Magnolia, Music, Acceptance, Creating Safe Places – all in an 8MM “Heart Shaped Hell”

8MM is a band of a producer Sean Beavan and his wife Juliette wanting to contribute to the LGBT community as more than just supporters. They are a delightful couple whose music I fell in love with at about song 3. During the interview I discovered we all have ADHD, which made the whole conversation delightful and very difficult to stay on any sort of coherent thought. The ADHD allows them to create any sound they want, and as great as it is, it’s difficult to finish anything. However, when completed, there is beauty for all to experience. Their love for the community is truly at a personal level, changing lives by celebrating creativity and welcoming all. Having worked with Nine Inch Nails, Slayer, Marylin Manson … you get the idea, though their own sound is very very different.

– – – Interview Follows – – – 

Jeremy Hinks: So, Sean and Juliette, before we get going, I need to say, I looked up your resume, and seeing who you have worked with, I thought, “Yeah, these guys have to know Jim Marcus,” so I asked him about you, and he went off on what a great musician you are Sean, and just what a great guy you are in general. 

Sean Beavan: Oh Yeah, Jim is a sweetheart, a big teddy bear, he is all about people just being happy in themselves. Wants everyone to be good to people.

 

Yeah, everyone says that, I have yet to meet him in person but I have known him online for years. He was in fact the first person I interviewed for Instinct, right when he had released “Queer the World”.  Great guy, obviously it all comes full circle.

So, seeing your history, it’s guilt by association at that point.

So, here is my history with you guys. Your publicist sent me the new album, “Heart Shaped Hell” and I fell in love with it.  This DARK BEAUTIFUL VIBE, I mean, I’m feeling the Gary Numan in here, and it just kept getting better and better, and suddenly it ended, really man, NOT COOL!!! You don’t just put out 6 incredible songs, then stop, I needed another 7 at least with this album. Seriously, lacking in the fact that I just wanted more of it. The album itself was just a great release, only too short really.

Juliette Beavan: Yeah, we are always trying to expand, we both have ADHD, so we start on “Oooooo shiny thing…”

 

Then, I asked them for more of the catalog, and then he gave me “Between the Devil and Two Black Hearts”.  That one blew me away in the fact that it didn’t even sound like the same band. It was this really great … Sons of Anarchy soundtrack sounding… sort of X meets Aimee Mann.

Sean: For this record, we went back to the beginning, and you will hear a lot of things like our early catalog, and then we added new sounds to it, like combining in the “trip hop” roots to what’s going on in “Future Bass” into all kinds of stuff that’s happening now. We are always grabbing new things and putting them into the paradigm.

Sure, I was hearing so much of the recent Gary Numan stuff, and then I looked and saw that you had played with Jeordie White, and I could see where all of you guys crossed paths. But the older stuff was just as good, two different worlds.

Sean: Yeah, from what we started out with, to the last record just became where we wanted to go. It kind of came out of playing a lot of shows with the full live band, and it was fun to play live and translate with a live band with Juliette experimenting with her blues voice, but we wanted to go back to something more moody more cinematic, and we really didn’t care how it was going to play live.

 

Yeah, I would say, this one would be more difficult to play live, with the atmosphere alone.

Sean: YES, have been doing these albums over the last seven years, we also moved into film,  soundtracks, and we approach the writing as we do a movie soundtrack. For this one, we did just that, we literally had NOTHING written when we started it. It was like in the movie, you meet with the director, get the spotting sessions, then you start from the timecode “one hour”, and MOVE.

 

Well, the only thing that I found constant between the albums, The Devil and the new Heart Shaped Hell, the cover was freaky and beautiful, but it sounded along the same vibe as the “Sucker Punch Soundtrack,” so a delightful listen, I made it through it 3 times the first day. So, talk about the covers of the albums, because, really, old stuff verses new, it’s like two totally different bands.

