The indie rock world has more than its share of rags-to-riches, flannel-to-Fendi stories - glimmering groups who seem to go from the basement to the buzz bin overnight. Bad Veins - the Cincinnati-based duo of multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Benjamin Davis and drummer Sebastien Schultz - fits the mold, rocketing from its first gig to critical and commercial adulation in a year, and securing a deal with much-admired Dangerbird Records before the pair could even begin shopping around. The secret to the act's success, however, isn't slick marketing or great haircuts. On Bad Veins' scintillating debut, huge arrangements with dozens of layered instruments and Davis's passionate, purring baritone give dark, dizzying life to ear-tickling melodies and ambitious lyrics. We were able to grab a few minutes of Schultz's time as he and Davis make their way to Red Rocks to play the WOXY.com stage at Monolith.
Westword (Eryc Eyl): How did you arrive at your creative approach to production and performance?
Sebastien Schultz: It just kinda happened organically. Ben started the project originally on his own, with the idea that there are no rules. For example, there's this idea that you need to have a 40-piece symphony on stage to do what we do, and you don't. He figured, "I can dub all the tracks I need down to this reel-to-reel player." I got added to the mix shortly after. We were introduced through mutual friends who knew I was looking for a new project. He was reluctant initially to bring someone else on, but we both knew that we wanted to make music a career and make whatever sacrifices we had to. And things happened quickly for us because of that attitude. There was no dead weight, so to speak. Every day, we were being more proactive, maybe, than other bands were. There was a lot of effort that went into it. And it wasn't just the two of us. We built up a great team. It was a labor of love for many people.
WW: Why not use a conventional band?
SS: Logistically, that's a nightmare. To have as many members as we have tracks and instrumentation - it wouldn't really work. Beyond that, the more people you add to the mix, the more complicated it gets. Ben and I get on well and have the band as our number one priority. Finding people who have that same work ethic is really hard. Also, touring-wise, it's a lot easier and a much more streamlined process - even than having a four-piece.
WW: You must have some unique challenges traveling and working with the reel-to-reel though.
SS: It broke down last night, actually. After three years, it was the first time it had broken. I think the heat of Phoenix got to it. Ben had to buy one on the fly off eBay, and we're fixing the original one. It's a 1970s Pioneer reel-to-reel. You can't exactly go to Guitar Center and pick one up.
WW: Why not use digital?
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SS: There are so many bands that use iPods. It's the man behind the curtain kind of thing, where you can tell they're using backing tracks. I think this is a little bit more honest and more interesting. With an iPod, there's nothing visually or aesthetically to draw you in. The reel-to-reel is something to look at that makes it more interesting. We're very open about it being our third member, Irene. It gives people something to remember and talk about. There's the reel-to-reel, the phone that Ben sings into, and the megaphone. Plus it's analog, and a lot of people just like that sound.
WW: With your interest in visual appeal and props, there seems to be a theatrical element to your performances. Is that something you're interested in?
SS: Playing shows is what we love to do. That's the most fun part. We want it to be as fun and entertaining as possible. We want it to be an event. When we're up on stage, we're both very passionate. Maybe there's a bit of melodrama, but I think it comes off as genuine. We've both seen bands that almost look like they don't want to be there playing. What's the point, if they have a scowl and they're not even tapping their foot? Why wouldn't you have a good time on stage and put on a good show for people?
Bad Veins is due on the WOXY.COM stage at Monolith at 4:20 p.m. this Sunday, September 13.