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An identical passion for the dark side

Matt (left) is six minutes younger than Ryan. Murray at the Black Veil Studio of Tattoo & Art in Beverly. (George Weinstein photo)
George Weinstein
Matt (left) is six minutes younger than Ryan.

To distinguish Matthew and Ryan Murray, identical twins and co-owners of the Black Veil Studio of Tattoo & Art in Beverly, check their tattoos. Ryan has a solid black star inked on one forearm.

Not everyone realizes they are twins, said Matt. “We dress the same and carry ourselves the same, so if only one of us is in the studio, it’s confusing. They think it’s one person.”

But not true for fans who have been following the Salem residents, 34, since their first studio opened in Lynn in 2012. Two years ago, they moved to Cabot Street.

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Don’t expect colorful designs. Only “black and grey for the grim-hearted,” their website (blackveilstudio.com) announces.

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“It’s directed at the macabre,” Matt said, “inspired by Salem, Massachusetts, where we’re from and live now with our three cats and tarantula.”

We spoke with Matt and Ryan.

Q. What led you both to the ink biz?

A. Ryan: I got tattooed first. A simple star on my forearm on my 18th birthday. I couldn’t wait. I went by myself. I got a star. It was designed from one I cut off an old Converse shoebox.

Matt: I got my first tattoo at 18 or 19, shortly after he got his tattoo without me. A couple of birds on a vine. Then we started getting a lot of matching tattoos, to keep the twin-ness going.

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I was actually going to art school in Boston, studying film, video, and animation. When I was close to graduating, I dropped by the studio where Ryan was working, learning the ropes at a small, walk-in biker shop in southern New Hampshire. I was always more of a fine arts person, but to be honest, it didn’t matter what shape or form my art took. To be working with my brother every day? It’s beyond what I could imagine.

Q. Who’s your typical customer?

A. Matt: It’s a mix. We work on both genders and all ages. Getting tattooed is a flourishing trend, for sure.

Q. What’s the cost for a tattoo?

A. Ryan: It varies. We charge $200 per hour, with a $100 advance deposit, the balance when it’s done. We never know how long we’ll be sitting.

Q. Oldest?

A. Ryan: I was born six minutes before Matt, so it’s a big deal. I have so much more life experience.

Kathy Shiels Tully can be reached at kathy@kathyshielstully.com.