Juliette: I collaborated with a friend of ours, Ashley Joncas, I told her I want this image to be a mix of the world, a sort of Cyber Witch, something futuristic and android and also some kind of “Earthly Mother”, which is where I feel we are now as a culture, kind of fighting between a glossy distance, semi-human futuristic world, and also being pulled into this sort of dark, and swampy earthy places, and trying to reconcile those two worlds. Which creates a lot of anxiety, and this sort of “Heart Shaped Hell” we create for ourselves.

 

You delivered it well. I know you have been compared to Aimee Mann, but

Juliette: OH COMPLIMENT, WOW. I love her, well, the “Magnolia” soundtrack was one of the reasons we continue to write and perform music, that’s always been a touchstone for us. 

 

I was going to bring that up actually… so, here is my backstory. So, I am making my exit out of Mormonism, but… I was going to Harvard Divinity school, and a Baptist preacher friend of mine, gave me “Magnolia” and said I would get it, really quick, or I wouldn’t at all. I heard Aimee Mann, COOL, but then I realized it was the most biblical film I have ever seen. Every aspect had deep biblical references to it. By the time it all crashed, and the “It’s not going to stop” scene, that was my own “Heart Shaped Hell” at the time. So, when I was hearing that same emotional, not just sound, but emotional bloodline going through your music, I thought maybe I was onto something thinking you guys had seen that movie.

Sean: Actually, that movie soundtrack is one of our total touchstones for EVERYTHING we do, it was so well put together, the biblical references are amazing. I’m an ex-Catholic schoolboy too, so I saw those as well.

 

Ok how about you Juliette, what is your former religion.

Juliette: I’m from New Orleans, so I grew up around a lot of Catholics and a lot of Baptists, but my mother raised us as Wiccan wild-lings, my sisters and I were these Godless pagans. We were liberal Democrat survivalists in the heart of Louisiana, running around stringy haired barefoot thinking we were the greatest thing in the world. So, she did alright with us, that’s my upbringing. I’ve always liked Aimee Mann’s writing style, I write as a story teller, not autobiographical, I gravitate to acute moments, not great big stories with giant morals, it’s about those tiny moments of significance which “Magnolia” was FILLED with. It’s all about the moments alone, and what’s in your mind, and what you do to yourself over and over again, but those stories in a narrative way.

 

You know, we could probably talk for years about this, I actually wrote a 22-page paper about Magnolia and just the two points of destruction and bringing of the Antichrist. The pain and dysfunction in all of the characters, it was ALL about the neglect of the parents, and it was being manifested in the sexual pain of all of the dysfunction of each person. Every one of them was destroyed as a child, or abused in one way or another, all manifested by each character. It was best explained when “Quiz Kid Donnie Smith” said “I really do have love to give, but I just don’t know where to put it.” That line summed up the suffering of everyone in that film, about their pain, based on their sexuality, and love tied to those issues.

Juliette: I think that’s all of our issues, all of our baggage, anything from anywhere, it’s all going to manifest in the most intimate act we can do with another person. So, I think most problems end up becoming sexual issues, because that’s where you are going to be vulnerable, that’s where you have to be the most exposed. It is going to manifest itself there, regardless of whether it started sexual or not, that’s where we are the closest as beings, so it’s just natural.

 

YES, you will find the best and worst about a person is in their sexuality and sexual expression, because that is the most basic expression of who the person really is. I found it in “Magnolia” with each character and their pain. Strangely enough, I got it very clearly in your music too, it was a feeling of pain and loss, but it was going deeper than that, and something else was missing. And obviously was the sexual aspect that you were pointing to. I mean, ok it wasn’t like the Lords of Acid show I shot last week (Sean and Juliette LAUGHING). There was NOTHING missing or even suggestive sexually there, it was all in your face.

So, let’s talk about your activism, and your input helping the LGBTQ community.

