8mm discuss their new EP, scoring and composing music for film and what’s next for them

Los Angeles based noir pop/trip rock band 8mm have amassed an ever-growing fanbase since forming in 2004.  Comprised of Grammy-nominated producer/mixer/multi-instrumentalist Sean Beavan (Nine Inch Nails/Marilyn Manson/No Doubt/A Perfect Circle) and his wife Juliette, they were one of the first bands to embrace DIY and strategic licensing and have become one of the most licensed bands in history.  Their music has been featured in movies and tv shows such as Underworld: Awakening, Moonlight, Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, Pretty Little Liars and Cold Case.  Aside from writing music for 8mm, Sean and Juliette also write scores and compositions for feature and indie films and Juliette has since begun acting and producing and directing films.  Sean met Juliette in New Orleans when he was working with NIN, but upon meeting Juliette, they decided to leave the city for sunny Los Angeles.  While working with Atlantic Records artist Kill Hannah, Sean needed a female vocal part sung and asked Juliette to fill in.  Her voice blew everyone away and the idea for 8mm was born.  With Sean’s confessional style of writing and Juliette’s storytelling, the two have been a creative force over the past 15 years, having released 4 EP’s and 2 LP’s, with their most recent EP entitled Heart Shaped Hell being released last month.  The EP goes back to the bands moody, cinematic and trip-hop roots, with some electronic elements added in.  Although this is the first 8mm release in 7 years, the two have stayed busy with other projects within the industry, with Sean producing and mixing records for various bands and composing music for several films with Juliette.  The two discovered some cool new artists over the years that gave them the itch to get back to their roots, resulting in their new EP.  With many things in the works for the two, including some tentative tour and festival dates, film projects and bands to produce and mix for, Sean and Juliette have plenty of exciting things to keep them busy.  Staff writer Emily May recently spoke by phone with them both, discussing their new EP, composing scores and compositions for film and what’s next for them.  You can follow the band and stay up-to-date with all upcoming projects, music and tour information, as well as purchase and stream their music via the fooling links.  Check out their lyric video for “Self-Inflicted Heartache” below.  Photo Credit: Ashley N Joncas

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You were one of the first bands to embrace a DIY and strategic licensing for a band, which is one of the main reason that you formed 8mm.  What do you love the most and find the most exciting about writing and composing music for film and what’s your process for doing music for film versus for the band?

Juliette-What’s the most exciting about licensing music for film and television is seeing how another creative team sees our art fit into their art.  That’s always kind-of interesting and exciting to see how they feel it supports their story.  When our music gets used for film and television, we don’t see it until it comes out.  You often get a basic description of the scene to make sure it’s not something you don’t agree with, but you don’t really get to see the movie/television show until everyone else does.  There’s something kind-of fun and fresh about that.

Sean-The difference between…it’s funny, because the thing that inspired us to want to do music for film and television was the idea that we were writing music because we saw many things in film and tv shows that were really cool and kind-of innovative musically and really emotional.  It felt like something we could do that didn’t involve a middleman, like a record label that would tell you stuff like “Well you can’t do stuff like this because only these other things are getting on radio”.

Juliette-Or that it’s not Pop enough.

Sean-We just thought that these music supervisors are choosing songs that they love or that they thought were beautiful for a particular scene, or that the directors of a film or producers of a tv show thought that a certain song perfectly reflects the emotional content of the scene and would really help to bring that home to the audience.  We just thought that was so much more dynamic artistically and was great.  There isn’t really that big of a difference in how we approach the songs that we write for the band and the scores that we write for film.  When we are writing for a film, the dialogue becomes your lead singer.

Juliette-Half the story is written!

Sean-Yeah, half the story is written, right?  The lyric and the dialogue inform the rhythm and emotional content of the piece and you are writing all of these other things around it to support that emotionally.  Then you are just trying to figure out whether you are expressing the arc of the character or the way the character is feeling at the moment, or you are trying to tell the audience how to feel.  Those are the kinds of dynamics you are coming up with.  When we are writing our own music…it’s so funny, because every time I am composing a little piece of music, either on guitar or piano or something, Juliette will immediately start describing a scene of a film that’s in her brain and that becomes kind-of the narrative of where we go with the songs.  I always kind-of feel that we’ve written to a movie (laughs)!  Juliette is not a confessional writer.  She’s a storyteller.  There are obviously bits and pieces of who she is personally in what she writes, but she’s a great observer.  I always feel like I am driven by this movie that she’s describing.

