Between the Devil and Antichrist Superstar, Sean and Juliette Beavan – collectively known as 8mm – take ReGen Magazine on a journey into the Two Black Hearts of desert blues Americana.
An InterView with Sean and Juliette Beavan of 8mm
By Grant V. Ziegler (GVZ)
Overall, how did you feel about this past tour?
Juliette: It was fun. We enjoyed Texas in particular to be honest. New Orleans was insane! It was the first show we ever played there. It’s my hometown and Sean lived there for four years. We had to drag our bass player and drummer out of the city.
Sean: We had a great time.
Sean, when you were living there, you were recording Antichrist Superstar with Marilyn Manson. Did going back there conjure up any old memories, or is it a completely new experience now that you’re with Juliette?
Sean: My memories there are of meeting Juliette.
Juliette: We dragged the band around and showed them where we met.
Sean: (Laughs) That guitar stopped playing!
How often do you break stuff onstage?
Sean: With 8mm, I’ve really only broken two instruments onstage. We were at the Roxy playing with the Kidneythieves a few years ago, and I smashed a guitar during ‘Give It Up.’ It was one of those guitars that was put together pretty good. It was an American made Gibson and they told me right before the show that ‘you’re gonna have a great time tonight; we got a brand new stage and it’s indestructible.’ But I guess I broke it with a guitar. (Laughs) I did have to pay for it.
Well, that has to make you feel cool. The guitar and the stage were supposed to be unbreakable, but you destroyed both.
Sean: (Laughs) Yes, that was my Pete Townsend moment.
Moving on to your latest album, Between the Devil and Two Black Hearts, it has more of a bluesy sound as opposed to maybe a more pop sound like albums in your past. How did you end up going that direction?
Sean: It’s something we just kind of started gravitating towards in our live show. We did some PJ Harvey covers in the past and it was kind of a mix between English blues and desert blues. We liked where it was going. We were listening to some old Hank Williams and bluegrass stuff as well.
Juliette: Also, some Depression-era type stuff and Americana. There’s an intensity to it and a sort of desert mysticism to it that was dangerous.
Sean: And we were listening to Fleetwood Mac because we were doing so many male/female kinds of parts and it just all worked together that way. I’m a huge Lindsey Buckingham fan.
Was there anything in your life that was pushing you that way besides your musical influences?
Juliette: This was really new for us.
Sean: Exactly, and that desert blues thing was really a part of that – just driving out and listening to these songs as we’re going through the dessert and kind of hearing how it was informing us. It just made sense. The whole idea was to do a record that was more up and rocking because we wanted those songs to be the last few songs of our live set. The energy was really fun and really cool.
Juliette: The performances were heading more and more in that direction so we just decided to make a record of where we were progressing to live.
How did you come up with the album title?
Sean: That’s a good question. (Laughs)
Juliette: It seemed to sum up what we were going for. I like the phrase ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea,’ which basically means a secret. This is a little more than that because it’s the secrets in you and in your relationship and all the trouble that causes you. We were bouncing variations of the phrase off each other on the way to get coffee and somehow the title mixed together.
Sean: Also, if you’re blaming your troubles on something, you can go between the devil and your own black heart. It makes a lot of sense with the lyrics coming up on the song. We love the imagery. The two of us did all the singing and we used to joke around a lot about having black hearts even though we’re very nice people.
Sean: It’s a duo. I probably do the majority of the chord progression ideas and come up with a lick and Juliette will come up with the story and a lyric and a melody. We’ll just start writing together. Normally, I get up and start playing something on the piano or the guitar and Juliette joins in and we just go from there. That was definitely this record. We spent a lot of time in the studio and writing, especially lyrics and vocals. We did a lot of stuff where we just went line for line and tried out new ideas on each other. We wanted every lyric to be something they’d tattoo on themselves.
What is it like to be able to share the road, tours, and experiences with someone you’re married to? Is it hard to separate personal from business life?
Sean: For me, it’s a freakin’ dream come true. I was on the road for a long time and I loved the work, but it was so draining because you’re always away from the people you love and what’s great about this is that we get to be creative together and work together. Plus, we don’t have to be lonely. It’s great to be together.
Do you have that ‘us against the world’ mentality?
Sean: Not necessarily that. On tour it’s like a vacation and you go to a new place and everyone tells you how great you are. (Laughs) It’s not an ‘against the world’ mentality; it’s move on to the next town and kick ass.
It’s like being prom king and queen every city you go to, huh?
Sean: (Laughs) Exactly!
Juliette: We had already recorded the album and then it was a matter of ‘do we want to manufacture anything, distribute it, or do we want to tour?’ We just felt like it really needed some touring. We’re proud that we made it and we got the support.
Sean: This record was designed to be played live. We really wanted to get out on the road and visit the fan base that had been asking for years for us to get out there. We’d only been able to get out in small doses. We wanted to really spend the time and go out. We’re normal people with day jobs as well, so this allowed us to just get out on the road and have enough time to hire musicians and pay them.
