Sean Paul: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Transcendental ambient out of body experience.
File next to: Sexy Merlin, Erlichman
Playing: WL653, Friday (March 27) at Ratio, 283 College St.

Paul Erlichman (formerly of Gay) is a man on the go. There is no doubting that he works hard for the money. Can mad scientist Sean Dunal (aka Sexy Merlin) help act as a conduit for this body in motion?  Unpredictable as two elements can be, the results of their bond cannot be easily explained. This is the enigma that is Sean Paul.

You have worked on a few different projects. Are you a restless soul or a shark? Do you need to keep moving forward?

I think I’m more of a restless soul. Being a shark would imply that you devour the music, whereas music probably really eats you. And music isn’t about progress. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

What have been the main differences between your projects?

Well in terms of my current projects, Sean Paul is a collab between Sean Dunal and I, and Germaphobes is a collab between Neil Rankin and I with some help from other folks. The difference between these groups is that Sean Paul is much more improvisational, and Germaphobes is basically weird pop music, kind of an extension of the sound that Gay had. Elrichman (sic) was created for songs that didn’t really fit in with Gay at the time. Now it’s basically just an excuse for me to play 12-string acoustic and pretend I’m Bert Jansch.

So is Sean Paul more freeform than your other projects? Are the songs more jams (not in the hip hop/smooth R&B kind of way) or are they based around compositions?

Yes it’s pretty freeform. There are loose structures but we’re open to following each other wherever we decide to go. Having watched Sean play as Sexy Merlin dozens of times over the years, I’ve always been struck by how every one of his sets is different. Like, sometimes really different. So I’m happy that that’s transferred over to this project.

When did you start collaborating with Sean? The first thing I heard you two do together was “Promise You This Christmas”? Did that lay the seeds for Sean Paul?

We actually played a couple of Sean Paul shows before that. I’ve known Sean for years at this point, I guess first from when he was drumming in Foxfire and I guested to augment their lineup anytime it got to be under 27 people. Sean helped me out with playing a bunch of Elrichman shows and he plays most of the drums you hear on the Elrichman recordings. We played some shows that were just the two of us so we figured it would be nice to play some of his songs, and so Sean Paul was conceived.

Speaking of the name Sean Paul, has it been overly confusing sharing a moniker with a dancehall star? It certainly isn’t easily searchable for those who want to Google you.

Well luckily we basically have no web presence to challenge the real Sean Paul. Maybe if we can land a song in a Mountain Dew ad or something he will take notice. I would take a cease-and-desist order as a point of pride. Or can he even challenge us if we’re just using our names? Can you consult with Wavelength’s in-house lawyer on this?

Or maybe he’ll want to collaborate with us. What would we be then? Sean Paul Sean Paul? I’ll have to ask Sean what thinks about all these plans.

The same thing can be said of your past incarnation as Gay. Pretend you’re a curious listener: how would you Google that name to find the band?

Add “music Toronto” to either. Presto! Now you are a Google jockey!

All that said, is any of that of concern to you as an artist? Is the ambiguity that comes along with it something you like?

Um, I dunno! I think many artists that claim to appreciate ambiguity might be playing it up a little to create mystique. Me, I’m choosing to create mystique by answering these questions by candlelight, on a laptop, mind you. Mostly I’m just happy that I get to make music with my friend Sean. If we don’t conquer the world and get sued by Sean Paul, that’s OK.

Will there be recorded material? Is Pleasence involved?

I think so. I hope so. We’ve actually done a bit of recording, but because of the improvisational nature of the stuff it’s hard to know what to capture. I don’t know if Pleasence will be involved. I’m sure they’re stuffed with hot upcoming releases, and I haven’t spoken with James about it. Sean Paul is a slow burner.

What made Pleasence a good fit for you in the past?

Well Pleasence is awesome and I’m honoured to have had things I’ve recorded and been involved with out on the label. I’m super glad that they’ve existed to release a lot of great music that’s come out in Toronto the last few years that may not have had a home otherwise. The sign of an interesting city and scene are the
outliers. Pleasence has given these outliers a home, and so I hope that it outlives us all and Indie 88.

What have you liked about your involvement with Wavelength? How does it suit you as an artist?

Ample networking opportunities!!! And you placed Sean Paul on this yummy little bill with Brian, Mr. Slime Slime himself, and the Toblerone Boys. That suits me very well.

— Interview by Evan Sue-Ping