Juliette- After you and Sean formed 8mm, you began to get request to cameo in independent films and began acting training with Paul Kampf.  How did you meet and start working with him and did you have an interest in acting before forming the band?  Did you ever think you would be acting in films?

Juliette-You know, in high school I did a couple of plays, but I didn’t really see that in my future.  As we performed more with the band, when it came up it seemed like a natural transition for me.  I’m the kind of person that just kind-of follows my nose, for better or worse (laughs)!  My manager Shannon had written to me and said she knew how I was and that I was going to want to know my way around set and know some ground rules and know my bearings before showing up somewhere.  She knew an amazing coach, Paul Kampf, and wanted me to meet him.  He’s the kind-of coach that you have to meet first so he can decide whether you are worth the headache or not (laughs)!  Paul and I met and had coffee and while we were sitting at a table in a cafe he ran me through an imagination exercise just to gauge where I was.  I thought that was really fun and loved everything about it.  He agreed to work with me, saying it’s much easier to take somebody from music, who’s already a performer, into acting.  He said “Yeah, you’re a storyteller.  Let’s do this”.  I’ve been working with him ever since.

Sean-She’s never had a problem with imagination, really!

I’m sure that comes in handy!

Juliette– It does!  Finally!

Sean- You have said that you subscribe to the idea of a record reflecting where you are as a band in the moment.  Are the themes of the 8mm albums usually more spontaneous or do you usually know ahead of time the direction you want to go for your next album?

Sean-It’s funny.  They just kind-of develop.  Before we start working on an album, the main thing we do is figure out what the mood/vibe of the album will be.

Juliette-It informs what stories will come out of it.  With regards to mood and atmosphere, Sean usually picks a certain set of instruments to narrow down the palette, rather then staring at everything…every option.

Sean-As a record producer, I work with tons of different artists, so the palette of stuff I can work with is astronomical.  It’s like, “Oh, do I do a classical record or a jazz record”.  Every type of instrumentation is available and that can be really daunting.  It was starting to be impossible.  I always try to narrow it down to things I’m interested in doing.  That’s how we work in the mood palette.  Juliette will go so far as to almost create a mood board of little pictures and ideas (laughs)!  It just all comes together like if you were doing a video or a movie.

Juliette-It’s all about creating the space.  Even oral and emotional space have a color and a hue and a tone to them.  It’s like a seance, you know (laughs)?  You set the mood and see who shows up.

Sean-That’s the thing we did on the new record that was a little bit different then our other records.  For our other records, we came up with those ideas and then we’d sit down and start writing music…like I’d be on piano and Juliette would be scribbling stuff down in her thing and singing a part for me.  We’d create the songs and record them onto our phones and then go into the studio and hash them out and make them into what they became.  With this record, we literally came up with a space of time where we actually had a month to work on the record.  Since the last record and this record we really haven’t had that much time!  It’s only because I was supposed to start with the band 3teeth and the label ended up pushing the record back by a month so we had this open space.  We decided to just sit down and write the record the way we write for a movie, where we do a day with the director and a session where he tells us what kinds of moods or emotions he wants in different scenes.  We just sat down and did that with ourselves and started writing the songs by grabbing sounds and playing with stuff and just putting stuff together.  She’d sing something to me and I’d go “Ok, well we have 2 lines of that.  Let’s sing that.  It sounds like that’s the verse” and “That works really well.  What if you do this part of this melody” or whatever, and we just wrote it really fast like that.  Nothing was planned ahead of time.  In my experience as a producer, a lot of times the best songs on a record are the ones that were written in the studio in 25 minutes.  We have a whole record of that and it turned out being really, really fun.  We started on this record where we sat down and decided to write something really esoteric and really cool, like something we would write as an introduction in a soundtrack.  We wrote the beginning of “Move With Me” in like 40 minutes and thought it sounded like it should flow right into something and the song just came right out of that.  It just dropped from this piece into this beautiful and really catchy vibe.  We started out to write the most esoteric record of our career and it seems to be one of the most accessible.

Juliette- You have said that for Heart Shaped Hell, you wanted the lyrics to focus on the realm of the private hells that we build for ourselves.  What inspired you to focus on that particular theme?

Juliette– I think for me and my friends and for everyone I know, I think it’s relevant for the time we’re in, now more then ever.  I think that’s a consistent theme throughout history, that humans are magnificent at creating our own problems, in particular with how anxious we all are now and the level of stress and anxiety that we all seem to be going through at this point.  On top of that, it’s become a pressure cooker for the most normal of anxieties, like love and wondering if you’re accepted or finding your place in the world.  All of the normal emotional things are getting buried under all of these other things and getting compressed even more.  It’s almost like with endless information and options and outlets on the internet, the weight of so many options is a burden.  I just felt like it was in the air and something I wanted to talk about.

Heart Shaped Hell is your first album in 7 years.  You have said that over the past few years you have sound some really cool and interesting artists that reminded you of your first EP Opener.  Who were some of this artists that influenced this album?  You had said that you wanted to go back to a more moody and cinematic feel with this album.  What made you decide to add the electronic elements?

Juliette– I would say the early Halsey stuff and Lorde.  I love Billie Eilish now and Banks.  There are just some really cool and interesting things happening that are kind-of breaking old rules about what pop, rock, alternative and electronica are.  That appeals to me, seeing artists pull from whatever they love to create what they want.  I think that’s a really exciting thing that is happening.

Sean– That’s definitely where we were.  We were looking at it like we could pull our trip-hop roots into this new paradigm, really.  That’s why we went to the newer sounds with more electronic and heavier sounds.  I was really heavy into the 808 vibe.  I just thought that if we pulled some of the trip-hop aesthetic into that it would be a really cool vibe.  We hadn’t really heard about that being done as much.  I was just talking to Xavier Swafford from 3teeth yesterday and he was like “You know, the way you guys combine this, I just think people are going to start copying it (laughs).

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery!

Sean– Absolutely!  Great artists don’t borrow, they steal!

Over the past 7 years, you’ve been composing a lot of scores for short films and feature films and Sean, you’ve you’ve been mixing and producing several albums.  Was the gap between your last album and Heart Shaped Hell intentional so that you could focus on other projects or was it just how things worked out?

Sean– It’s never intentional.  You just get caught up in other things.  I think one of the hardest things about being in a band, for me, is that my day job is music.  Say I come off of a film and producing a band, then have to go into writing our record…it’s like, I’ve just written 145 pieces of music!  I’m maybe out of ideas (laughs)!  It’s so much easier when I walk into a situation, like say with the band Shining that I work with from Norway.  You walk into a room with a bunch of creative guys and you are all exchanging ideas and it’s that kind of energy between artists that creates ideas.  It’s a synergy.  When Juliette and I go in to do stuff ourselves, just the two of us, I feel like I need to have a little bit more to offer then I would in a normal situation.  Finding that space and time when you’re in the mood or space where you feel you have what you need to contribute to the whole process can be difficult.  Luckily, in this period of time, we had been talking about what we were going to do with the record.  We literally stopped playing out so that we would want to write songs.  We played out and played shows for a long time and we’re performers.  You get the high from performing and then don’t feel like you necessarily have to start writing more songs.

Juliette– We had to abstain.

Sean– Yeah, we had to abstain from it.  We stopped doing shows for about a year and it worked.  It made us write a record!  We love writing, and when we are doing it, it’s really fun.  And obviously we love writing when we are doing scores for film and stuff.  It is that thing of in the day-to-day trying to keep a roof over our heads and do all the things you need to do in trying to make a living out of being an artist.  You really just get swallowed up by all of the things that entails.

What can you tell me about your involvement in the In The Tub book that was published recently to bring awareness to Breast Cancer?  How did you get involved with that project?

Juliette– Our friend TJ Scott, who is a director and photographer, put together that coffee table book, which is actually in two volumes now.  He was a neighbor and buddy around 8 years ago and we all just started hanging out on Friday nights drinking tequila.  There were 5 of us, the neighbors that would sit around at his and his then wife Victoria’s house. They collected tequila and it just became this thing to have a Friday night tequila club!  His mother had survived Breast Cancer for 35 years and is a force of nature to say the least.  He had recently started doing still photography on top of being a very popular director, just to have another creative outlet.  He decided as a tribute to his mother that he wanted to put together a coffee table book of artists, directors, actors, musicians and writers…just a collective of people all in the tub.  He told us we were going to be in it and we did a lot of test shoots (laughs)!  He would be like “Hey come over!  I got a smoke machine.  I got dry ice” and other different ideas.

Sean– Yeah, he and Juliette were always shooting ideas off of each other and was always an experiment.  If he wanted to try something new, Juliette would get in the tub.

Juliette– Yeah, like come over, drop trou and jump in the tub (laughs)! He’s a great guy.  So that was how that started and then he just started getting more and more people on board and involved. Volume One had Larry Hagman’s last portrait before he died.  It’s brilliant actually and for a good cause.  It was born out of TJ’s brainchild and a love of tequila and good friends.

I read that the two of you recently wrote a musical!  What can you tell me about the musical and had you written one before?

Juliette– No, we had not!  It’s still in the works and I don’t know if we can actually talk about it.  It’s something we’ve kind of been kicking around for a number of years now.  We did bring in an old friend of ours a year ago to co-write and get in on some of the songs.  I’m actually going to have a meeting about it next week so maybe we can touch base later!

Sean– We were really interested in it and in the idea of doing something musically like that.  There’s also the idea of bringing theater and music together in that way…kind-of the way Rocky Horror Picture Show started.

Juliette– Or Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Sean– Yeah.  It’s kind-of like a band playing in a place like The Roxy or something.  We just thought it would be really cool.  The idea is that it could even start like that, where it’s this group of musicians who get together and play and do this little theatrical presentation and it eventually becomes a Broadway musical.  It’s kind-of set out to be a Broadway musical.  It’s very much about millennial topics.  In raising our daughter, we’ve gotten to know her friends and stuff.  There are things we’ve been able to observe about them that we just found fascinating.  So it’s a pretty interesting premise that we can’t really talk about (laughs)!

You had your EP release show on February 27th.  How was the show and the crowd response?

Juliette– It was great!  I really don’t think we could have asked for better.

Sean– It was one of those shows where you play in front of a bunch of people and people seemed mesmerized and really responded to everything tremendously.  We had a lot of old friends there and  old fans who have been seeing us perform for a long time.  They were all just kind-of gushing about what we’d done.  It seems like we hit a good zeitgeist with the music that we were doing.  Everybody seemed to be on board.  No one was like “Your older stuff is so much better”.

Juliette– Yeah, nobody told us that they didn’t like the new stuff.  Everybody screamed and clapped and cheered.

Sean– For us, right now, this is our favorite record we’ve done and we like our old records.  It feels good to have people feel about this record the way we do.

Juliette– That’s always the hope, when you love something.  You always hope that when you show it to other people that they love it too!

Sean– And sometimes they love it for different things.

Juliette– That’s kind-of the magic really.

Sean– I love some of the things that people have said about what the songs mean to them.  It’s just really cool and interesting and some of their interpretations are things I’d never even thought about.

It sounds like you learn a little bit about the songs from your fans!

Sean– Yeah, especially when you write something pretty quickly and aren’t overthinking it.  It’s interesting the things you figure out a couple of months later, like “Oh wow!  That’s what that meant !” (laughs)!  It just hit me emotionally when I wrote it but I didn’t really understand what it meant or really, really get it.  That’s happened to us a few times with songs we’ve written.  It’s always cool when you have that final revelation.

What’s next for 8mm?  Do you have any other fun projects, films or albums you are working on outside of the band?

Juliette– I think the next thing on the docket is a short film called Jane Doe that I produced this month.  We’re doing the music for that.  And Sean will be working on an album for Automatik Eden. And then just a myriad of other things.

Sean– We just finished a movie that will be coming out later this year and we’re having a screening for it in March.  That was really fun and really intense. It’s about an internet exorcism show that goes horribly wrong.

Juliette– When do exorcisms go right, really?

Sean– Those are some of the things I have coming up.  The album I did with 3teeth comes out this year and I’m very excited about that.

Do you have any tours coming up?

Juliette– We’re kind-of flirting with festivals.  We’d like to get on some festivals this year and we’re in some talks about that.  We’ll probably do a West Coast tour in the Summer, but there’s nothing locked in at the moment.  I’m told all of those talks are happening.

Sean– The main thing we’re doing is pushing to get on the radar of festivals.  The way we’re doing this record and the way we’re doing it live, it fits more into the EDM festival vibe.  We’re looking at that right now.  It should be fun!

Thanks you both so much for your time today!

Sean and Juliette– Thank you!

 

 

 

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