By Jordan Blum
Usually, duets (and collaborations in general) yield intriguing results. In the case Dally Bon Idyll, the newest creation from Billy Rousseau & Dahlia Gallin Ramirez (calling themselves Billy & Dolly here), the end product is full of quirky yet touching songwriting and delicate and thoughtful production. There’s a great sense of vaudeville fun, too, which helps make the music feel both warm and wistful.
The San Francisco duo first broke through the indie music scene in 2004 as the “heavy, Moog-centric” The Monolith. Since disbanding in 2009, Rousseau and Ramirez decided to focus more on acoustic instruments, such as guitar and piano, and less on electric trickery. Citing influences like Donovan and Simon & Garfunkel, this new formation seeks to priorities rich yet fragile harmonies and folksy tales of love, loss, and nostalgia. The follow-up to their debut, In the Beginning, Dally Bon Idyll is a refreshing and moving assortment of engaging music and enlightening songwriting.
“Oh Yeah” opens the record with playful staccato piano and Rousseau’s charming, slightly airy vocals. Eventually, drummer Alex de Carville (who was also part of The Monolith) adds some ethereal percussion. All in all, it’s a fun way to start things off. With “Gold,” the duo seems to be channeling great 60s rock riffs like the one in the Kinks’ “Picture Book,” and on songs like “When the Sun Comes Up Tomorrow” and “Old Ghost,” Rousseau’s voice captures much of the same brokenness as Sean Lennon’s pained timbres. Of course, Ramirez’s contribution adds a lot to the simple harmonies, and the latter song is especially poignant.
Subdued cellos help give “Young and on the Way Up” a luscious sound, while “Out of the Middle” features superbly vintage sounding country guitar. The reflective middle section of “Now I See,” with its touching keyboard drones, is a highlight of Dally Bon Idyll, and the direct catchiness of “End of the Agers” is a delight; in fact, it, like a lot of the record, bares a spiritual closeness to the criminally underrated work of Scott Miller (Game Theory, The Loud Family). Finally, “Awful and Better” gives the album a concrete closure with which to end.
Dally Bon Idyll is a confident and perfectly constructed record. Billy & Dolly clearly write and perform with a shared vision and determination, and fans of sorrowful tales channeled through welcoming folk rock aesthetics should find plenty to like here. The subtle traces of grunge, rock, and pop help make it fairly unique, too, as well as timeless. The duo seem s to be soaring higher than ever, and only time will tell just how far they’ll go.
At its core, good pop music simply pleases the senses.Billy & Dolly should be pleased as punch right about now: the SF act’s charming sophomore LP, Dally Bon Idyll, is finally here. The power-pop duo of Bill Rousseau and Dahlia Gallin grew from another well-regarded local band, mid-Aughts act the Monolith, and released their debut as Billy & Dolly three years back (2009’s In the Beginning), so this record is a long time in the making.
Dally Bon Idyll sees the act moving further into creamy pop with perky melodies, poppy riffs, and perfectly timed shared vocal responsibilities. It’s gained the band favorable comparisons to Teenage Fanclub and Donovan, the latter of which is said to have inspired Billy & Dolly’s sound, along with Simon & Garfunkel and Dolly Parton (natch).
The band fêtes the birth of Dally Bon Idyll with an album release show next week at the Rickshaw Stop, which should please the whistling masses. But first, Billy & Dolly take the Localized Appreesh challenge:
Year and location of origin: 2009, San Francisco.
Band name origin: No comment.
Band motto: Shitty in the City.
Description of sound in 10 words or less: Why is this so hard for musicians to answer?
Instrumentation: Vocals X 2, Piano/Organ, Guitar, Bass and Drums.
Most recent release: Dally Bon Idyll.
Best part about life as a Bay Area band: This is the best place to live on the face of the planet.
Worst part about life as a Bay Area band: This is the most expensive place to live on the face of the planet.
First album ever purchased: Billy: Pat Benatar – Get Nervous. Dolly: Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets
Most recent album purchased/downloaded: Billy: Father John Misty – Fear Fun. Dolly: Jim Ford – Harlan County.
Favorite local eatery and dish: Billy – Range, Baked Chicken. Dolly — Shanghai Dumpling King, fried sugar egg puffs.
