THE WASHINGTON POST – When Paul O’Sullivan spontaneously searched his own name on Facebook, a seemingly endless scroll of Paul O’Sullivan profiles appeared.
Out of curiosity – and perhaps a bit of boredom – O’Sullivan, 33, sent friend requests to a handful of them.
“I wondered what my name twins were up to out in the world,” said O’Sullivan, a music instructor who was born in Baltimore and lives in Eldersburg, Maryland.
Some of them accepted the random request, and O’Sullivan soon discovered that a few had more in common than just the name.
“Their posts started showing up on my Facebook timeline,” O’Sullivan said. “One Paul O’Sullivan posted a picture of his Fender jazz bass, another had a profile picture of him singing live, and another had a bucket list of accomplishments that completely piqued my curiosity.”
He decided to individually contact the three strangers with matching names, all of whom responded. Although they were admittedly sceptical at first, a bond was quickly forged.
Beyond their shared names, a common affinity for music drew them together. O’Sullivan got an idea: “I thought, ‘we should start a band’. It was the natural next step.”
First, O’Sullivan introduced the other Paul O’Sullivans to each other: Paul O’Sullivan, 57, of Manchester, England, is a former college lecturer who now works in public health; Paul O’Sullivan, 52, of Rotterdam, Netherlands, is a grief counsellor and teacher; and Paul O’Sullivan, 57, of Weatherly, Pennsylvania, is an antiques dealer and former publicist.
To avoid confusion, the Paul O’Sullivans started using their distinct geographic locations when referring to one another. Paul O’Sullivan from Baltimore became Baltimore Paul, and so on.
Baltimore Paul eventually pitched his idea for a cross-continental musical collaboration to his name twins, who immediately got on board. Of course, it didn’t take long to decide on a name: The Paul O’Sullivan Band.
“In the beginning, I thought this guy was crazy, but good crazy,” said Rotterdam Paul, during a Zoom interview with all four band members. “But we just dived in and it’s been a roller-coaster ride, especially the last year.”
The four Paul O’Sullivans originally connected and started making music together virtually in 2016, but the band only took off recently. Although they informally rehearsed together and became close friends over the years, they were each busy in their own lives and couldn’t dedicate much time to the band.
Then the pandemic hit, and with their newfound free time, the group spent the past several months recording an album titled Internet Famous: A Retrospective, composed of six cover songs and one original, released on December 30.
“We’ve been social distancing since 2016,” said Baltimore Paul. “We perfected the system of remote collaboration before it was even relevant.”
For the quartet of Paul O’Sullivans, band practice became a welcome distraction from the pandemic.
“So many doors had closed because of covid, and yet, Baltimore Paul had already opened this door for us, so it was so easy to walk through,” said Pennsylvania Paul. “From that, we sort of developed our ethos, which is: ‘If it makes you smile, lean into it; if it makes you dance, embrace it; and if it does both, it’s the Paul O’Sullivan Band.”
Rotterdam Paul agreed: “Every day I would wake up to messages from them. It felt like a light at the end of the tunnel.”
On top of their differing geographic locations, “We come from different generations,” said Baltimore Paul. “But with us, it never mattered. Music really does bring people together.”
“It’s all very exciting for me, being a gentleman of a certain age,” said Manchester Paul, who is 57. “When (Baltimore) Paul added me, it was just part of the wonder of the Internet.”
Meeting the other Pauls and making music with them, he said, has been a thrill.
Their first single, Namesake, is about a long-distance relationship, much like their own. The opening line of the song is, “We’ve grown so fond from across the pond.”
Baltimore Paul and Rotterdam Paul are on vocals and guitar, while Manchester Paul plays bass, and Pennsylvania Paul is on percussion.
The group convenes regularly via Zoom and other platforms from their homes to write, organise and catch up. Because of the time lag on video calls, they are unable to record music simultaneously. Instead, they separately record their parts, in an assembly line of sorts, until the final track is produced.
Despite being unable to rehearse and record together like traditional bands do, “what we can do is create that bond and that understanding that lends itself to the ability to create music”, said Pennsylvania Paul.
While recording his part, “I close my eyes and think we’re in the studio playing together. Just trying to imagine that we are together is a good feeling,” said Rotterdam Paul.
Their complementary musical capabilities and character traits work well together, the Pauls said.
“I’m so happy to be with these guys. Everybody has a different personality, and we all bring something different to the table,” said Pennsylvania Paul. “The band is an amalgam of all of our skills, visions and joy.”
Given that the album was recorded remotely from four locations, “I’m so surprised by how cohesive it turned out,” said Baltimore Paul. “It’s kind of funny how easily it came together, when you trust in those serendipitous situations.”
The Pauls described their genre as “adult pop” and acoustic but said they are enthusiastic about dipping into new styles of music.
“We’re open to everything,” said Rotterdam Paul. “We love to try out new things together.”
The four band mates have yet to meet in person, aside from Baltimore Paul and Pennsylvania Paul, who met for the first time last September. Baltimore Paul quarantined before driving three hours to Weatherly to surprise Pennsylvania Paul at his house.
“I was super nervous in the car outside of his house, but there was a strange calmness when we actually met,” said Baltimore Paul. “It felt like we had known each other our whole lives.”
The Pauls also discovered that along with their shared name and love of music, they have a similar fashion sense. Naturally, Baltimore Paul and Pennsylvania Paul were wearing similar outfits when they met – a flannel shirt and jeans.
Once the pandemic subsides, “having everyone together in the studio is the ultimate goal,” said Baltimore Paul, adding that they have written 24 additional original songs together, which they plan to release in the future. “My idea is to do a four-city tour, where we do a concert in each person’s hometown.”
But the band is about more than making music, the Pauls agreed. They said they’re bonded as brothers for life.
“There is something very difficult to put your finger on about the friendship that you develop with people that you share the same name with,” Manchester Paul explained. “I never thought it was a thing, but indeed, it is a very nice thing.”