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Local band prepares for summer tour

May 3, 2007

With influences from bands ranging from The Beatles to Okkervil River, the local indie, folk-rock band Gazillion is creating a name for itself one gig at a time.

The band, formed in the fall of 2003, consists of four members who are extremely passionate about their music. Simon Fuerstenberg (lead vocals, piano, guitar), John McConville (lead guitar and vocals), Marshall Fassino (bass, vocals) and Mike Barthman (drums) have all attended UWRF at one point, and McConville still attends as a theater major.

Gazillion strives for uniqueness when making its music and members said they don’t want to be pigeonholed into a particular genre. Each member contributes parts of his own style and talent to the band to create the finished sound. The band can often be heard on Minnesota Public Radio’s “The Current,” and has been on the Minneapolis cable access show, “Drinking With Ian.” When all four members attended UWRF, they also appeared on “RF Live.”
“We totally love it”, McConville said, on behalf of the rest of the band in regard to the band’s success. “There was once a point when no one knew us and we almost didn’t have a band anymore. Now the band has name recognition, and we’ve sold hundreds of CDs.”

In the summer of 2004, the band recorded its first album, Growth, which was released during the winter of that year. Gazillion has played shows in River Falls including last year’s Finals Fest, where it opened for Mike Doughty. The band members consider themselves to be a “St. Paul band.” since they mainly play around the Twin Cities area and in Hudson, Wis., to create relationships with other local bands.

The band has yet to be signed to a specific label, but is currently working on developing its own independent label to accompany its independent sound.
“It would allow us to be more self-sustaining and give us more financial and creative control of the band,” McConville said.

Last October the band released its third full-length album, Best Kept Secret, at the 7th Street Entry on First Avenue in Minneapolis. The band is still actively promoting its album.

McConville said as far as creative differences go, they are only a problem, “ … once in a while.”

“There’s a lot of give and take,” he said, “For the most part, we are given the basic chords and melody by Simon, and then we add what we feel. It’s all inclusive. We are in our own arenas where we get to be creative.”

Gazillion is preparing for its first ever summer tour, where they will grace West Coast stages in cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., for three weeks in August.

Beth Ashton, a UWRF junior, has been the band’s merchandise coordinator, or “merch girl,” for almost a year.

“They are all really loved by their fan base,” Ashton said.

The band’s merchandise includes T-shirts, posters, buttons, stickers, and albums. Aside from a few record stores in the Twin Cities, shows are the best place to purchase Gazillion albums.

“I’m really looking forward to this summer,” Ashton said about joining the band for the upcoming tour. “They just have fun and have a good time doin’ what they’re doin’.”

McConville said the band is also looking forward to the tour.

“[It’s exciting] experiencing the thrill of being on the road and knowing you’re out to play your music,” McConville said.

On April 19, the band played at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis for the “Friends With Benefits” show, where emerging local artists collaborated with local veteran bands including Prudence Johnson, of the Prairie Home Companion, who performed “The Tango Trinidad, a fan favorite, with the band.

“The Varsity show they just played was really good, and a lot of people showed up,” said Kristin Rotter, a junior and friend of the band. “I was so proud of them.”

This month, the band will be playing at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis along with other local bands including Capitol Jay, The Fountainheads and The Vintage Mink.

The bands will be covering sets of Paul Simon, Ween, Tom Petty and the Beatles, just to name a few, for the classic listening pleasures of all. Tickets are $5.
More information and upcoming show dates can be found at www.myspace.com/gazillionmusic.