The first three months of 2018 brought a slew of excellent records from more established artists (Ty Segall, Car Seat Headrest, Lucy Dacus to name a few), but it’s the debut LP from fresh-faced New York duo Des Millions that’s truly captured my heart and imagination.
It’s a shotgun blast of an introduction to messieurs Jimmy Montague and Red Johansen, about 20 minutes long and filled to the brim with a mixture of intensity, elation and — most prominently — swagger. For instance, here’s the band’s own description for POWER, which was released late last month:
“Des Millions capture the richness of true emotion and contain it within a twelve-song, chart-smashing album for the ages. The record is quite aptly named – each song has a unique aura that all resonate together, etching new images of wealth and prosperity into the fabric of the industry with each listen.”
With songs almost exclusively in the key of excess, money and power, not every band could convincingly come out of the blocks with such bravado — but here’s the thing: Des Millions have the creativity and musical chops to pull it off. It’s a schizophrenic power-pop record that routinely veers into very exciting territory — along the journey, you’ll hear scorching guitar solos, epic choruses, pitch-perfect synths and much more.
The album’s most thrilling moments are when Montague and Johansen sing in unison, whether they’re doubling up on lead vocals a la girlpool or laying down multi-part harmonies with some glorious falsetto. Lead single “Lethal” has a little bit of both. Check it out:
All of the songs on POWER were written and performed by Montague and Johansen. When playing live, they’re joined by a trio of dudes with really good show business names: Oliver Calme (guitars and synths), Arthur Fakie (synths) and Johnny Money (drums). The album (which you can listen to in full at the end of this post) was recorded and mastered by James Palko, and mixed by Mike Moshcetto.
Montague and Johansen were kind enough to field my questions on the album, their unique sound and much more. Read the Q&A below.
SOMETHINGGOOD: How do you two know each other? When did you decide to make music together? How do you complement each other and work as a duo?
Red Johansen: “We started making music in high school. At any point we’re either exactly the same or complete opposites, so we bring a lot of different ideas to each other but agree when something sounds good.”
Jimmy Montague: “Red and I met playing for the Phillies? I think? We were the sickest T-ball players this side of the Mississippi. We grew up down the street from each other and have been making music together for the better part of a decade now I believe. When Red and I work together, it usually feels like he has this large idea that’s missing the little connector parts, and I fill those in and then add on top of it. Then we have this super large idea that we whittle down to a finished product. It seems to work out that way for the best, but we’re both extremely petty and love to take credit for everything.”
SG: How would you describe your style?
RJ: “A smokin’ sassy bad boi Montague looking for a good time and a classy heartthrob Capulet lookin’ for love.”
JM: “High fashion meets reckless abandon. Two hundred thousand million dollars, mega jets and motorcycles that explode into a bunch of smaller motorcycles. Doing a gainer and then a Christ air and then another gainer and then a hundred backflips and one front flip into the concrete and then signing a check for a million dollars. For both.”
SG: Why do you make music?
JM: “Everything feels a little bit worse without it. For a long time I found myself in bands playing sad music and for a long time the bands I found that were doing big things were playing sad music and everyone just seemed so sad. Growing up, I can remember I used to dance in my room in my boxers to the Jackson 5, singing in falsetto and pretending they were my songs. To me, that felt like what it was supposed to be like. We write Des Million for the people who still daydream and sing alone in their rooms in their underwear where they can be who they want to be.”
RJ: “We have a vision we want the world to see, it’s what we’re meant to do.”
SG: Who/what inspires you — be it musically, creatively, in life, etc.?
Both: “Slam Donahue’s ‘Big House Nice Dreams’ is probably the reason we do any of this. There’s a line in the song Tent that goes ‘…and listen to songs ‘bout cash and fancy cars, these things we’ve got to make them ours’ and we just wanted to write those songs that they were singing about. But also, people who do things entirely unapologetically. People who know that what they’re doing will be wack to most people but they do it anyway. People who live larger than who they are. Having a different colored sports car for every day of the week. Five-part harmonized guitar solos. Putting your hands on your hips and pouting. Stuff like that. Respect the hustle, respect the grind.”
SG: POWER is your introduction to the world. What do you think it say about Des Millions?
Both: “POWER tells you who we are. We’re two trillion-dollar playboys in the lap of luxury. We’re coming out the gates so hot and so fast we have nowhere to go but to the top. We eat caviar on private jets and we’re here for a good time and a long time.”
SG: What are you listening to these days?
RJ: “AUTOMAT by AUTOMAT.”
You can find Des Millions on:
Listen to POWER in its entirety: