“I would definitely need a lot of help,” SEB says when asked if he’d ever consider a career as a filmmaker. Little does the pop newcomer know, with the way he speaks about his latest project and overall vision, it seems like he’s already sitting in the director’s chair.
Taking notes from cult classic Donnie Darko and Harmony Korine’s Gummo, the 24-year-old Los Angeles-based riser has always pictured his debut EP, IT’S OKAY, WE’RE DREAMING — the groovy first impression of the singer’s sound — as something that couldn’t be anything less than theatrical.
“Each time there’s a movie that really grabs me, it just sticks with me,” SEB tells SPIN over the phone. “And the music helps me further explore what that movie means to me and my life.”
For his July 30 debut, which he hopes to be just one chapter in an in-the-works trilogy, SEB is using his love for film to experiment with character building. He introduces a protagonist named God of the Sunset — following a setting similar to the post-apocalyptic nature of Gummo — and takes listeners through his journey in another two eventual EPs.
Mind you, inventing a sunset God while SEB is riding straight off a TikTok-backed hit in the bright “seaside_demo” only makes sense. Originally hailing from Chicago and spending his early years bouncing around New York, Haiti, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Oklahoma, the sunny sound that he’s been able to capture on his mega-track (which has garnered nearly 45 million Spotify streams in just a handful of months thanks to a luring Harry Styles “Watermelon Sugar” mashup), is simply a summation of everywhere he’s stepped foot. But he could’ve never guessed it would make the waves it has.
“The thing about [“seaside_demo”] that made it the best for me was how unexpected it was and how there was no pressure around it,” SEB explains of the song, which he uploaded to YouTube earlier in the year without much traction. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, this song was done.’ And everyone is like ‘OK, this is the one, we got to push it like crazy.’ Like it was so organic. I feel like that’s one of the best ways it can happen.”
While drawing from film storylines was always a focus, SEB didn’t always have as clear of a vision for his sonics. He explains that before 2020, when he was quite literally forced to hone in on his craft during the pandemic, most of his material followed the groundwork laid by artists he admired. But now, he’s finding any comparisons hard to make.
“Before, the influences were more prominent,” he shares. “As far as like, ‘OK, he’s trying to make a Neptunes-type song.’ ‘OK, he’s trying to make a Clairo-type song.’ For some reason, last year was when the influences got a little blurrier and meshed together to where it became its own thing. The influences aren’t as prominent.”
That doesn’t mean his influences can’t be felt, though. New York taught him the power of house music and electronic. Chicago introduced him to the discographies and sounds of Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper, hence some jazzier, gospel-style chords ingrained in his work. And living in Haiti pulled him closer to Kompa music. Right now, however, no matter what the culmination of those sounds may imply, SEB would rather simply be known as a pop artist.
“I just see pop as being almost genre-less,” SEB says. “Really good songs would just be considered pop. I just feel like being put in R&B, it’d be doing a disservice to my music and also to R&B. I’m not on a track singing like Frank Ocean. It’s this weird hybrid, so I just like to call it pop.”
SEB is only a few months deep into finding his streams elevated through his breakout hit, and unlike many others who are greeted by surprise success in pop, he likes to keep his long-term goals realistic. “[In five years], maybe I’ll have one good world tour and then a few more albums and basically just live comfortably. I have my dog, my girlfriend, hopefully we can get in a place. You know, nothing too crazy.”