When Paul O’Sullivan spontaneously searched his own name on Facebook, a long scroll of Paul O’Sullivan profiles appeared.
Out of curiosity — and perhaps 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, Md.
Some of them accepted his request, and O’Sullivan soon discovered that he had more in common with some of them than a name.
“Their posts started showing up on my Facebook timeline,” O’Sullivan said. “One posted a picture of his Fender jazz bass, another had a 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 men, all of whom responded. Beyond their shared names, an affinity for music bonded them. And O’Sullivan got an idea: “I thought, ‘we should start a band.’ It was the natural next step.”
So O’Sullivan introduced the men 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 counselor and teacher; and Paul O’Sullivan, 57, of Weatherly, Pa., is an antiques dealer and former publicist.
To avoid confusion, the men started using their geographic locations when referring to one another. Paul O’Sullivan from Baltimore became Baltimore Paul, and so on.
When Baltimore Paul pitched his idea for a cross-continental musical collaboration to his name twins, the guys jumped on board. 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 men connected and started making music together virtually in 2016, but the band took off only recently. Although they had informally rehearsed together and became close friends, they were busy in their own lives and couldn’t dedicate much time to their music.
Then the pandemic hit, and with their newfound free time, the group recorded “Internet Famous: A Retrospective,” an album of six cover songs and one original, released Dec. 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, band practice became a welcome distraction from the pandemic.
“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,” said Pennsylvania Paul.
On top of their differing geographic locations, “We come from different generations,” said Baltimore Paul. “But it never mattered. Music really does bring people together.”
“It’s all very exciting for me, being a gentleman of a certain age,” added Manchester Paul. “When [Baltimore] Paul added me, it was just part of the wonder of the Internet.”
Their first single, “Namesake,” is about a long-distance relationship, much like their own. It’s opening line: “We’ve grown so fond from across the pond.”
The Baltimore and Rotterdam Pauls are on vocals and guitar, while Manchester Paul plays bass and Pennsylvania Paul does percussion.
The group convenes regularly via Zoom and other platforms to write, organize, and catch up. Because of the time lag, they separately record their parts until the final track is produced.
While recording his part, said Rotterdam Paul, “I close my eyes and think we’re in the studio playing together. [It’s] a good feeling.”
Their complementary musical capabilities and character traits mesh well, the Pauls said.
“We all bring something different to the table,” said Pennsylvania Paul. “The band is an amalgam of all of our skills, visions, and joy.”
While the Pauls describe their genre as “adult pop” and acoustic, they’re “open to everything,” said Rotterdam Paul. “We love to try out new things together.”
The men have yet to convene as a group in person, but Baltimore Paul and Pennsylvania Paul met up last September. Baltimore Paul quarantined before driving three hours to Weatherly to surprise Pennsylvania Paul at home.
“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.”
Once the pandemic subsides, “having everyone together in the studio is the ultimate goal,” he said, adding that they have written 24 additional original songs together. “My idea is to do a four-city tour — a concert in each person’s hometown.”
But the band is about more than making music, the men 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.”