RR Logo 8mm Is Stunning

8mm interview page one photoLike their Trip Hop / Downbeat song, “Stunning,” from their album, Songs To Live And Die By, the trio 8mm (as in the film), are simply stunning as multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Sean Beavan, singer Juliette Beavan and drummer Jon Nicholson are quickly becoming one of the hottest acts on what some might refer to as the noir music scene. In fact, however in the view of this magazine and in 8mm’s own opinion they are simply writing and performing songs that are couched in reality.

Juliette explains, “I think that what is true for Sean and I, is we are not interested in being unnecessarily melodramatic, because what’s real is dramatic enough. Your experience and moments in life are drama and divinity in and of themselves. We aren’t willing to wallow in it. I think there is enough there that we don’t need to be embellishing it. For me, having you say that it is realistic, is a real compliment.” 

Sean adds, “I am definitely more interested in delving into moments, and all of the moments that we fit into a couple of minutes may be painful, but the end result when you listen to it is cathartic. I think that while listening to some songs may be painful or may be hard to talk about, just knowing that someone else is going through this, makes you feel uplifted. That is kind of how I feel about our songs, that there is joy in them. I want every song to make a person cry. I don’t cry because music makes me sad, I cry because it is beautiful.”

Juliette adds, “For us it is about those acute moments and the little turns in life.”

“There are songwriters out there who are fantastic at just making you feel elated, and all the power to them. That is really a strong emotion, and I love that. I think that one of the best at that right now is Benjamin Flowers from The Chillers, who makes you want to throw your arms up in the air. He is like the Paul McCartney of our generation. He is really great at it, but it’s not our songs,” says Sean.

The song, “Stunning,” is both hauntingly beautiful and deliciously seductive at the same time, as Juliette Beavan’s provocative vocals have their way with the lyrics, and Sean Beavan and Jon Nicholson’s vibes create the mood.

“I think for me, “Stunning,” is a pretty blatantly lascivious song, and intentionally so. It has bittersweet lyrics, but the thing about it is you just don’t care. It is fun, it’s an enjoyable ride, and you know that. It’s probably bad for you, but you’re going do it anyway,” says Juliette.

Unlike some singers or actors who have to mentally and emotionally, prepare themselves to play a part that is not the case for Juliette Beavan when she sings 8mm’s songs. “When we write the songs, the characters and the storylines for each song are so completely realized for me, that there is not much preparation for it. They aren’t hard for me to sing. From the moment that I hear the first note in the track, I know who I am in that moment and we just go from there.” 

Sean echoes those sentiments,” Juliette is a remarkable talent, and she is an “in the moment,” person naturally, whereas most professional songwriters are not “in the moment,” they are, “of the moment.” Because Juliette is a storywriter, she tells stories, and those characters are all bits and pieces of everyone that we have ever known, or a person that she saw crying in her coffee at Starbucks, and whom she has just made up a whole world around. Because of that she just falls into the story right away, and even when she first starts singing the track in the studio, I never have to wait for her to get into character.”

There is a bit of humor, although I am sure, not for the airline industry, in how the song, “Stunning,” came to be. “That song started out as an idea for a cover of the Eagles’, “Lyin’ Eyes.” I was literally flying back from Japan, and that hook is the base hook in the song. The triple feel swing of the groove came to me right away, and it was fully realized in my head. I woke up from my sleep on the plane, whipped out my cell phone, and I started singing into it. I was a bar and one-half into it when the stewardess started screaming at me bloody murder, because I had the cell phone on. From then on, it was me whipping out my credit card, swiping the headset, and calling Juliette, saying, ‘Don’t answer it, I am singing into the answering machine (Juliette and Sean laugh).’ It (the song) came into my head fully done, and I could hear every part. I sang the drum line, sang the bass line, and I sang the guitar part into the headset, so that when I got home it was just a matter of putting it all together. At that time, and still, I am fascinated by the groove of swing. I love how the pocket of swing continually pulls you back and then throws you forward,” says Sean.

