A recurring image on Inlet Sound’s debut album The Romantics is of a boat on the water. Such is the feeling evoked by their exuberant folk-pop: casting off, seeing the world, traveling free.

When I call up the band’s core duo of Michael Wexler and Sean Hardy, they are not on the water but in fact weaving through Toronto traffic. Nevertheless they are in high spirits, as optimistic young men as their music suggests. Trained in theater and classical music, respectively, they’ve crafted rich and inviting folk-pop tunes infused with the spirit of adventure.

When did it become apparent that the original Inlet Sound duo needed to be rounded out with more musicians?

SEAN: That’s hard to say. There was always a desire for a bigger, fuller band but not really until we were faced with necessitating circumstances did the wheels get put in motion; in August 2010 we were invited ... some promoters found our Myspace page ...

Does your Myspace page still get traffic?

SEAN: Back in the dark ages.

MICHAEL: Didn’t Justin Timberlake buy Myspace?

He was among the investors who bought it for a cool $35 million.

MICHAEL: What smart people.

SEAN: It was $500 or best offer.

They turned it around - now almost five people are using it.

SEAN: Exactly. Anyway, back when we had a page that’s where we point all our demos. Some promoters found us and set us up in a Battle of the Bands competition at the Mod Club. We saw it as an opportunity to go beyond coffee houses and that sort of thing, so we put the band together.

Battle of the Bands - that’s still a thing, too?

MICHAEL: This was three years, ago, keep in mind.

SEAN: Maybe they’ve fizzled since then. At the time there was a label contact, so Sony or whoever would listen to the winner’s demo. That sort of deal.

Michael, you have a background in musical theater. What productions were you in?

MICHAEL: Spanning everything, from Cats and Annie to less-cheesy rock operas like Hair.

SEAN: That’s where our tastes differ: for me, it’s Godspell or nothing. Or maybe Jesus Christ Superstar.

Did you have to “unlearn,” for lack of a better term, some of your formal / classical training to put together these pop songs?

SEAN: I was going in with an advantage, as I wasn’t particularly talented to begin with. So I didn’t have much to unlearn.

MICHAEL: I’d say the same about myself. I was a campfire-style, singer-songwriter while I was a teenager. We didn’t have that issue.

SEAN: I jest - it’s more like at the time Mike and I got together I’d left my classical training behind. I stopped when I was a young teenager. Transitioning wasn’t that tough. I didn’t need Dream Theater-levels of classical proficiency. I would’ve to loved rip through some synth solos, but no.

The emotional response I get from your music reminds me of that feeling of being cooped up inside all day, in school or at work, then finally being free. The world outside hasn’t changed but it feels more open, more inviting.

MICHAEL: If that’s the case then I feel like we’ve done our job. We want the effect to be like breaking past the daily, mundane bullshit of life to appreciate the romantic side of things. It’s a lot better than if you’d said “It’s like the feeling you get at the beginning of the school day ...”

SEAN: “It’s like 9 a.m. all the time!”

Boating / sailing comes up a lot in the band’s visual presentation. What is your level of interest in that?

MICHAEL: It’s a constant theme. I’ve always loved being on the water, but I don’t know if (the recurring image) reflects something we actually enjoy, or that it’s just very fitting for the ideas we’ve been putting out.

SEAN: It fits the theme of ... how would you put it?

MICHAEL: Breaking free, seeing the positive aspects of life even when it grinds you down.

Inlet Sound will be performing June 13 (Cameron House), June 14 (3030 Dundas), and June 15 (CBC Radio 3 Bellwoods Picnic @ Noon).

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