Monolith Q&A: the Bad Veins
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
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?
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
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.
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