Bill Rousseau and Dahlia Gallin Ramirez have been kicking around the SF music scene since 2004 when they played with The Monolith. Fast forward eight years and replace synths and effects with a guitar, a piano and a heck of a lot of lovely harmonies and you have Billy & Dolly, pop sensations.
Bill Rousseau and Dahlia Gallin Ramirez made a conscious choice to revisit the songs of their youth for inspiration in Billy & Dolly, and this is apparent on hearing their music. Hints of The Byrds, The Hollies, and early Stones are evident, though they cite Donovan, Simon and Garfunkel and Dolly Parton. What is clear is their handle on arrangement and harmony and their use of slightly off-kilter timing and key to add a signature flavor to what could be a straightforward hook. A perfect example is the lead piano line in the video posted below – “Oh Yeah” – it adds darkness and discomfort to a standard melody and leaves you feeling like you are falling down a flight of stairs you didn’t even realize were there in the first place. Veeeery sneaky, stairs. Veeeery sneaky, Billy & Dolly.
After releasing their first album – In The Beginning – in 2009 the band went through the standard routine playing shows, building up their chops, experimenting with adding drums and bass vs. performing as a duo, and ended up opening for Dr. Dog and The Apples in Stereo. For their next release they decided to team up with producer/musician Jason Quever (Papercuts) and ended up with Dally Bon Idyll, an album that takes the intimacies of their songwriting and the catchiness of their hooks to the next level. They have gained a real sense of confidence with the time spent discovering and uncovering their sound and this is especially apparent on “Gold“, their first single from Dally Bon Idyll. Billy & Dolly take us down a familiar path but add a few eerie elements of their own along the way to remind us that beyond the sunshine lies the darkness, but beyond the darkness lies everything.
Billy & Dolly play their record release at The Rickshaw Stop Wednesday, July 11. Doors are at 8pm, tickets are $10 and The 21st Century and Morgan Manifacier provide support. Dally Bon Idyll is out now and available through their website: www.billyanddolly.com
Written by Julie Israel
No, no – not the estranged cousins of Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Far from it. Unlike the nephews of wealthy Uncle Scrooge, Bill Rousseau and Dahlia Gallin Ramirez (Billy & Dolly) have built their success from musical scratch and adversity. Both survivors of former electric rock band “The Monolith,” after five years of pounding the pavement and little success in that endeavor the two needed some serious musical convalescence. Most fortunately for us, of course, this disbanded duo stuck together and, after two years of basement hibernation, set off anew, debuting as Billy & Dolly in 2009 with “In the Beginning,” and a fresh, more organic sound.
How have they fared since? Quite pleasantly: the San Fran band enjoys playing regular shows around the Bay area and has been slowly but surely growing its Californian presence. What really says auspicious, of course – and much to the delight of Billy & Dolly fans everywhere – was the release of a second full-length album, “Dally Bon Idyll” this May.
With light vocals and harmonies that recall The Kinks, The Beatles, and musical influences like Simon & Garfunkel and Dolly Parton – not to mention piano falling as clean and pleasant as the afternoon sunbeams – listeners can’t help but to be swept up, up, and away as the sweetness washes over them.
The very opening track of the album, “Oh Yeah,” draws the curtain back with every semblance of parlor charm, the popping piano and swaying vocals setting the stage for the sweet and idyll show to come. Another playful favorite, “Young and on the Way Up,” sounds distinctly like a vintage, high school slow-dance – perhaps something out of Grease or the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance – but is threaded with fresh electric guitar and percussion that claps from black and white to colored life.
Music that actually affects us, getting under our skin, up our arms, down our spines and in our hearts is rare, but Billy & Dolly, with their stripped-down, vocal-fronted requiems often do just that. “Old Ghost,” for example, is bittersweet, a nostalgic memory that nuzzles up like an old lover, but leaves you feeling cold and empty-armed.
True to the nature of the album, a single track has many beauties in its simplicity. “When the Sun Comes Up Tomorrow” is soft, its gentle electric bass mingling with airy, Beatles-like vocals and the rich, lower octaves of a trudging, heavy-foot piano. The chilling, harmonized line “Everyone will take their place in life” is followed only by a swell of synth and percussion like the world opening up before you (again, The Beatles come to mind.) The lyrics linger in your ears, echoing wisdom: “The good news is you’re gonna live / and no one knows your sorrow. / You just forget what you can’t forgive / when the sun comes up tomorrow.”
