Fold Paper is the Sound of the Rules Breaking: Chell Osuntade on his Post-Punk Debut
I meet Chell at The Good Will in the middle of a busy summer. He’s spent the last months slinging Pink Drinks at Starbucks, playing back-to-back music fests, and prepping for his post-punk debut as Fold Paper (a name inspired by a now-defunct Yves Jarvis song).
The 25-year-old musician possesses such an immense knowledge of the genre that I’m expecting him to tell me all about his punk-rock upbringing. How he’s been moshing to the stuff since he could stand. Misfits lullabies or Siouxsie Sioux’s face on a mobile above his crib. Instead, he tells me about his father’s church choir and listening to Cat Country 99.9.
“Country music blaring fucking 365,” he says after offering his rendition of the radio station’s theme song.
Chell moved from Nigeria to the U.S. as a toddler and spent his formative years in rural Michigan. Corn. Football. Mechanically-milked cows. The whole deal.
“I would have a little radio in my room and listen to country music all day.”
He recalls analyzing and dissecting the country radio hits. Hours spent learning the rules of a chord progression.
“Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus,” He mutters, constructing a song as we speak.
In his teen years, he moved away from country music and on to the indie rock greats: Vampire Weekend, Two Door Cinema Club, etc., etc.—still carefully studying the lyrics and instrumentation of every quirky tune.
At 16, he bought a Yamaha acoustic guitar and taught himself to play “What If” by Bombay Bicycle Club.
A few years later, he moved to Winnipeg, and the local music scene quickly swallowed him whole. He bounced around a few bands before joining Arenas (now Toronto-based) in 2018 and starting Julien’s Daughter (still going strong) a year later.
“[Growing up], I could never find anyone that listened to what I liked to listen to,” Chell explains. “I didn’t really make any musical connections until I moved to Winnipeg.”
It was Arenas drummer Mike Scott who introduced him to black midi—one of his many post-punk idols.
“Preoccupations, Omni, Women,” Chell says, running through an easily conjured list of bands he adores.
He stops on one name and his eyes light up.
“Unschooling. I remember the first Unschooling song I listened to was called ‘Wet Sidewalks.’ I’ve listened to that song for four or five years now, and every time I listen to it, it fucks with my brain.”
He talks about songs in his Spotify library like they’re old friends. Recalling when they met and where. Why he’s glad to know them.
“As much as there are no rules in any kind of music, post-punk just leaves room for so much more chaos,” Chell explains. “You can make it angry. You can be loud. It can be really soft and finger-picky. black midi have a song called ‘Western’ that sounds like a western. There's a song called ‘Near DT, MI,' and it's just like so loud and in your face.”
Chell appreciates this extra room and how it allows for a more limitless writing process.
“There's just so many ideas floating in my head that I want to throw it all into one song.”
With post-punk, he can: his newest music promising mind-blowing theory and plenty of “fucky time signatures.”
Chell has spent years learning the rules, and Fold Paper will be the sonic breaking of them.
“I think I was someone who had to learn the rules first. I had to learn the rules before realizing I can take them and twist them up and braid them together.”
This rebellion doesn’t mock that which it is straying from. Chell respects the music that molded him. He still sees the art in the sounds he's outgrown. From churches and childhood bedrooms to local venues and international stages: he's taken note at every stop. Now, he just wants to see what would happen, how bright the light could get, if maybe he tore a page from the rule book...and set it on fire.