Fearlessly autobiographical songs, a scorching live show, and a genuine bond of brotherhood: Morgan Freed (lead vocals/guitar) Peter Vanderloos (guitar/vocals) Ryan Brown (bass) and Stephen Soss (piano and assorted instruments) are A Million Pieces.
Although their debut self-titled EP (Scallywag Records) is A Million Pieces’ first outing as a unit, they are all accomplished musicians. “There was nothing to do in Tucson except play music, get into trouble and break shit,” says Morgan of his Arizona hometown. He initially connected with Peter and Stephen when all moved to Southern California.
Morgan says the first word that came to mind when he met Peter was “flamboyant.” He explains, “It was the first time I saw a guitarist play his instrument upside down, and without a pick. It was very unique.”
Next, Morgan and Peter lived in a communal house in Laguna Beach. Morgan recalls the madness. “There were people from all over the U.S. – a guy from Philly with a pit bull and a crazy dude named Minnesota Joe who would hang salami on the walls, and would put mouse traps in our pillow cases.”
Amidst the chaos of their living quarters, Morgan and Peter began writing and recording songs. “When that’s what you do and that’s what you’ve always done, you can do it in any environment,” says Morgan. Although their ambitions were modest, the results were resounding. Peter recalls, “We were asked to sing at a wedding on a yacht and it spiraled from there. We wanted to be serious.”
The other two band members flush out the concepts. Bassist Ryan Brown, quiet in person, a dervish on stage, supports the low end. He is meticulous about gear and instruments. “Right out of high school I played with an older punk band who said, ‘You’ve got to take care of your equipment.’ Everything has to be perfect,” he affirms. It’s also Ryan behind the wheel, transporting the band to sessions and meetings.
Stephen Soss, is the band’s consummate musician. In addition to keyboards, he plays drums, trumpet and banjo, and will soon add accordion to the mix. “I never thought from playing in metal and ska bands in Denver that I’d be in Los Angeles playing with three dudes who I absolutely love,” he observes.
The self-titled EP unites the band with producer Jerrod “Skins” Bettis. Originally the drummer for OneRepublic, Skins, now signed to Ryan Tedder’s Patriot Games Publishing, extracted performances that maintain the band’s blazing onstage presence while adding the requisite studio polish.
While the band might describe what they do as “edgy pop music with attitude,” there is an illumination to their music and their lives. “We’re not dark and mysterious, were honest,” Peter says. “We like to laugh, have fun and be idiots. We’re serious 10 percent of the time.” The band’s name is extracted from a set of lyrics penned by Morgan. “You see I feel like I’m a million pieces/And when you see you’re seeing laser beams.” That said, these beams are now focused on a band united by power, professionalism and progress. “It’s not like I can preach to someone,” says Peter. “Our lives have gotten 180 degrees better, and we’re growing everyday, but we’re not perfect. We’re honest.”
As this honesty inspires songs, so does it fuel performances. “We’re in the business for the time we are on stage performing live for our audience, and that’s what we do all this shit for,” says Peter Vanderloos. “And it’s worth it.”