He subscribes to no genre, he knows no one homeland… but Sebastian Paul’s music sure has amazing creative flair.
Mad Decent, a record label formed by famous producer Diplo, is well-known for its eclectic output. They’re the ones who have helped to popularize genres such as Brazilian baile funk, Angolan kuduro, and the reggae-house hybrid known as moombahton. Two years ago, the label kept this tradition going strong by bringing aboard Sebastian Paul, a free-spirited artist who shifts regularly between California and Colorado without calling either one his native land.
From his methods of recording— he likes to set up shop with the mic inside his own car— to his music videos— one of which features solely a blazing meteorite for 4.5 minutes— it’s clear that Paul is no friend of convention. Paul is now going solo, challenging the norms of music on his own path, but plenty of innovative music to his name has emerged because of it, as can be heard on his first two EPs, TROJAN HORSE and BOY OH BOY. In between recording these projects, Paul also accompanied his former labelmate Hippie Sabotage on a nationwide tour, giving him his earliest bit of onstage exposure.
Watch: “IMPATIENT” – Sebastian Paul
Paul re-emerged last month with the release of his single, “IMPATIENT,” and its self-directed music video. He describes this bouncy new joint as “a track about loving someone who’s unwilling to change, and moving on in order to grow, while feeling the weight of leaving them behind.” This is one of two new singles this year, along with “BACK AND FORTH.” Smart money says that more tracks will follow before too long.
Atwood Magazine speaks to Paul about the creative whirlwind these past couple of years have been.
A CONVERSATION WITH SEBASTIAN PAUL
Atwood Magazine: You came onto the scene in 2018 with your debut EP, TROJAN HORSE, and that was followed up a year later with “BOY OH BOY.” How did those first two records help you to establish your initial trajectory as a recording artist?
Sebastian Paul: Those two projects had to be the first steps for everything I plan to do. They both have very specific meanings in a broader sense than just the music. Like pieces of a larger puzzle.
Another year later, and you’ve come out with two more singles in 2020: “IMPATIENT” and “BACK AND FORTH.” In what ways do these newer releases characterize your current career phase?
Sebastian Paul: Through the release of those two songs, I have certainly stepped into a new place with my artistry. I feel like, ultimately, this is where I’ve always wanted to be. I’m making work that feels almost perfect to me. Not just sonically, but visually as well. “BACK AND FORTH” was the conception of the next phase of my career. “IMPATIENT” is the birth.
Some of your videos are just you all alone, doing your thing, like “IMPATIENT” and “ON SOME HIGH.” For others, like “INDULGE” and “BACK AND FORTH”, you invite some actors along and often stand nearby nonchalantly while they embrace. Might there be some correlation between the content of the songs and the approach you use for the corresponding videos?
Sebastian Paul: I’m sure on some level there’s a correlation between the videos, but really I’m just speaking to the nature of being a storyteller. As a storyteller (at least in my stories), sometimes I’m the protagonist, other times I’m just an observer, but most times I’m both.
Watch: “INDULGE” – Sebastian Paul
What inspired you to make the transition from dance music to alt-pop/electronica? What do you find most engaging about experimenting with these newly-embraced genres?
Sebastian Paul: I never really think about genre, to be honest. I feel like what I do is very hard to categorize. I’m always just making what I need to for that specific time. And as the times change, my creations change with it.
How did you come in contact with Hippie Sabotage, the group that brought you along on your first ever-tour? What are your hopes now that (fingers crossed) you'll be able to tour and perform with them again later this year?
Sebastian Paul: I had just signed with my booking agency, and we had no idea who to put me on tour with (again, the issue of not being in a specific genre or lane). They wanted to poke around and ask some different artists, and randomly Hippie Sabotage were the first they asked. They hit back and were into what I was doing (thankfully), and I went on my first tour. Which ended up being one of the most formative experiences of my life. Those guys taught me an endless amount.
How would you describe your time as a member of record label Mad Decent? Ever thought about giving a shot at moombahton?
Sebastian Paul: My time with Mad Decent was perfect. They’re family to me. I was a naïve kid in the music business who didn’t know much besides how to create (although I thought I knew everything, haha). They guided me through that time, put a team around me, and believed in me when no one else did. Everyone from Diplo all the way down always treated me well. And on top of all that, we put out records that I think will live for a very long time.
And trust me, I make every genre. Definitely have some moombahton in the archives somewhere.
Is there any symbolism behind the flaming meteorite in the “TROJAN HORSE” music video?
Sebastian Paul: 100% yes, but I can’t speak on that quite yet.
Watch: “TROJAN HORSE” – Sebastian Paul
You say you shift between Los Angeles and Colorado a lot without claiming either as your place of origin. How do you draw upon the cultures and musical communities of each place as you make your way back and forth?
Sebastian Paul: I think what I mainly draw on is the stark difference between the two. It’s a nice balance between chaos and tranquility.
Are your two new singles part of a broader release? If so, what are your artistic ambitions for your upcoming project?
Sebastian Paul: They’re definitely part of something broader, but I’m also gonna stay tight-lipped on that until the time is right. Just know there are no plans of the output stopping anytime soon.
Anything you’d like to add?
Sebastian Paul: A lot more. Just as long as the world doesn’t end.
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