By Jack Derricourt
Otherworldly music stands out. Sounds that resonate from somewhere you’re not entirely familiar with are fascinating — it’s just human nature. Elrichman is the most nicely dressed, mild-mannered member of the unforseen universe, the valedictorian of odd sonics. He seems to stem from a tin pan alley of the multiverse, ready to throw a spacey ballad together for anyone that requests his talents — anyone!
“I’d write a song for Rob Ford. You could write a sympathetic tune for him. I think there’s a good hair metal song waiting to be written for him.”
Thankfully, most of the honed songwriter’s material leans towards the free and easy, having less to do with hair metal and more to do with sangria in parks. Having played songs from a tender age, before becoming known for his guitar and vocal work in Toronto band Gay, Paul Erlichman has branched out towards a quieter, though no less impressive, sound for his solo material. The Clarity recordings in 2012 offered a twee, polite view of the world, populated by sparse instrumentation and muted melodies. New material, to be performed on stage for April 13th at the Grayowl/ Crosswires showcase, promises another selection of oddities.
“I just started writing songs that were a little bit away from that [Gay] sound,” says Elrichman. “Farragoes produced a series of sessions, and then Cameron Murray from Gay is producing a series of other recording currently. The Tom and Cam sessions will be released this Summer on Pleasence Records.”
This new, deep pocket of songs was mostly performed on the twelve string acoustic, offering a vast universe of guitar tonalities to the listener. The new release will also include the Floridian mind warp of “Cool Shade of the Palm,” a fascinating collection of dry vocal layers and almost novelty sounding synth parts (the track can be found in charming, streaming video until the album drops). The 2014 material, yet to be named, has been an opportunity for Elrichman to explore different sounds and arrangements.
“I happen to know a few very talented sax players. Arranging for sax has been a really fun experience. The musicians really nailed it. The flute on “Cool Shade of the Palm” is great — it’s a really neglected instrument in pop music these days. Amelia Lyon who I went to kindergarten with did the flute. I love the guitar, and there are so many things that can be done with it, but you can get guitar fatigue. That’s the cool thing about writing with Tom [Avis, a.k.a. Farragoes], he took a real synth approach.”
Elrichman’s material is rich in storytelling. The voices he chooses to sing from tell intimate tales of friendship, struggle, and passion. The Clarity recordings showcase a woman’s reflections on her seemingly multiple past lives, an attendant to the Shah in his final days, and the disenchanted lover of a spy, all painted with songwriter aplomb. If “Cool Shade of the Palm” is any indication, Elrichman’s original take on perspective is here to stay:
I’m here with my friends
Nowhere else to go
And you know I’m selling
Out the back of my car.
I’ve got nothing on . . .
It certainly seem things are staying weird — though perhaps such lines are just personal admissions by the artist, distorted by necessity.
“As I get more comfortable with music, I write it more through my own voice,” says Elrichman. “I think as you get older, I think . . . it becomes important to do it through a believable voice, and there’s no more believable voice than your own. Even if I’m looking through the eyes of a really odd character, it comes out through my own voice.”
Perhaps this original, divergent voice is the combative solution to a monoculture that leads the pack by the choke chain? Elrichman certainly witnessed the dangers of one-way musical expression on a recent trip down south.
“I’ve been in a lot of cars on long trips recently, and I’ve been listening to radio. I was driving through Michigan the other day, and I heard Free Bird on three different channels. There’s gotta be more on offer.”
Thankfully for Torontonians, there’s a lot more on offer. Watch out for Elrichman’s new material as the season turns sweet, and come down to Handlebar, Sunday, April 13th for a showcase of disparate voices — no “Free Bird” allowed unless it’s played on the flute.