Billy & Dolly is a sugar-pop pair not to be missed. The band will play numerous shows around California this summer, but this northwester is a cloudy state shy of San Fran and would love to see them on tour! Hint, hint, guys.
Here’s a little listen and a download to guide you through your day
There’s a line on the new Billy & Dolly album that sums up everything you need to know about the San Francisco power-pop duo: “You had a sister, I look just like her,” sings Bill Rousseau on the song “Now I See.” It’s funny, unexpected and probably brutally candid, kind of like the rest of the group’s beautifully produced second album, “Dally Bon Idyll.” With his musical partner Dahlia Gallin Ramirez – both former members of the band the Monolith – Rousseau lends his surprisingly high-pitched voice and bubblegum melodies to tangible heartache throughout the record. There’s an air of latter-period Teenage Fanclub in the mournful breeziness of songs such as “Oh Yeah” and “Old Ghost,” while “Young and on the Way Up” quivers and shakes like something you might hear a thousand times at Johnny Rockets. The bittersweet pleasures these two create are solitary.
Billy & Dolly (Bill Rousseau and Dahlia Gallin Ramirez), are due to self-release their excellent new album, Dally Bon Idyll on May 15th. Recorded in partnership with producer/musician Jason Quever (Papercuts), The San Franciscan pair have produced an album of well crafted tunes that manages to combine some really beautiful pop melodies with delightful hooks and catchy riffs.
On first listen to the album it’s impressive, on further plays it reveals itself as great.
All hail Billy & Dolly, they have produced a collection of songs that sits very comfortable alongside some of the greats. Did anyone mention Simon & Garfunkel?
If you know anything about me, you know I like indie-pop. That is to say, I like music that uses pop-hooks, rock influences, chord structures that aren’t too complicated, and vocals that are pleasant. I’m not talking about most Top 40 crap…that stuff reaches for the lowest common denominator. I’m talking about the stuff I can put on in the background and listen to without feeling like I’m listening to music for 3rd graders, but also music that if I want to sit down and give a close listen to, there will be some measure of depth.
On Dally Bon Idyll, the duo Billy & Dolly (Bill Rousseau and Dahlia Gallin Ramirez, formerly of Monolith) are doing it right. The opening track, “Oh Yeah,” sounds a little like Claudia Gonson of the Magnetic Fields if she lost all her irony. By track two, “Gold,” I had to do a double-take to make sure I wasn’t listening to The Magic Numbers, and by the end of the album, I was hearing shades of Peter Bjorn & John, the Shins, and even Revolver-era Beatles.
The thing is, I didn’t feel like these were influences on them (Well, except for the Beatles, but who isn’t influenced by the Beatles?). Rather, I feel like these are all bands I like, and Billy & Dolly have managed to place themselves amongst these other bands, making pop music that is 1000 times better that the pop that gets radio play. They are playing pop music for adults, and they are doing it without the pretense and the irony that comes with a lot of indie-pop today. This is good stuff.
Have you noticed? Like clockwork, the buds on the ornamental plum trees are starting to power pop their thin pink petals, making sidewalks more poetic all across the city. Ephemeral yet impressive, the changing season awakens melodies of Billy and Dolly, the local singing and songwriting duo formerly of the Monolith. The guy-girl combo is backed by the Tell-Tale Hearts, a sonic unity of 20 Minute Loop’s rockin’ guitar-bass team and the Monolith’s drummer. The harmonies are deliciously poppy and achingly bittersweet, reminiscent of Elliott Smith, were he not so chronically bummed and had a lovely lady voice as a complement. Beware: between the trees and the tunes, it’s all so pretty, it just might hurt your heart. (Kat Renz)
Would you make room on your shelf for pop band Billy and Dolly? After discovering that his favorite unknown band has poured blood, sweat, tears and its own money into making, in his opinion, the most awesome record ever, reporter Eric Winick tests the Bay Area band’s latest album, In the Beginning on a few of his friends. Will they treasure it as much as he does?
Listen as Eric Winick spreads the word about SF band Billy and Dolly’s latest album, In the Beginning. (Running Time: 20:45)