In spring of 2016, the Denver band Rossonian got a runner-up nod for the song “Love in a Wasteland” from NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. It was a promising start to 2016 for frontman Seth Evans, who penned the song...but that year ended up being one of the hardest of his life.
“Rossonian, which had been my passion project for the lion’s share of my time in Denver, was disintegrating,” Evans says. “I had started up another promising project with hyper-talented producer Daniel Iyere, which also evaporated, and it seemed like all of my musical relationships and experiences were seeped in negativity.”
Then, in November of 2016, Evans’s good friend Tyler Despres, frontman of Science Partner and the Gin Doctors, died at the age of 34. Despres had asked Evans to co-produce the Science Partner album.
“Tyler had long been my favorite Denver songwriter, and Science Partner was easily my favorite band in town, so this was an incredible opportunity,” Evans says.
Despres, Evans and drummer Carl Sorensen started working on Science Partner demos, and Evans wanted to have every arrangement fleshed out to their liking before actually bringing the rest of the band in to track.
“Tyler was a comical, warm and deep presence, and I was excited about how the tunes were shaping up,” Evans says. “Then that fall is when Tyler died suddenly. It was easily the most devastating thing that had ever happened in my life, and for a lot of people in the Denver community as well. As that year wrapped up, I just felt increasingly lost and numb.”
After the particularly rough year, Evans felt his time in Denver was up. Since he’d long had a romantic idea of living in New York City, he decided to move to Brooklyn, basically on that sentiment alone.
“I thought it would be a new start and light a new fire under my ass to explore and advance my career, but instead I found myself spending most of the two-plus years I’ve lived here working on music in my apartment alone,” he says. “I am learning now that I have been dealing with depression, and that has played a big role in why I was isolating myself and not taking advantage of any opportunities that the city might have to offer. And me not going out and meeting people and playing shows regularly, etcetera, contributed to intense feelings of failure that I am still struggling with.”
Since he’s been in Brooklyn, Evans has been working on his own material under the moniker Paul Babe, named after the superhuman lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. Evans, who grew up in Minnesota, says there are giant statues of the two figures scattered throughout his home state, as well as Wisconsin and Michigan.
While Rossonian had what Evans calls “big-dick rockin’ guitars,” Paul Babe’s tracks have guitars but not rock.
“Carl Sorensen and Kramer Kelling, who have been my Rossonian brothers since the beginning, are still heavily involved in the project, along with Denver dignitary Joseph Lamar,” Evans says.
While Evans's Denver connection is still strong and he occasionally flies back to Colorado for gigs with the wedding/event band Great Family Reunion, he’s also recruited some New York friends, including J.Hoard and Mayteana Morales, to play on some of the tracks. When writing Paul Babe’s debut single, “Lasso,” he didn’t make a conscious decision to write a song inspired by Prince, Evans says, but looking back on it, he can definitely see the Purple One’s influence.
“I grew up in Chanhassen, Minnesota, less than a mile from both Paisley Park and where he lived at the time,” Evans says, “So you could say he has been a part of my life since I was a child.”
“Lasso,” which Evans says was the inaugural song for this project because it might best represent the deceptively minimal and ethereal direction he’s been trudging in the past few years, will be on the Paul Babe album, along with “Love in a Wasteland,” which Evans wrote near the end of Rossonian and performed on NPR but never recorded with the band.
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“I look at that as kind of the catalyst for the move in this new project and this more celestial direction,” he says.
Around the time of the Tiny Desk Contest, Evans says NPR’s Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey described the music as “cosmic R&B.”
“I think I have been heavily trying to go for that sound basically since then,” Evans says. “Though I do struggle, however, with using the latter half of that genre...tag me being a white person.”