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Based on his morbid pop music sensibilities, not to mention his day profession, it's easy to imagine Sean Lynch being a nocturnal person. Thus, it's not at all surprising when Lynch says he can meet for an interview after midnight.
"It's not conscious — like I say to myself, 'You're going to write another song about death,'" Lynch says of his band 800beloved and its recently released Bouquet album, a collection of 11 spooky (albeit romantic) dark pop gems. The darkness "is evident; it's all around," he continues. "You really can't avoid it. It's not like I'm extra privy to it because of where I work.
Lynch is referring to his day job as a cosmetologist at the suburban Milford funeral home run by his father, the famed author Thomas Lynch. Sean Lynch will admit, however, that working with the dead on a daily basis makes it harder for him to forget or even ignore the dark subject.
"The difference is that when most people are going about their weekend, they aren't aware that death is always there," he says. "But when I get off work, I have to think, 'What are you going to take from this? Should you shove it to the forefront? Or are you going to try to see something else behind it?'"
A casual listener might not pick up on the goth side of Bouquet ... at first. Despite the singer's otherworldly baritone drone, many of the album's songs sound deceptively upbeat to the uninformed ear. "The formulas are all the same" in pop music, he argues, noting the big choruses, hooks, bridges method that's been the basis of the pop song since the form began. The music "was just me trying to stay conscious of the pop format. But it's no different than, say, the Kelly Clarkson chemistry."
And that pop-meets-goth formula is apparent on a song like "Mortgage Your Organs," which blends horror-movie synth jabs and trembling vocals with his aforementioned technique.
"'Mortgage' is basically about twentysomething culture," he says, "about dropping your pants after a few drinks in a bar. When you're in your 20s and early 30s, you give yourself more room to fuck up in terms of nightlife. On that song, I'm playing devil's advocate. It's actually a real cute song disguised as a real dark song. But in the end, it's just saying, 'Party, kids, party!'"
Lynch rapidly rattles off his influences for Bouquet, which he refers to as a "template" record with an intentionally limited palette. Most of the overt influences are '80's and '90s British post-punk bands such as the Psychedelic Furs, the Jesus and Mary Chain, early Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine and the Vaselines. And lurking in all the songs is that aforementioned undeniably strong pop sensibility.
"I tend to easily do post-punk music," he says. "It's harder for me to write really jangly pop music, though. That whole Degrassi-meets-Saved By The Bell thing — which just screams 'After-school special' is hard for me to write." He pauses. "I wish it came as easy as the whole doom and gloom thing."
Those two opposing forces — pop's lust for life and death's omnipresence — comprise the core of 800beloved. For the band's record release show at the CPOP Gallery earlier this year, Lynch decked the venue out in streamers, balloons and funeral flowers. Combining that setting with the group's swirling mix of shoegaze noise and dance beats, the whole thing gave the creepy impression of a high school prom held as a sort of danse macabre.
"It's not anything original, though," Lynch admits, citing similar traits in such current bands as My Chemical Romance, Interpol and the Cure. "But coming from a small town, as I do, and the fact that I can't exactly shake the funeral business ... well, I think there's a little bit more validity to what I do."
The album closer, "Cut Flowers," is another good example of Lynch's meditations on mortality, as he muses on the temporal nature of beauty.
"It's not so much about how flowers are beautiful," he says, "as it is a comment on how everything is just this momentary thing. The flowers will only last for a limited time. The cover of Bouquet, which has this beautiful woman on it, is the same theme. The artwork just kind of happened — but someone could look at it and think, 'Well, she's momentary.' The songs are all momentary. Any interest in this record is momentary."
That may be. But the effort put forth by Lynch in the recording of the album was a little more than just momentary. Started in September 2005, the record took more than three years to complete.
"People kept telling me that I had to learn a professional program like ProTools," he says. "And every day that I worked on it, I learned something new that I couldn't do before." The long process found him switching from physical gear to learning how to use computer software.
The next step was transforming 800beloved from a studio project into a performance unit, which hasn't been easy with the band going through ever-shifting incarnations since its first show in 2006. (Lynch is currently the only permanent member of 800beloved.) And then there was the small matter of finding a record label. Fortunately, he found some big 800beloved fans at Moodgadget.
"I don't know how correct I am in saying this," he says, "but they might be some sort of incestuous cousin of Ghostly," the latter referring to Ann Arbor-based Ghostly International, which shared Moodgadget founder Jakub Alexander as an A&R exec. "When you're working on a record for 39 months, doing everything yourself, the only words you're looking for [from a label] are 'May I help you?' So things clicked when Jakub wrote me an e-mail that read: 'I'm a big fan of this music, and even if we're not involved in a professional sense, I'd love to help get it out there.'"
In the foreseeable future, Lynch plans to play more shows, although his funeral business means that shows will have to be intermittent for now. There are, however, plans for a June tour.
"I'm not one of those people who has to play night after night to get my rocks off," he says. Nevertheless, Lynch feels a responsibility to give back to 800beloved's developing fan base. "I feel like there's something that's owed to the kids who waited for the record for three years. We had some kids who drove 12 hours from Kansas City to see us when we played in Chicago."
As for the next 800beloved record, "I don't want to do another giant 'three years in the making' huge effort," he says with a hint of weariness, announcing that the next 800beloved release will be an EP called Everything Purple.
"I want to do something that sounds like four people recorded it in a weekend this time, just kind of fun and playful. [The music] will probably be more of that wanting to write an intro song for a melodramatic teenage film, though."
For someone who spends his days meticulously preparing corpses for viewing, it's understandable why Lynch would avoid similar treatment in his music's post-production and go for a more lively approach instead.
"I'm not using any plug-ins this time," he says. "I'm boycotting the computer. I don't want to see my music anymore. I want to hear it. That's why just throwing up a mic on a proper amp and closing my eyes is going to be the best routine."
Lee DeVito is a freelance writer who covers music for the Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.