Juliette: We are more allies and supporters, it’s more important NOW, and again, like it was in the ‘60s, to hammer it home, and not be shy about the fact that these are basic HUMAN rights. Not carving people out individually, but treating human beings equally. Because that was what this country was supposed to be about. BUT, as far as being allies go, we are a bit different. Anyone can march in a parade or go to a rally or have an equality bumper sticker, but we actually run and produce a “drag night” for young drag queens. It’s to create a safe space to explore, if you are 20 years old and learning to be just comfortable in yourself, but also a performer, but also to have a place to make mistakes as a performer. You have to realize this might be someone who is 19 years old, and have run away from home, or were kicked out, abused, shunned, or just had to leave. So, there they are also trying to get up on stage and declare who they are. So, our activism is on a very small, and on a personal level that we are trying to create a save space for that wherever we can. In conjunction with “Sweet Hollywood” the candy store, they also own the venue.

 

WOW, that’s beautiful what you are saying, expand on that. I went to one drag show, absent of any taste. When I was at Harvard, and he was at MIT, and they put on this show. It was silly, funny, but he assured me that all drag shows aren’t like that. I’ve seen a few since, around pride, and such. So, I get it now. Let’s have some details.

Juliette: We do a series called “GlamHaus.” We do it on and off for timing, and funding obviously. It’s in the heart of Hollywood, Hollywood and Highland. Sweet Hollywood the candy store is always doing fundraising for the ACLU and is very big in the community and supportive. There is a venue there that used to be a friend’s art gallery, with a stage, and a sound system that Shawn built and designed. So, it’s got GREAT sound and lights. We are going to ramp up on that again shortly. That is one of our favorite contributions to the community. We have had some really accomplished queens and some really new, and really young artists. It’s nice to watch artists work it out and develop. Art is hard enough, and then with all of the societal and family stigmas on top of that. It’s great for us to create the environment for them that is safe and supportive.

Sean: Yes, I’ll say this, it is so great to see the moment of performance, to see the JOY and amazement of being able to be themselves and to really SHINE. The performance is amazing the girls are incredible, they are just so full of life, the way take to the stage and make it their own, is just amazing.

Yeah, I can see that, this is their place to go experience, break into it, and make those mistakes and be safe and have fun.

Sean: Oh yeah, that’s most important that they ALL have fun, no matter what phase of it they are in.

 

So, I’ll go back to the point that Juliette just said, these people are recently homeless, destitute.

Juliette: Yeah, things we “knew” but they didn’t tell us, they get to leave all that outside, and start to become that next phase in life. And in this space, they are not “runaways” or “shunned,” they are performers, and we are cheering them on, wanting to see what THEY, their real selves can give us. We knew through Venus Black who was the host of the show, and we learned the backstory, and we were saying “Ok here, YOU are the performer,” we are not focusing on the bad stuff, and there is a relief in that. There will be a time and a place for you to work through those things, but here, is a celebration of YOUR art, and YOUR creativity. I mean, gosh what drag shows are, just this EXPLOSION OF LIFE. (she said it with excitement, sounds really cool).

Sean: We host it, I do the production management, sound, lighting, strobes, whatever, I can make it happen.

Sounds like a great venue, if you are the one who designed it, being the producer, I’m sure it’s a great venue. Most clubs are in an old warehouse and someone puts up a plywood stage, and paints it black.

Sean: We built quite a place, for them to get out there and tear it up.

 

So that’s your contribution to the community.

Sean: Well, no it’s more like we are just a part of it, we are artists, making life better for other artists. It’s more than feeling you are “helping,” you are being human, and being creative together.

Juliette: When Sergio and Johnathan from Sweet Hollywood came to us and said, “Hey, we have this idea for a Drag Night” and asked if we could help, cause they know what our specialty is. We were happy to help, and it’s exactly like Sean said, helping other artists, together we can all do it.

Sean: The best way to do something is leading by example, and just treating people right is where you start. I’m very active politically on Instagram, even expressing the fact that as a person you find people who are bigoted and hateful, you know it’s wrong, and you are willing to say it’s wrong. Be that neighbor that speaks out, so they don’t win.

