Small Million is a Portland-based synth pop duo writing richly textured songs with impassioned lyrics and dark melodic hooks. LA-transplant Ryan Linder was new to Portland and seeking a musical collaborator, but struck out in the wilds of Craigslist. A chance meeting at a dance club with Portland native Malachi Graham, a songwriter and vocalist, led to the formation of Small Million. They continually drive each other forward— Ryan, a perfectionist producer and composer, regularly stays up until 4am tweaking the tone on his analog synths and meticulously layering samples. He’s long been drawn to both richly emotional indie pop (Arcade Fire, Champs, First Aid Kit, Fleet Foxes) and creatively textured electronic music. Meanwhile, Malachi takes bold charge of the vocals and lyrics for the project. With her background as a solo songwriter and Americana musician, she concentrates on lyrics that make you want to pay attention, compelling melodic hooks, and powerful vocal performances as influenced by her love of Neko Case, Kate Bush, traditional country, and Appalachian folk music.
Appropriately for a duo that met on the dance floor, Ryan and Malachi continually improve their collaborative waltz. They wrote their earliest songs by emailing voice memos back and forth, successfully striking on their collective voice with their first single, “Six Feet”. The track quickly drew attention when it was selected for the PDX Pop Now! Compilation in 2014, propelling the fledgling duo into live performances and immersing them in Portland’s spirited and rich independent music scene. The two continued to ping-pong ideas back and forth until they had composed rest of their debut EP, Before the Fall (June 2016), developing a trust and a shared language that continues to deepen.
On their follow-up, Young Fools EP, their collaboration has evolved to be all the more fluid and seamless, with many of the tracks written at weekend retreats to the wild and grey Oregon coast. Like the dramatic Pacific seascapes framed in the window of the cozy beach house where these songs were written, both the sonic textures and lyrics on Young Fools EP play the epic off the intimate. The sounds continually expand and contract, contrasting the sparse and delicate title track “Young Fools” with the sweeping grandiosity of “LONE” and “This Is Where It Ends”. The EP features songs about the need for silence in the face of constant input (“Wild Devices”), mythical sirens who reject sailors’ advances and fall in love with each other (“Sirens”), and a retelling of Sleeping Beauty through the lens of gun violence (“Bullets in the Bower”). Young Fools EP was recorded in Linder’s home studio, mixed by Brock Grenfell (Gold Casio), and mastered at Elysian Masters in LA by Dave Cooley (M83, Animal Collective, Blood Orange).