It's a chilly winter night in Allston, and I'm huddled around a table at Deep Ellum with the Year Million, discussing the band's just-released EP Broken Circuits. Singer Scott House, guitarist Jason Calieri, bassist John Salogiannis, and drummer Rob Wu are describing how, along with since-departed synth player Bjørn-Atle Reme, they crafted a six-song effort awash in exceptional melodies and instrumental sophistication. With ex–Letters to Cleo bassist Scott Riebling manning the board, the result sounds big enough that it wouldn't be out of place warming up a U2 concert crowd.
"We wanted to pare it down to five or six [songs] that we felt really solid about," says Calieri of the shortened format.
"We fight and argue a lot too," adds newish kid on the block Wu. "So if we really took the time to do 10 songs, we would have had this CD come out in 2015."
The jokes and lighthearted barbs among the four come loose and fast, but there's a sense that the common goal was a well-produced sound — think Muse or M83's latest, something instantly accessible, but appealing to music geeks as well. "One thing we really tried to do this time that we didn't do in the past was fine-tune our melodies so that they seem kind of timeless and natural sounding," says House. "We all worked on it together."
Wu says that everyone's respective musical chops took a back seat — for example, Salogiannis's closeted penchant for playing funk bass. "It's less of a musician-ego thing, it's more of a 'Let's write a really good song,' " he says. Much of the credit for the set's musical maturity goes to Reme, who recently returned to his native Norway. "He's an unbelievable player in terms of blues and jazz, and it's almost like what he doesn't play adds to the music," says Salogiannis. "He was a great songwriter," adds Wu. "He knew music theory to a point that it gave us an alternative sound that we wouldn't have had without him."
Moving on now as a quartet, with a search for a new synth player on the back burner, the Year Million are focusing on making something that's lasting both on wax and in live performance. Or, as Salogiannis puts it, "I think there's always this thought of at least trying to reach some people if they like the music." The sentiments are echoed by Calieri, who says, "I really do want to just write the best songs that we can. It's fun to challenge ourselves, write good songs, record them, play them and . . . it kind of ends right there."
THE YEAR MILLION + TOWNSHIP + A WISH FOR FIRE + CULT 45 :: Middle East Upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge :: February 15 :: 8 pm :: 18+ :: $10 :: 617.864.3278 or mideastclub.com