 

Conversion Therapy … the Governor shot it down because the religious demographic of his supporters said, “NO WE NEED THIS TO BE LEGAL, WE NEED TO CURE OUR KIDS.”  There hasn’t been a single case of ANY kid being cured of “Same Sex Attraction.” It just manages to drive them to suicide. So, a supportive environment is almost a tool for survival.

Sean: Absolutely YES… we’ve lived in West Hollywood for years, and it’s all just part of the community. It’s funny when we leave LA, to go play shows around the country, it’s always WEIRD to not have that kind of acceptance and community, everyone is just so sheltered. So, when we get back to L.A. it’s like, “Oh thank god, we are home.” That’s how wonderful the community really is. We don’t have a tour planned for this album yet, we are setting up the tour festival circuit. After that we will do a couple week run through the country. We just finished the soundtrack for a movie called “The Cleansing Hour.” Juliette produced a short film called “Jane Doe.” She produced films last year one called “Imprisoned”.

Juliette: Yeah that was in Puerto Rico. We finished and wrapped right before the hurricane hit, so that was very hard to see what happened after.

Sean: I just finished an album with a band called “3 Teeth”, an industrial band.

 

Actually, I was going to say, with the sultry lot you have worked with, Jeordie White, Nine Inch Nails, Slayer, you didn’t pull much of the heavy stuff into it for your own work with Juliette.

Sean: Well, I’ve worked with SO MANY, people. I first heard Juliette when I was working with the band “Kill Hannah” on their debut album. I was desperate for a female vocalist and I brought Juliette in and just said, “sing this,” and we had been married for 7 years by then, and I had never heard her sing. We were so blown away with it, and it she had this Aimee Mann-ish quality to her voice, and I thought I could write some music for this type of sound, and, back to the point we were both “Magnolia” fanatics at the time, and the tone and style of her voice kind of moved the direction of what we were doing. I mean, having her try to sing like Al Jourgenson would be kind of ridiculous (WE all laughed at this point, cause, well, AL is the singer in Ministry, industrial METAL). But, suddenly being able to work with my wife and spend more time with her and take it in that direction was wonderful.

Funny, our first experience with the LGBT community was when I was living here with Marylin Manson and Jeordie up in the hills. Juliette was going around town trying to find an apartment, we ended up renting from this Gay Sex therapist. And Juliette was very young at the time, and he saw how much older I was than her, and he got really protective. He was the big brother to her, and just pampered and loved her.

Hey, my daughter was just in a musical in school, with her “boyfriend” who played the lead. And, we are all waiting for him to come out, it’s just a matter of time. He is her “BEST FRIEND”, and I’ve told her, he is going to break her heart “once.” Then it will be fine, I mean, every girl needs that gay guy for a best friend.

Juliette: And I’ll point out, I grew up in New Orleans, and we had Mardi Gras, and all that crazy beautiful expression, so, west Hollywood was kind of “normal” for me. So, by the time we got here, the community was where we felt welcomed.

Sean: In high school in Cleveland, I would take girls on dates to drag night at gay bars, just to see if they were cool. If they LOVED IT, then I knew we were going to get along. I had a really good friend who came out to me in high school, and being Catholic school boys in Cleveland … he took us to a few drag shows, and once I got over the whole shock of it, I thought, “Oh my god these people really know how to have fun,” and they were so inviting. I felt immediately welcomed.

 

Final question, what would you two say to the vulnerable LGBTQ kid, the one in a vulnerable state, afraid to come out?

Juliette: STAY WITH US!!!!! Keep FUCKING GOING!!!! (excitement in her voice)

Sean: It gets better, think how hard it is to be a straight kid, there is light at the end of the tunnel, find your people, you will find love. Work the through the suck.

 

Well, thank you both so much.

 

Check out the 8 MM Facebook page, take a gander at their Twitter: #8MMofficial , the band’s Instagram: @8MMofficial , and YouTube.

What do you think?