You would think after ten years of involvement in the dance music industry, Sean Roman would have things running like a well-oiled machine. Despite what the social media streams of today's DJs and producers make things seem, finding your footing in the industry doesn't occur overnight.
"I feel like I've been hibernating and keeping to myself, but with all of my releases coming out, this is like the beginning of Sean Roman," the DJ says.
This isn't a reinvention of Sean Roman, rather a sort of revival. "I've been stuck in Toronto working on other things, but this summer I'm going to start touring again," Roman tells THUMP. "I've kind of taken a break from playing gigs, but that break is over."
For the past couple of years, Roman has shifted his focus from nightlife to day life. His attention is on Altus Project, a startup label and agency that Roman works for in collaboration with Lee M. Kelsall and Thee Cool Cats. "I wanted to work with people who know what it means to be an artist, so we decided to start this label together," says Roman. "Before, I was with an agency that I wasn't really happy with. There's a lot of negative and positive shit that goes along with having an agent and label. You've got to find the right one who can do both and who understands your perspective."
If there's anything Roman knows a thing or two about, it's working with labels. Many, many labels. Over the course of his mainly Canadian-based career, Roman spread his releases across labels like CR2, Sleazy Deep, Strictly Rhythm, Bunny Tiger, Hot Waves, and My Favorite Robot. "I've always sent a bunch of stuff out and then all of a sudden I'm on all these labels," explains Roman. Even now, he has no interest in pinning one label as home base. "It's hard for me to justify only one label unless it's a huge one."
But when the prospect of moving to Berlin arose, that was an easy decision. In 2014, Roman made the move to the unofficial techno capital of Europe for the same reason anyone would: music. While there, he was exposed to a side of dance music that Toronto curtains in bottle service and early bedtimes. "I couldn't believe the musical risks people took in clubs, you could go out to any club and it would be amazing. The DJs took risks and the audiences knew their shit."
Understandably, being a bystander in Berlin didn't fly for Roman. He quickly made the move to play at some of Berlin's typical club-dungeons, including the former factory turned nightclub, Ritter-Butzke. "I think what I'm trying to say about Berlin is that the times I've played there—usually from 11 PM to 5 AM—you're able to take the crowd on a weird journey."
That weird journey has come full circle and brought Roman back to Toronto, where his endeavours have seemingly grown. "My time is really divided. I do music production, DJing, sound design, and I'm starting my own company called Secret Sounds which will work with companies for sound branding. I also do sample packs and the Altus Project," says Roman. He continues sounding like a typical, over-achieving Torontonian, by doing the one thing they do best: complain.
"There's this thing about Toronto and how we champion the artists from here. It doesn't matter if it's music or art, we don't give them the credit or respect they deserve until they make it somewhere else. Unlike New York City or Berlin, where people champion the fact that they're from there and are still there," he says. "I love Toronto crowds, but people don't understand the music that's being played at the clubs they go to. The average club goer is not there to hear or seek out new sounds."
Roman intends on pursuing the sounds he personally enjoys and not necessarily the ones that cater to Toronto's crowd. His new two-track EP Remember is partly a collaboration with Ali Black, a veteran DJ in the city. "I've learned a lot from him for a long time and we only started working together this year. We've signed it to CR2U and some other tracks together," says Roman. "It's essentially a track influenced by disco. The other single 'I Like It', is a straight up nu-disco track, a summertime tune for the ladies." The nu-disco tune "I Like It" is out today and can be heard above.
It's clear Roman is uncertain of Toronto's crowd, labels, and agents, but he's sure of one thing: himself.
"I want to stop being underrated, I want to just be rated."
The 'Remember' EP will be available on May 4th. Listen to the first single "I Like It" above. Roman will also be playing at The Burroughes Toronto on May 22.
Connie Chan is the editor for THUMP Canada, and you can find her on Twitter.