Brighton’s Paul Steel has had a rather interesting career. In less than 10 years Paul has created two excellent albums, formed a super-group, and has made wildly successful endeavours into the world of professional song-writing and production.
Paul kicked off his music career with a particularly idiosyncratic move – by releasing the weird yet wonderful, self-produced concept album ‘April and I’. The album was written by Paul when he was just 19, and recorded in his grubby student bedroom shortly after. It’s a one-of-a-kind narrative about a young boy inventing an imaginary friend ‘April’ in order to get through the trials and tribulations of growing up. With the combination of Paul’s unique songwriting abilities, a palette of melodies, sounds and recording techniques that Brian Wilson would be proud of, and a tireless devotion to his immersive concept, it’s no wonder that the album quickly garnered critical acclaim upon it’s release. The album earned a legion of fans and the passionate support of many of the artists that had inspired Paul’s music, including Andy Partridge (XTC), Sean O’Hagen (The High Llamas), and various members of Brian Wilson’s band The Wondermints. Sean Lennon also came out in support of the album, stating that Paul’s “best moments sound a bit like Queen meeting the Beach Boys in the bedroom of a 15-year-old boy wearing Batman pyjamas”.
A few years after it’s release, ‘April & I’ was reimagined as an animated movie by the Oscar winning film production company Passion Pictures (notable for their work with Jamie Hewlett on the early Gorillaz videos). Each of the 10 tracks were visually brought to life by a different animator showcasing a wide range of innovative styles and concepts from suicidal knitted dolls to a deliriously stoned crack monster party.
After releasing his well-received follow-up album ‘Moon Rock’, Paul quietly became the go to songwriter for a number of great off-kilter pop acts. He earned writing credits for work with Nick Littlemore (Empire of the Sun), Nicola Roberts, Saint Raymond and many more. In 2013 Paul’s songwriting finally gained international exposure with Mika’s track ‘Underwater’. He also started lending his notable production talents to artists, culminating in Paul co-producing The Xcerts critically acclaimed album ‘There Is Only You’.
With Paul’s songwriting and production skills in such high demand over the past few years, in addition to his endeavours with the super-group ‘Cold Crow’s Dead’, one would assume that Paul simply hasn’t had the time to continue to explore his solo work. Surprisingly, Paul has some how managed to utilise the rare downtime he’s had, and has got to work on the follow up (thematically speaking) to his amazing debut, ‘April & I’.
‘April & I’ the first time round was a pre-emptive teenage rebellion against all the musical sacrifices I suspected I’d have to make once I’d signed a record deal. It was pure musical expression and hedonism and as naive and ridiculous sounding as it came out I’m more proud of that album than anything. I’m nearly 30 now, I have facial hair, hypothyroidism, occasional back problems and I’ve been working as a commercial pop writer and producer where my own personal musical sacrifice has earned me a living. However, more and more I’ve been craving that rush when you get from making music for it’s own sake. I love records like ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ by Todd Rundgren that indulge in excess however bloated and grotesque some of the tracks turned out. It felt like it was an accurate and honest representation of his thoughts and observations at that specific period of his life. Weirdly, after a few years of allowing the vacuum in my mind to expand beyond it’s borders, I had a thought. Then shortly after another different thought appeared. Then another. And another. By the end of 2014 I could count at least 20 different thoughts and observations roughly speaking! It was a miracle! I knew it was time to begin work on another album of my own without any commercial considerations or anyone else to answer to. Perhaps my last chance to indulge myself and others who share my passions and tastes before life gets too complicated and heavy. This giddy feeling of infinite possibility and inspiration took me straight back to the ‘April & I’ days so it made sense for this new record to be a sequel that will document some of my darkest moments and my quest to find inspiration, artistic freedom and my imaginary friend April.’