What would you do if your boyfriend was a chemist? It’s a question not many of us have ever thought to ponder, but at least one person, Julian Eternal, has an answer. He and his boyfriend at the time, Brian, founded the company Double Scorpio in Austin, Texas, through which they offer an entire line of bespoke poppers VHS cleaner.
Double Scorpio created its web store in June of 2017, though the research and development process began months before that. (“I guess that makes Double Scorpio a Gemini,” Julian says.) Currently the Double Scorpio site offers no fewer than five different formulas of the queer community’s favorite inhalant.
Julian handles the marketing, manages the Double Scorpio web store, packs the orders and oversees customer relations. “You could say Brian is the brains, and I’m the blouse,” he says.
Brian makes the product. “I’m in the lab synthesizing the product while also shaving years off my life dealing with Julian,” he jokes. The two guys are equal partners in the operation.
How exactly does one get into the poppers business and — if many Double Scorpio repeat customers are to be believed — create a product that blows that stuff you find at your local head shop out of the water? We sat down with Double Scorpio founders Julian and Brian to find out.
What inspired you guys to get into the homemade solvent business? I assume you’re enthusiasts.
Julian: The seed — or the load, rather — was planted when I started a Facebook group that celebrated “cleaners and solvents” of all sorts. I live in Austin, which is a fun place but it’s still Texas, so anything related to sex kind of freaks people out a little. I was always the one in a robe and a jockstrap passing the bottle around at raves. The Facebook group was just a place to joke around about sex, VHS cleaners and whatever else. When the group was taking off we sold enamel pins and those sold out, so I thought maybe I could buy pre-made VHS cleaners and just slap my own branding on it. Then Brian came into the picture.
Brian: My introduction to VHS cleaners was through a guy I met through Hornet. I was actually never really a big fan; they were just something that was around. It’s funny, but I’ve actually never once bought a bottle myself. I would just keep bottles people left at my place by accident. I had a graveyard of bottles beside my bed. Julian was a big fan, though. It gave us something to do together back when we were dating.
Julian: We didn’t have much in common except being pigs. We thought we should have a boyfriends project. After a chemical burn from a bottle from New Orleans turned me temporarily into the Phantom of the Opera, Brian thought for sure he could make something better.
Brian: My primary background is neuroscience, but I have plenty of chemistry experience, and I know a lot of chemists who can act as consultants. I did some experimenting, with a few bad turns here and there …
Julian: One incident left Brian completely naked, waiting in the lab after a chemical spill. Dressed head-to-toe in leather, I had to get an Uber from the bear bar to bring him a change of clothes. No further comment.
Brian: Missteps aside, I was able to come up with something nice and clean.
Julian: Bottom-tested, daddy-approved. We started selling them online, then it quickly took off. Most of our sales are through word of mouth, and Reddit has been really valuable. The only physical stores you can find them in currently are Rough Trade in L.A. and Palm Springs, and Spark in Salt Lake City. There will be more, though, as we increase our production capacity.
I had gone through a really bad breakup. The guy was really controlling. I think he was equally fascinated and horrified by what a giant faggot I was. I’d be having the time of my life with my friends at a house party, only wearing a speedo, and he’d be thinking I was the most exciting person in the world until he woke up the next day with a hangover, thinking, “What am I dating?” When [Brian and I] started doing Double Scorpio, it kind of let me rediscover who I am, which is a big freak. Not to get too sentimental, but making a product that celebrates being a homo let me undo a lot of that shame that accrued over a couple years. Making this product meant the sheer kimonos were coming back out of the closet again.
Brian: We started selling Double Scorpio to our friends. Make a batch, sell it and that would be it. My initial intent wasn’t to mass produce it. My motivation is to make a product that is better, more consistent, more transparent. A company that actually engages with its community. We respond to messages on Reddit and we respond to every email we get from our store. It’s a big source of pride for me, because I also see it as a service to the community.
Julian: Our tagline is “Farm to Disco.” It’s not a joke! There are literally cows feeding in a field behind our lab. When we first started selling it, I would drive to people’s houses to drop off the product. Sometimes I’d even get a blow job. And we started doing pop-ups at friends’ parties.
What is it that differentiates Double Scorpio from what guys find in head shops?
Brian: There’s so much inconsistency out there, sometimes you don’t even know what you’re buying. With Double Scorpio, you know exactly what’s in it. We are using high-quality ingredients, we distill everything, clean the equipment regularly. There’s a reason people don’t get headaches or irritation from the product.
Julian: We also are approaching the product from a different angle. We have different scents, some that are seasonal or are limited edition. We have Double Scorpio Emerald that is blended with the scent of eucalyptus and mint to take you right to the bathhouse. There’s Double Scorpio Amber that’s frankincense and tea tree, which is perfect for holy experiences. We even did a limited supply for the Honey Soundsystem (the influential DJ crew from San Francisco) 10-year anniversary rave that featured rose and actual oil from honeycombs.
Brian: What sets us apart the most, though, is that it’s made by two people connecting with their community and making sure people are happy with what we provide.
Julian: This has become a creative outlet for us and the people we collaborate with. We hired one of my favorite artists from New Orleans to design our T-shirt. My roommate created an enamel pin of a tombstone that reads “Your Hole.” We are working on an infomercial for VHS cleaner with one of our favorite internet celebrities. We are gonna start throwing parties and creating apparel. We have plans to do pop-up shops around the country. It’s more than just aromas. It’s like the gay Goop. Bye, Gwyneth.
Can you say a bit about the process? And what kind of equipment are we talking about? Is it closer to a young kid’s chemistry set or a full-on meth lab?
Julian: When it comes to the formula, witches never brew and tell!
Brian: The lab isn’t a full industrial setup, but it’s professional-grade equipment. It started out in a shed in Julian’s backyard, also known as Julian’s spider storage.
Julian: Literally Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Brian: Those were some pretty bad times for me, but once things started taking off, and we realized how big it was going to get, we set up a real lab and changed the process to make it easier to scale up. We set up a real lab that didn’t have a dirt floor once things took off. It’s still pretty homespun, but with an exacting process.
What can you tell me about the dangers associated with making your own poppers, and how you guys ensure your safety in having them produced?
Brian: Chemistry can be dangerous, especially when doing anything large scale. But this isn’t an amateur project. I have more than 10 years of lab experience, so I know the ins and out of lab safety. We have equipment for filtering away dangerous fumes, but I wear a gas mask for most of the process, just to be safe. It’s uncomfortable, looks like shit, but hey, it’s keeping me alive. Function over fashion, just this once.
Tell me about the Double Scorpio customer. Who is he?
Julian: Who is she — we have a pretty broad fan base. Get a daddy to cum and the rest will follow. I run with the bears. They got the first taste, and then it spread. Most of our competitors have a pretty generic approach. It goes for that locker room-and-leather vibe, which is hot but it’s limiting. We are full-on faggot. Drag queens love them. A bottle of Double Scorpio clutched in a hand with some fierce gel tip nails is the look. Our branding is an extension of our sense of humor, so I think it appeals to not just gay guys. A lot of women — a lot of straight people who take them to the raves — are into what we are doing.
Brian: I’ve introduced a few of my straight friends to it. Most of them just did not get it, but some of them are totally hooked. I had one friend’s girlfriend ask me why we had been hiding this stuff from straight people all these years.