Nevermind the Shoegazers, Here's the Beauvilles

Shawn Beauville and Co. self-promote, but won't compromise on music

In certain Bay area local-music circles, you're not supposed to be driven, confident, ambitious or outspoken. It's stupid, but there it is. Even though nobody gets on a stage unless they want somebody to see 'em, truly creative artists are supposed to be quietly intense, fragile and self-effacing. They're supposed to let the music do the talking. Self-promotion is tacky; an ostentatious personality can be considered downright offensive.Shawn Beauville is driven, confident, ambitious, outspoken. He's also a good-looking, talented guy with a predisposition to affectation and, usually, a beautiful young girl on his arm. These traits have made him something of a polarizing character in the local-scene soap opera — people tend to either love him or hate him, and apply that opinion wholesale to his band, the eclectic, rhythmic rock trio The Beauvilles.

But these traits are also part of the reason he's currently drinking a mojito in an open-air lounge on Miami's Ocean Drive, the day after playing a Grammy showcase for a club full of virulently networking industry types. The Beauvilles were one of only six unsigned Florida acts selected from more than 250 submissions to play the showcase. One of those six won an artist development package worth over $10,000, and a slot at the National Academy of Recording Arts & Science's annual Florida Heroes Awards event, where internationally successful artists from around the state are honored.

"It was very, very cool, actually. We didn't win, of course," Beauville (f.k.a. Shawn Kyle) snickers via cell phone, "but all the bands were very good, everybody was very nice, et cetera, et cetera, and so on."

The trip was far from a total loss. In addition to a great new tour story involving a 6-foot hooker with really bad teeth, The Beauvilles, the only rock act on a bill heavy with representatives of South Florida's producer-driven R&B/hip-hop/ singer-songwriter scene, stood out enough to grab the attention of a few A&R men and Latin MTV executives. They also made friends with the press. Not content to let the Academy handle publicity for the showcase, the group sent out their own press releases to every alt-weekly in the area, personally inviting their music writers to attend. And several did.

"Those guys actually came out, because we bothered to send something out," says Beauville. "One of 'em even said he hadn't known about the showcase before he got our thing."

It's a perfect example of The Beauvilles' habit of doing things that many other acts associated with the alternative/indie end of Tampa's original-music spectrum don't, or won't. Rather than dismiss every competition (they were finalists in a 2002 nationwide Rolling Rock talent search) or regional conference (they'll play Orlando's Florida Music Fest for a second year next month) as pointless or "corporate," they get in there and get what they can out of it. Instead of settling for the usual local gigs and occasional slot opening for a national, they've logged more touring time than just about any area band not firmly entrenched in the all-ages punk community, and they constantly search out new venues for exposure — like their run last year hosting Thursday nights at Ybor yupster haven King Corona Cigars.

"The thing for us is, we've been around for so long now … I came into [the Grammy showcase] expecting nothing — we've really got nothing to lose at this point. These are the things that we have to do. We have to start making industry contacts," says Beauville. "Nobody's gonna do it for us, there's no buddy-favor kind of situation. The likelihood of slipping a demo to somebody these days is slim to none.

"There's no other way to get in front of these audiences."

The threesome (singer/guitarist Beauville, bassist Lil' Randy and drummer C. Solomon Holmes) is unabashed about its desire to make music for a living. Hell, rumor has it they settled on the name The Beauvilles because it would come right after The Beatles in record-store bins. They don't see ambition as a crime. Making shitty, formulaic music to that end would be — but they don't. The Beauvilles aren't aping the last big modern-rock trend in the hope that they'll land a major label deal. They're just using any and every opportunity that presents itself to get their music noticed. And while their latest release, an EP titled Singapore, is slightly more focused and overtly catchy than past efforts, it's still full of sinewy, sultry, slightly jazzy sounds that, as a whole, defy easy categorization.

"Yeah, they are rock and roll songs, and maybe they're under four minutes and have a hook to them, but they're not stale," Beauville says. "If I had to play the same old tired chord progressions you hear over and over, I'd go crazy."

There are people in the scene who think he is crazy. (A few of the gregarious, extremely excitable Lil' Randy's past public antics have raised questions about that particular Beauville's mental stability as well.) After all, anyone who wears sunglasses onstage at piddling local shows, regularly dresses like one of the Black Crowes circa Shake Your Money Maker, and sometimes slips into a social persona that's half cocksure Beat poet, half Dudley Moore's Arthur has got to be crazy, or at least a titanic asshole, right?

But Beauville doesn't seem concerned with how people see him. He's more concerned with how, and how many, people see The Beauvilles. And, their personal feelings regarding the man notwithstanding, no one can argue that he's one of Tampa original music's most ardent, ubiquitous supporters — the guy shows up everywhere.

"Initially, from being in the art scene with some people who would drag me around to every opening or whatever, it kind of seemed like that, the scenester thing. But it became, 'I want to see these shows. These are my friends,'" he says. "You live here, so you might as well love the area, for good or bad … you have to support the scene. If you don't care, nobody else is going to care.

"I definitely have some hubris for the hometown. It felt really good last night, standing up there and saying, 'we're from Tampa.'"

Contact Music Critic Scott Harrell at 813-248-8888, ext. 109, or by e-mail at [email protected].

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