Regina’s People of the Sun Brings a ‘Human’ Element to Recording Music


The band’s founder, Erik Mehlsen, explains that the band takes a “live off the floor” approach, recording their songs as a whole and in one take.

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The isolation of the pandemic left Regina musician Erik Mehlsen feeling trapped in his own home with no creative outlet in 2020 – but that loneliness was also the driving force behind the creation of his band People of the Sun, a hip hop and Eight-piece R&B. outfit.

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People of the Sun presents itself as diverse with musicians from different cultures and musical styles working together to write and record music, the sound of a melting pot ready to boil.

Mehlsen, who would go on to start his own label Sharp 5 Records, saw an opportunity to work with artists he had always wanted to work with but never had the time.

“Because of COVID, there was a whole bunch of artists in that community that I dreamed of working with who were all available at the same time because no one could go anywhere,” Mehlsen recalls.

“So I thought what I was going to do was line up a project with a group of artists that I’d like to work with – and the idea is to bring in a group of artists from different backgrounds .”

Mehlsen envisioned a band recording live, all at once “live on the floor” in a single take rather than each artist recording their individual takes in a booth.

The audience could hear what the band would sound like live, even if they were listening on their stereo or with headphones, even the errors.

Erik Mehlsen, who founded the group People of the Sun, poses for a portrait in a shared jam space inside the Leader Building Thursday, June 9, 2022 in Regina.
Erik Mehlsen, who founded the group People of the Sun, poses for a portrait in a shared jam space inside the Leader Building Thursday, June 9, 2022 in Regina. Photo by KAYLE NEIS /Regina Chief’s Post

This frame would capture the energy, the warts, and what Mehlsen calls a human quality in music, which gets lost if it’s “too perfect.” Mehlsen wanted a sound proud of its imperfections.

“The sound we have is definitely what I wanted it to come out,” Mehlsen said. “I didn’t think it would be as cool as it is.”

The group consists of four instrumentalists and four singers. Mehlsen handles guitar, Ethan Reoch is on keyboards, Rob Lane on bass and Cyprian Henry on drums.

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Vocals include Lexy Desjarlais and Uniniafore Jegede (Nini Jegz), as well as MCs Brad Bellegarde (Info Red) and Adam Peace (Origin of Spin).

Jegede, a Nigerian-born Afrosoul musician, said the project helped her explore her musical creativity through collaboration. Jegede joined the band after attending jam sessions, invited by her friend and former People of the Sun singer Adeoluwa Atayero.

She has been singing for about nine years and is choirmaster at Mount Sinai Anglican Church. The choir setting is more structured with designated roles. In comparison, the group allows its members to sing whatever comes out.

“In a band, we write our own stuff; we sing things that are personal to us; we sing things we think about; we sing about problems; we sing whatever we want,” Jegede said. “In a choir, you can’t necessarily do that.”

“People of the Sun is so stress free. For us, it’s not even difficult to be a band,” she said.

Desjarlais, who joined the band in 2021, was overwhelmed during her first jam session, which was also a songwriting session. She plays in another band with Reoch, who invited her to this session. She said the live setting and the nature of recording with the band allowed her to thrive.

“I’m a very sensitive person when it comes to music. When it’s something live, I can know that I can convey my emotions to others while everyone is there,” Desjarlais. other people’s energy and I think it’s a really cool way (to record).”

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Recording in one take, mistakes and all, feels more natural to Desjarlais.

“Every time you perform a song it’s always going to be a little bit different and to really be able to capture that specific feeling is really exciting in my mind,” she said. “Honestly, it made the recording process less daunting, being able to do it on your own terms rather than something you’re not comfortable with.”

People of the Sun is an eight-piece hip hop/R&B group from Regina.  They were formed during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The band records its songs in a live setting as a whole, rather than individual artists recording their parts in a booth.  This aspect retains a “human” element, says band founder and guitarist Erik Mehlsen.
People of the Sun is an eight-piece hip hop/R&B group from Regina. They were formed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The band records its songs in a live setting as a whole, rather than individual artists recording their parts in a booth. This aspect retains a “human” element, says band founder and guitarist Erik Mehlsen. Photo by Ava Wild /Submitted by Erik Mehlsen

People of the Sun is also the name of a song by American band Rage Against the Machine, but the band’s name does not refer to Rage, according to Peace, a Pakistani-born MC.

“It’s a statement of what it’s like to be different cultures in a different nation and to come together to share your differences and celebrate them and create music together,” Peace said.

Peace was invited to a jam session by Reoch, who said there would be another MC there. Peace didn’t know it at the time, but that MC was Bellegarde, who is a member of the Little Black Bear First Nation.

“I’ve been rapping with him for years. We could stay up all night rapping, freestyling, hanging out, so it was really crazy,” Peace said. “It was just instantaneous. Like ‘yeah, it’s going to work. The group is super tight.

The first recording session with the band was long and “very difficult”, which required a lot of energy, he recalls. The live music concept proves to people that what they hear is what they’ll get if they book the band for a gig, Peace said.

“It was good to be able to push something like that and challenge yourself,” he added. “The more we did, the better we got at it. The last session we had was pretty easy and sounded good.

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Mehlsen describes the prospect of releasing a recording captured in one take was incredibly stressful but also incredibly fun. As a musician, constraints foster more creativity, he says.

“We are just one example of working with your neighbors in our community. It’s a very simple thing but I think it’s quite impactful,” concludes Mehslen.

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