Cover photo for Some Kind of Distortion courtesy of Christina Anderson
A lot can happen in five years. Sean Lynch of Milford-based dream pop, post-punk trio, 800beloved, agrees with me. Five years ago I met Lynch, per my request as both a fan and as a writer, to chat about Everything Purple, the band’s dreamy follow-up to 2009’s Jesus and Mary Chain-esque debut Bouquet just before dissolving their relationship with their label, which lead to a three year hiatus. At the time, Lynch was still posing as a funeral director with a focus on restorative cosmetology, a profession that occupied over a decade of his life, and one that infiltrated 800beloved’s subject matter and undoubtedly crafted their signature staticky-concrete-macabre aesthetic.
Fast forward to today. I find myself at Bronx Bar in Detroit sitting across from Lynch, considered now to be one of my best friends and most faithful musical allies, to discuss a different type of undertaking, the release of 800beloved’s long awaited third record, Some Kind of Distortion. “We Beyonce’d that shit,” Lynch says in reference to the unannounced, overnight drop of the album on August 3rd. “I guess this is us going back to true left of the dial punk rock D.I.Y. We didn’t promote this record even though it was finished a year ago. It just felt like the season perfectly lined up and there was a storm that night.” This speaks true to Lynch’s creative sensibility, to trust intuition as means of honing in on emotive moments rather than popular opportunity, which explains 800’s quiet notoriety. “800beloved has become very niche-y, which is good,” Lynch explains. “We are truly comfortable narrowing the scope and not being a solicitation or a buzz band.”
For a three piece (currently composed of Anastasiya Metesheva on bass, Ben Collins on drums, and Lynch on vocals, guitar and production, respectively) 800beloved’s sound achieves a shimmering fullness that is as methodical as it is nostalgic. Some Kind of Distortion abandons traditional verse, chorus, verse, and is almost entirely devoid of hooks, a distortion in its own right. Distortion is a record with a pulse of throbbing warped sounds, and although difficult to identify, it still manages convulse with familiarity – from the warbled, zombie surf rock tones in “Die Slow,” to the droning, buzzy vocals on “Cicadas” that lends itself to sounding like an aural illusion to the soft and swelling opening instrumental track “0930131103.” “This is our attempt at psychedelic dream pop. We are playing back to our roots while exploring things we’ve never introduced to our audience through our particular filter,” says Lynch. “It’s a record that is sort of introverted and juvenile. It’s almost concept-less, in a way.”
I tell Lynch that the latest record is much less “death-y” than his previous, a statement he agrees with. “Enduring Black” (appropriately inspired by a CoverGirl cosmetic name found in the embalming room at his last funeral gig) is the shortest song on the album, clocking in just under three minutes. Even so, Lynch manages to write what feels like an obituary to his direct involvement with death work by means of his simplistic and clever lyrical prowess: ‘When I lose this black suit/I hope I forget/ what this all looks like in the end/I’d rather get distracted/by the liner ’round your eyes/Enduring Black/after all this time.’ “The song is sort of my sign off as a funeral director, an admission that I wanted more. It was my attempt to part with it, intellectually,” Lynch says. The album’s title track opens with a haunted crooning, “Time why are you so cruel/when I had all these ideas for you” and paints the glimmering sense of teenage suburbia while the song plays out like an invitation to a dystopian after party. “It’s addressing modern day distractions, but the jam seems like it’s out of a John Hughes film,” Lynch details. He is reminded, excitedly, of his inspiration behind tracking the song in post. “When you and our friends threw my birthday party at the roller rink, I just kept thinking of the stoner-y Dazed and Confused vibe of rollerskating. End of summer, stale burnt grass. That’s what I’ve tried to capture with this record.”
800beloved (which, if you haven’t figured it out by now is in fact a phone number) are not strangers to strong visual imageries that require, for those curious enough, further explanation though never deviating from disarming the audience. “The cover art is a lift from our friend’s Instagram. When I saw the photo I immediately sensed the vibe of the album which leaves this stained cafeteria feeling.” Lynch is wistful when he says this, and it is with this very passion in which he describes the synchronistic way in which the photo encapsulates the album and the band’s willingness to artfully displace themselves by releasing Distortion completely independently, that I am reminded of his affinity for detail both visually and sonically (and the palpable electricity he exudes when the two are perfectly wed). “When you work with a label and they tell you one thing and it doesn’t happen, it feels like a hula dance. A hula hoop doesn’t belong in a tree. I love the connotation of displacement of an object.”
So, yes. We were right. A lot can change in five years. Although 800beloved has remained uncompromising in vision, they continue to evolve. They’re still the band you have to seek to find or will possibly trip over. We conclude our interview (during which I’m not sure I ever even posed a question, a stark contrast to my pages of meticulous, shaky fangirl notes from five years ago) and venture out for a late night dinner where we take turns laughing, commiserating, and stealing french fries and onion rings off of each other’s respective plates. We eventually part ways at the gig van, aptly named “the space station” where Sean lends me an Alesis processor and the road worn, black electric Epiphone used on Bouquet, their first album and my summer soundtrack for heartbreak the year of its release. It’s a poetic transfer between friends; words for words, music for music, fried food for fried food. It isn’t until after I’m nestled into my apartment later that night with these symbolic musical tools far too advanced for my two- month- old fascination that Sean texts me, “I can’t wait to hear your distortions.” A perfectly apropos end to the night. I put my phone down and make some ugly, screechy guitar sounds and am suddenly warmed and buzzed by my own contortions as I dreamt of roller skates, longing for a summer that may or may not have happened yet.