Husband and wife garage-pop duo Bill Times A Billion are what I would call highly efficient. How else could you describe an eight track EP that clocks in at a mere fourteen minutes? Some might label that blistering, breakneck music; that’s not the footprint that Bill Times A Billion leaves behind, however. These are pure, joyful pop blasts. The band doesn’t dilly or dally. They get in, they rock you, and they get out. Your only job is to sit and wonder how with six of eight tracks less than two minutes in length, that this western New York band has embedded themselves in your brainwaves.
It’s obvious from the start that the vocal work of Liz Brown lends the sound of Bill Times A Billion a surprising edge; not to mention you can’t help but admire someone beating the hell out of some drums and belting out the vocals simultaneously. That takes some doin’, as my father would say. If “The Luxury” is your first taste of this lo-fi sound, you’ll find yourself awash with crunchy guitars and Liz’s vocal work, high over the track verifying what we’ve secretly known all along:
“the luxury of fiction is that it’s never wrong”
Isn’t that why we dream, after all?
“Friends Want Hope” picks up where “The Luxury” left off, steady and unrelenting, yet this time packing a more upbeat tenor and a chorus that is all a-clash and clamor. My immediate thought after hearing these tracks back to back the first time was about video games and drag racing on back streets when I was a teenager. The whole aesthetic of Bill Times A Billion really takes the volume to 11 and the joy to 12 and I cannot help but admire that in a band. Their sound is very intimate and it creates an amazing experience.
“Interlude” is a very surprising moment in the playback of this record. After a cover of Guided By Voices’ “Motor Away”, our relentless tandem take up the trumpet and lose the distortion for a surprisingly somber intermission from the joy and recklessness that their music embodied through the first three tracks. Picking up on the far side with a cover of “I Think We’re Alone”, which you might recognize, the band returns to original material on “Talking With The Sky”. This is true, fine-cut indie pop without the usual bells and whistles of synths and electronics that are so common in the genre today. I found myself a little gut-punched by this track and it’s heartbreaking quality, standing as a real poignant reminder of the power of music and expectations – and how they can be turned on their head. “Talking With The Sky” is definitely that track.
The final original track on Say It Nicer, “Name It What You Want” cements the tale of two halves. One half rollicking, crunching garage rock that should make any rock fan smile; the other a slower, gentler reminder of the talent harnessed in Ramesh Pillay and Liz Brown’s partnership. It’s amazing as I listen through the EP that depending on the mood that I’m in, I find myself gravitating towards one track or another as a favorite. This is common for albums you grew up with – really all you have to do is think back to what you played incessantly and you’ll remember being infatuated with different songs at different times. Finding myself feeling this way about a fourteen minute EP by a band I’ve never heard before is not something I would’ve envisioned when I opened the e-mail containing Say It Nicer. As I said, it’s a testament to their craft. They are cold-blooded efficient, and I feel that they intentionally whittled this EP down to it’s bare bones because these songs don’t really need another minute and a half a piece to be catchy, or excellent.
Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me” is a sweet, golden goodbye to one of the nicer surprises I’ve received in a while. Your mileage may vary, but if you are into the garage rock scene you’ll find a place in your heart for Bill Times A Billion. You can download the entire eight track EP free from the Bill Times A Billion bandcamp – you won’t regret it.
In the meantime, stream the entire record below.