By Dawn Wood
Seattle’s Gothic EBM and Industrial Scene has re-emerged over the past few years and shown itself to be almost front running. One of the first to arrive as a two-piece is Seattle’s XY Beautiful. Comprised of Kevin Hess and Styvën Synn, these two have been opening for such acts as: Stiff Valentine, SMP and William Control.
A little history: XY Beautiful formed in 2012
I asked Styvën and Kevin a bit about their history as musicians. Here is what they had to say:
Styvën: “My introduction to industrial music was Shotgun Messiah’s ‘Violent New Breed’ album – I had been listening to a lot of Manilow at the time, and had never heard anything like that before. Basically I followed Tim Skold’s career from there, getting into KMFDM, Marilyn Manson, Doctor Midnight and the Mercy Cult, Motionless in White, closing the loop to when he joined Barry Manilow last April. A fun fact about me is that I learned how to play guitar from Guitar Hero, which is why I still have the green, blue, yellow, and red tape around my guitar neck to this day. I began seriously focusing on music back 2008, learning different music software and playing keyboards. But, I joined XY Beautiful in 2012 after an extensive band audition Kevin was conducting that saw over 600 applicants, narrowed down between me and one other guy. It was brutal – standing outside his studio all night in the rain for weeks to prove my dedication, having to learn the entirety of Dream Theater’s ‘Awake’ album in 30 minutes and play it back perfectly by ear, having to re-string a guitar blindfolded with duct tape around my fingers. (Say what you want about Kevin, but the guy is thorough!) In the end, I got the job by beating the other guy in a push up contest, which, now that I think about it, is kind of a weird thing to have in a band audition. Whatever, I’m in the band now!”
Q: How did this all start and how did you become interested in the Gothic/Industrial Genre?
A: “XY Beautiful started in 2011 by my introduction to the software: Fruity Loops. I was doing contract work for Microsoft at the time, so the work-a-year-and-take-three-months-off plan worked really well for being able to focus on music during my down time. I ‘m one of those nuts who mainly listens to his own music all the time. But I’m sporting some Virgin Black, The Sins of thy Beloved, Even Song, and some other heavy and completely unknown stuff on my phone that I still break out pretty regularly. The problem with music like that is that it pretty much requires having 4 or 5 other people along with you who are also interested in doing the same thing, plus can play an instrument. Gothic metal’s not quite in vogue in the Pacific Northwest area; that Ara’kus got as far as they have is pretty amazing even when you consider they’ve been at it for probably ten years. The local metal scene seems like it focuses on anything but gothic.
Back in the 90’s I used to tool around with the Amiga-based .MOD and .S3M trackers, such as Impulse Tracker and whatnot, and I still have some of my music from that era laying around. (If nothing else, as a reminder of how terrible I was at writing lyrics at the time.) And l like with most things I take a shine to, I wanted something where I could just put my head down and go, and get the best return for the work I put in. So when I started thinking about working on music, electronic music really stood out to me as a way to start, since I was able to work on it by myself without involving anyone else.”
Q: But there are two of you.
A: “Right. I performed some shows solo to begin with, but eventually I felt like I ought to look for a counterpart to play live with. That’s how I met Styvën.”
Q: Quite the handsome fellow…..
A: “I know, right?”
Q: What caused you to choose him?
A: “The usual joke that I tell is that Styven’s physique intimidated me and that I didn’t want to get beaten up. But that’s only part of the reason. Besides that, he also played both keyboards and guitar, which opened up some musical possibilities despite my reluctance to use electric guitars on our first album, Pristine, at all. (Just because.)”
Q: What’s up with the name XY Beautiful?
A: “Uh… well, to be honest it’s hard to come up with a band name that’s never been used before. So that was part of the equation. But aside that, I wanted something that sounded a little ‘off’, a little weird, but also was quite serious. I wanted to communicate elegance and beauty in the mix.”
Q: What is XY Beautiful doing now?
A: “I’m doing writing and investing for a living – mainly the writing lately, traveling abroad. Styvën and I are both busy with various issues – he’s temporarily slammed with the busy season at his gymnastics gym, while I’m navigating international travel issues and haven’t gotten a chance to settle down yet. The tentative title of our next album is ‘Elysium’, and that’ll come probably later in the year.
Q: Kevin, with all of the world travel, do you miss Seattle? You lived here for a long time and how exactly does it work with you being in Europe and Styvën being in Seattle?
A: “Seattle is the weirdest fucking place I’ve ever lived in for any length of time. I miss performing music however. We did play a show in January in Seattle, which was great. As far as our long-distance writing collaboration: I generally write the music myself, then Styvën hears it when it’s in a draft state and gives me his input. The part that sucks is that we can’t play live together at the moment.
Q: Tell me about your albums.
A: “Well, our most recent release is Innocence, on Wicked Wonderland Empire Records. You can find it on Amazon.com and iTunes, and our music video ‘Little Vices’
is on Youtube. ‘Nomine Veritatis’, our self-released digital EP, was also
released in 2014. In 2013 we released ‘Virtue/Vice’, also on Wicked Wonderland Empire Records. In 2012, I self-printed 500 copies of ‘Pristine’.They’re all good. Every song on them is good. Styvën’s song: ‘Valentine’ is really good and included. We have zero filler. If it came down to it, I’d be comfortable with any single one of our songs being our ‘song’ that gets played on the radio. Take your pick. I think out of the whole music industry–we released the best albums of the year for three straight years – 2012, 2013 and 2014. I think the entire industrial world out there is insane for not owning two copies apiece in case their ex steals one. Literally insane. And, more importantly, I think everyone who’s writing their own music needs to be able to say the exact same thing about their own music with a straight face, because if you’re not that enthusiastic about your music, what are you wasting your time for? Music is too expensive and it takes too much out of you to do a half-assed job of it. If you endure all of the misery and hard work and expense of doing music without the goal of putting your music out there where you can look someone in the eye and tell them that it’s the best thing going, then you’re crazy and I can’t help you. If you endure it with that goal, you still might be crazy anyway. I certainly might be.”
I highly recommend downloading their music on Itunes. My personal favorite song of theirs is “Jezebel.”
Their video from Seattle’s acclaimed Avast Productions:
http://www.cdbaby.com › Xy Beautiful
**Photos by Seattle’s Rod Tipton.**
Dawn Wood has been singing since 5 years old. After high school and a degree at the University of Delaware, she attended Seattle University taking music and voice lessons. Dawn sang in a couple original Northwest bands and by the mid 90’s formed a retro 80s cover band called “Rapture” with guitar veteran Dan Hoyer. When Rapture disbanded in 1999, Dawn and Dan formed “Elektronika”. By late 2005, “Elektronika” had become more of Seattle area “project band” merging with several local talents. Dawn started writing for Carpe Nocturne in 2011 as a feature writer. In 2013, Carpe Nocturne asked Dawn to be the Scene Reporter for the Seattle/Portland area. Dawn is in the bands “Desillusion”, “Murder Weapons”, “Elektronika” and also collaborates with other local artists in the Seattle area. As a horror fan since childhood, Dawn was thrilled to assist in submitting fitting music to Horroraddicts.net. Follow Dawn on Twitter at: DAWNELEKTRONIKA