They slowly collected more members from people they already knew or met through playing, until they built up to a 10-piece band, with co-vocalist and Brazilian native Robson Santos singing in Portuguese.
Their debut album Energy State came out in 2003 on the Sugarlicks label, the product of 14 months of recording sessions at the Sugarlicks studio.
Their sophomore effort Soup Kitchen was released in 2006 on Tardus Music. Between the first and second album, the band managed to lose all but three of the original members. It’s hard work keeping a band that big together.
One Million Dollars made its name with enjoyable live shows, creating a funky laidback dance vibe.
The band made its name with enjoyable live shows, creating a funky laidback dance vibe. Live highlights for the band included performing at Fest Na’puan in Vanuatu, playing at Te Papa for The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers premiere and opening for The Black Eyed Peas at the St James back in 2002.
Their third album Stand Up To The Shakedown was recorded over a weekend in 2007 at York St Studios as live sessions with family and friends in attendance and came out independently later that year. They chose to do the album as a live, one-take effort in reaction to the painfully drawn out process that they endured making their previous two albums – for example, their second album was started in April 2005 and released in September 2006. They also wanted to try and capture the live spirit of the band on record.
At the time of recording their third album, the decision to end the band had already been made. The band called it a day in 2008, playing their last ever live shows in April and went their separate ways, promising “never again, not even if you paid us heaps of money.”
Singer Richie Setford turned his focus to his solo project Bannerman, which he had started in 2003 but put aside for One Million Dollars. He was also a singer and key member of samba-inspired group, Batucada Sound Machine (aka BSM, aka B2KDA) which had also been in existence since 2004. The band was particularly busy in the years after the demise of One Million Dollars, with multiple visits to play festivals in Europe.
Setford moved to Berlin in 2013, but B2KDA continued without him and recorded a fourth and final album, Rising (2015), before disbanding. Meanwhile Setford had become a session player on the Berlin scene and kickstarted a new phase of his solo career in 2018 – this time under his own name – with a run of singles and EPs.
On the other side of the world, Robson was back living in his hometown of Sao Paulo Brazil, still spinning funk tunes under his DJ name, El Gato Negro (The Black Cat). Other members of the band have also popped up as session players in Auckland bands too numerous to name.
In discussing the legacy of One Million Dollars, we would also be remiss if we didn’t mention the band’s manager, Stephen O’Hoy, who was integral in the development of digital music services in New Zealand through his work at Amplifier and DRM, and was a board member of Independent Music NZ. Sadly, O’Hoy passed away suddenly from a brain aneurysm in 2016.
Updated by Gareth Shute
Richie Setford - vocals, guitar
Bex Peterson - vocals
Robson Santos - vocals, birimbao, harmonica
Finn Scholes - trumpet, fugelhorn
Pete France - sax
Keith Milbank - keys
Tom Atkinson - drums
Ben Anderson - percussion
Cass 'Fresh' Mitchell - bass
Hadyn Godfrey - trombone
Jonathan Goss - drums
Stephen Dakars - sax
Marko Los - drums
Amos Clarke - bass
Alex Urlich - bass
Steph Brown - keys
Paddy Geddes - keys
Richard Cotman - trumpet, flugelhorn
Nick Tempest - trumpet
Eamonn Deverall - sax, flute
Kelly Kahkiwa - sax
Cherie Elliot - trombone
Hayley Barker - trombone
Paul Taylor - percussion