Juliette: Put gas in the van.
Sean: (Laughs) Yes, and just go. It’s great to have a fan base that will help support that.
Juliette, on the Kickstarter page, you had mentioned something about labels wanting people to change their physical appearance such as women gaining weight to gain stardom. Can you explain that a little more and what you’re trying to combat there?
Juliette: It was a reference to why we never recorded with a major label or even entertained the idea. We have a friend who was trying to join a major label; I won’t mention names, but it’s a big label. She’s a pop singer and had a meeting with an image consultant from the label. He basically told her, ‘You’re cute and all, I’d hit that but, if you could gain 40, pounds that would be sweet because people are into fat chicks.’ It was right after Adele won all those Grammys so that was the fad. She just looked up at them and said, ‘That’s not going to happen.’
Sean: As if Adele is popular because she’s overweight.
Juliette: The example was just so funny I had to share it. It’s just an example of the ludicrous nature of the bureaucracy of the profession. If there’s a way to go directly to the source, your fan base, then try it.
Sean: When you support an artist you really like, you get the possibility of hearing their art right from them. In our relationship with our fans, the fans know when they listen to our record that what they hear is what we wanted to make. It isn’t diluted by some label guy who tells us this is more popular now so you should do this.
Juliette: Add a banjo!
Sean: (Laughs) Yea, and add a banjo.
Now you had licensed out some of your music to TV shows. What was the motivating factor to get away from that and the mainstream as a whole?
Sean: Whenever I’m playing something, she’ll say, ‘I know what the story is’ and kind of tell me this movie about what I’m playing and that’s how the lyrics come about. We always work from the idea, ‘This is the perfect film to tell you what to feel.’
Being an independent artist, how much help is it having Sean by your side considering the work he has done with labels?
Juliette: He’s no help at all! (Laughs) He’s invaluable. I wasn’t a singer before this so I blame him. It certainly gives us an advantage such as knowing the playing fields. He’s an extraordinarily talented artist and producer. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was incredibly fortunate.
Sean, how did you get her to take the mic?
Sean: I was working with Kill Hannah on their first record, For Never and Ever, and the last day of production I was getting all the songs ready for the mixer. We were wrapping up the album and it was suggested that female vocals be added to a couple of tracks. So I was scrambling to find a female vocalist who was available that day. I went through my rolodex and no one was available. Juliette showed up to have lunch with us and celebrate and I said, ‘Hold on a sec, come in here.’ I’d never heard her sing or anything, but I figured let’s see what happens. She started singing and the engineer and I were like, ‘Oh my god!’ That’s when I started thinking we need to write together.
Juliette: I thought I was going to suck, but then I fell in love with it. We both thought, ‘We’ll try it and if we like it, we’ll keep writing.’
Sean: I wish she would have been a lawyer. (Laughs)
What benefit would that have brought you?
Sean: Money! (Laughs)
Well, try that same magic next time. Bring her with you to a business meeting and see if she’s just a filler for everything.
Sean: She’s a singer, a model, an actress, a manager… so, why not?
You’ve already done one holiday record, On a Silent Night. Have you considered doing any other holidays albums like a Goth Thanksgiving album maybe?
Sean: (Laughs) That might be worth doing because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I make an amazing turkey. We’re thinking about doing more Christmas songs. It’s fun for us and I love that kind of music. I’d like to do a traditional standard album. We could do some haunted bluegrass versions of some of those standards.
Sean: It’s great. I’m doing a record with Twiggy (Ramirez), a band called Black Lodge. Twiggy’s co-producing and I just started mixing. It’s amazing to do stuff with people you love; really caliber people. Chris (Vrenna) did a really awesome remix of our song ‘Glimmering,’ and we’ll be releasing a remix album in the next few months.
Speaking of your past, Juliette, do you ever get to hear some of the crazy stories from Sean?
Juliette: Yes, and I’m not telling! (Laughs)
And you’re still with him, so that must be love.
Juliette: (Laughs) We did survive the Antichrist Superstar tour together.
Sean: I lived with Danny Lohner at the time and Juliette moved in with us and then I left for tour, so she just stayed with Danny.
Let’s wrap everything up with a fun joke question: if you two were to switch roles for a day, Juliette what band would you like to produce and mix and what type of dress would you like to see Sean in?
Juliette: (Laughs) Umm, I’ve seen Sean in a dress. Did I mention the Antichrist Superstar tour? (Laughs) I’m going to say full-length ball-gown so he knows what a pain in the ass they are to put on. I don’t know if I want to manage a band. I just want to smash a guitar.
Who would you want to be onstage with to smash the guitar?
Juliette: Carina Rounds. We’d smash the guitars and then just start slapping people.
Sean: I’d much prefer if you’d just start kissing. (Laughs)