Sean Lynch has called the sleepy suburban town of Milford home for his entire life. Now the 35-year-old finds himself acting as his town's ambassador.
"It has a dreary charm," he says of Milford. According to Lynch, there are several top-notch restaurants within walking distance of the town's Central Park, including the River's Edge Brewery. "It's like a chunk of Ann Arbor with everything concentrated in one area," he says.
For more than a decade, Lynch has mostly booked gigs for his band, shoegazing outfit 800beloved, 45 minutes away in Detroit. But on Saturday, the band will play a hometown gig at a new family-friendly amphitheater located in the middle of his hometown.
The idea to play a hometown gig started when Milford's Downtown Development Authority unveiled the amphitheater back in May. That's when Lynch approached the organizers with a suggestion that they book original bands — and a pitch to curate a night of programming.
Somewhat surprisingly to Lynch, the organizers were into it. "I thought they hated me here!" he says. "I'm the guy who gets noise complaints all the time." But after many meetings between Lynch, DDA director Ann Barnette, and sponsor Huron Valley State Bank's president Jack Shubitowski, 800beloved will headline a free Saturday show with Grand Rapids' Dear Tracks and Detroit's Missionary in an event that is being called Currents.
There's another cause for Lynch's newfound appreciation for his hometown as well — these days, he has a much different view of Milford. A year ago, he ended a 15-year gig working as a cosmetologist at a funeral home owned by his father, noted author and poet Thomas Lynch, to devote more time to making music.
The gig was a huge influence on the sounds and aesthetic of 800beloved, from the coffin on the cover of the band's 2009 debut, Bouquet, to the subject matter of the lyrics, some of which Lynch readily admits could equally work as a tombstone's epitaph. But more broadly, Lynch says the work provided him with a unique view of human nature more than anything else.
"The funeral business didn't interest me enough to keep me there for 15 years — humans beings did," he says. If somebody has access to those sort of interactions and doesn't take notes, he says, it's a missed opportunity. But Lynch says he has more than enough inspiration to last 800beloved. "I felt like I explored everything I wanted to behind the black suit, so to speak," he says.
Of course, other more subtle aspects of Milford seep into 800beloved's sound as well. In fact, Lynch doubts his records, which have been described by critics as "headphones albums," would sound the same if he lived in Detroit. Mixing Bouquet was a three-year effort that saw Lynch burning tracks on CDs and listening to them as he drove around the loop on General Motors' nearby proving grounds. "It was the only road that I could think of that was paved, a continuous roundabout," he says. "I must have driven that road at least once or twice every single day."
And speaking of driving in loops, 800beloved's latest LP Some Kind of Distortion is a bit of a return to the noisier, more bombastic sounds of Bouquet, following a lighter, jangly sophomore detour with 2010's Everything Purple.
Some Kind of Distortion was officially released on Bandcamp in early August with no advance warning (the cover features a photo of a hula hoop in a tree — there's the idea of a loop, again), though Lynch rejects the idea of a "surprise release." He points out that the tracks have been available to stream online as part of a then-untitled album for almost a year in an approach he describes as "slowly undressing" the record.
"There's this staleness that I like," he says. "With a year of it sort of exercising ears out there already, there's this broken-in jeans vibe about it."
At the same time, 800beloved has undergone updates as well. The live version of the band is leaner than its previous incarnation, now pared down to a live three-piece featuring Lynch on guitar, longtime collaborator Anastasiya Metesheva on bass, and Ben Collins on drums. The new record also sees Lynch and co. incorporating more psychedelic rock, Krautrock, and motorik influences into the band's sound as well. "This just feels more gnarlier and fun, more looser," he says.
One last thing about loops — Lynch says the decision to play the show was solidified when he realized that the season was both the ten-year anniversary of 800beloved as well as the Huron Valley State Bank, fitting in with his own habit of tracking numerology. (Exhibit A: Lynch says he picked the Aug. 3 release date for Some Kind of Distortion because of the symmetry between the 8 and the 3 in the date.)
Lynch hopes 800beloved and the rest of the bands on Saturday's bill can appeal to a wide audience, from '90s-obsessed teenage fashion retromaniacs to parents who grew up on Creation Records, Merge, or 4A. But he maintains that 800beloved is no mere revival act. "Fashion never trumps substance," Lynch says. "If you don't have substance to begin with, that flame is going to fade."
Currents runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19 at the LaFontaine Family Amphitheater in Milford's Central Park; free and all ages.