Rooted in the collaboration of longtime creative partners Ryan Linder and Malachi Graham, Portland, OR-based indie pop outfit Small Million specializes in pairing deeply affecting sonic production informed by Linder’s background as a filmmaker with smart, lived-in lyrics about intuition and inhibition, losing control and ending up in unexpected places, being willing to fuck up, bodies being joyful, bodies being hurt and more. The end result is work that’s simultaneously intimate yet epic, delicate yet fierce.
Since 2018’s Young Fools EP, years of experiencing chronic pain have led Small Million’s frontperson Malachi Graham to deep explorations of embodiment that have changed everything from her singing voice to her dance movies to her observations of human frailty. “There’s one side of chronic pain that leads you towards intuition, self-discovery, and listening closely to yourself. But it also means you end up sitting on the side of the room a lot, watching people and paying attention. Also you’re pissed,” Graham explains.
Linder and Graham have been writing together as a duo but they recently expanded into a quartet, with the addition of Small Skies‘ Ben Tyler (drums) and Lo Pony‘s Kale Chesney (bass, backing vocals. Fittingly, their evolution into a quartet has resulted in the band’s sound and approach expanding to encompass more rock-based instrumentation and energy.
The Portland-based outfit have been releasing new music throughout the course of the year, including their latest single “Burnout,” which will appear on their forthcoming album Passenger, slated for release through Tender Loving Empire. “Burnout” is a hook-driven bit of pop built around Graham’s ethereal vocal melody, glistening guitar lines, and a driving rhythm section. But underneath the infectiousness of the song is a sort of revenge fantasy about the feminine urge to destroy the male self-serving and flat vision of you, and dance in the rubble and flames. “My mom always told me to beware of being a ‘flattering mirror;’ to watch out for people who adore you because they love how you make them feel about themselves,” Small Million’s Malachi Graham explains.
Created and directed by Emma Josephson, the accompanying video for “Burnout” stars Sammy Rios as a woman struggling to burst out of being reduced to flattened, two-dimensional rendition of a person — while appearing as though she’s losing her own mind.