Sean drew upon his excellence as a musician (Nine Inch Nails, Eric Carmen) and as a producer and sound engineer (Nine Inch Nails, Thrice, No Doubt) to create 8mm’s signature drone in the song, “Stunning.”  He says, “I do the drones, all of the time in our songs. When I create a sound for the band, I only use certain instruments, because nowadays you have so many options. I make it so that I am only allowed to play one bass, I am only allowed to play one or two different guitars, I am only allowed one drum kit, I am only allowed to use electronic drums for certain specific (sections). I don’t use (pre-sampled) drum loops, everything is created organically by me. There is a guitar loop that just sits in the last chorus, and that is a guitar that I fed back into a Lexicon Prime Time Delay. Then I sampled the best part of the feedback, and I created that as the loop, so that it becomes this drone that keeps the momentum going. It is almost like you are riding a horse, while you are telling the song. It works as a wave.”

While there is no denying how talented the members of 8mm are, there also does not seem to be a shortage of unusual stories to accompany how some of their songs came to be, or in this case, how Juliette even became the singer for the group.    8mm interview page two photo

Now married to Sean, Juliette recalls her first singing experience, “I was ambushed, really!”

Sean acknowledged that Juliette was not a singer, until a series of events occurred which he is about to share with me, “I was producing a (CD) for Atlantic Records, it was the last day of production, we were getting all of the songs ready for mixing and our guy John Rulli said that he really wanted to hear female vocals on the song. I was quickly going through the rolodex trying to find someone who was available and I couldn’t get anyone in, because people were out of town. Juliette had just come in. I had asked her to bring me a sweater, because we were going to go out to lunch, and I looked at her and I said, ‘You know what, come here for a second,” (while recalling the moment they both laugh) I gave her the part and said just go-ahead and sing it into the mic. I came into the studio and Critter the engineer pressed a chord, she started singing and both (he and Critter) our jaws dropped. It was great and an idea just popped into my head”

At this point Juliette jumps back into the conversation, “I told you it was an ambush.”

One might assume that this would be a nerve-wracking experience for first time singer Juliette, but she says, “I figured that it would either be fine or it wouldn’t. I loved everybody in the band, and Sean and everybody who was working on the project. I was comfortable with all of them and I said that I would try, because they were between a rock and a hard place. If I suck, I am not a singer, that’s fine. I was like, okay guys I am going to do this because I love you, but if it sucks (she laughs and her voice trails off) I tried. Sean came in and sang parts with me, and I was okay, but then the thing that surprised me was, when I put the headphones on and started singing, I went, ‘Oh no, I like this (you can hear the smile in her voice as she recalls the moment and she starts to laugh) I kind of fell in love with the whole thing (she laughs again). I was like, I could get used to this! “

It will not take more than a couple of bars of 8mm’s song, “No Way Back,” for the listener to be completely hooked as both the music and the vocals create an attractive surreal experience. Although the cadence is slower, the song does not drift aimlessly, but instead continues to roll forward, like the ocean surf.

Juliette refers to, “No Way Back,” as the song to which she has the deepest connection. “To be honest I don’t know if I can clearly explain why, because I think that character always existed, before I wrote it. It is almost as though she is on my shoulder, and I am beholden to interpreting her correctly, and giving up the ghost of that person. There is something about that, which a friend of mine calls the Cosmic FedEx. It is a ghost, and I am beholden to her and when the song is performed it moves me,” says Juliette.  

Juliette describes the track that Sean had written as being very much in the David Lynch vogue, and she imagined desert scenes, a Quentin Tarantino character and a heroine. She says, “There was a lot of open imagery in my mind, of sadness, longing and knowing that you are not going to get someone to change (she laughs), and then it developed into a storyline, but when you tell the whole story, you let the listener decide what they want to hear. I think the song should be very personal.”

In reference to the music of 8mm Sean Beavan says, “The intention was to create songs that would evoke the same kind of emotions that you get from David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky or David Fincher films. We wrote the songs with that idea in mind, because Juliette writes the songs while seeing the movie in her head, I just thought that 8mm made perfect sense (as the name for the group).     Return to our Front Page

Published January 26, 2009

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