and playing music that’s not punk rock. We were backstage after our set and all these kids kept coming up to saying ‘You guys are amazing! We loved you!’ We want to make pop music interesting and exciting again. Give it a sense of legitimacy that’s been missing for a while. There’s no reason anybody should be afraid to sing along and feel good.”

Bellour became enthralled at an early age by the stylistic versatility and genuineness of Led Zeppelin , as well as with the buoyant backbeats and uplifting character of his parent’s many Motown records. Growing up in Seattle, he was also exposed to the raw energy of the local scene. While attending UCLA – during which time he formed what he describes as a “nine-piece Latin acid-jazz band” – he plunged into everything from Pavement and Ani DiFranco to John Coltrane and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. After singing his way across the sidewalks of Eastern Europe, Bellour landed back in California and made his initial foray into the L.A. music scene as a solo act, but he decided he wanted to play with musicians who’d challenge him.

Yonatan had started on guitar as an adolescent but quickly switched to bass. He describes himself as having been “heavily into the grunge scene” and classic rock before falling in love with jazz. Signing up for the school orchestra, he honed his chops as a jazz player and eventually attended USC. He released an ambitious solo record and studied recording technology at the Bay Area’s forward-looking Ex’Pression Center for New Media.

Eventually he landed at the famed Radio Recorders studio, setting up shop as a producer, engineer and musician where Elvis Presley’s movie soundtracks, “Peter Gunn,” “White Christmas” and other iconic records had been tracked. Radio Recorders would become, in Yonatan’s words, the “launch pad for our record. I ended up parting ways with the place, but I now believe that everything that happened was intended to lead me to Gavin and Brian.”

New Jersey-born Ulrich, who imbibed classic rock and pop from his father and brother, began playing in bands at age 14. Though steeped in his teens in the punk and hardcore of bands like Bad Brains and Biohazard, he later discovered dance subgenres like trance