The Black Sheep Interviews: Bad Veins
- Written by Brendan Bonham
- April 4, 2012
Bad Veins, a rock duo hailing from lovely Cincinnati, Ohio, are an up-and coming band known for melding a unique sound with pop sensibility. Frontman Benjamin Davis chatted with us about just that prior to the release of their album, The Mess We Made, debuting on April 24th.
The Black Sheep: Your new album, The Mess We’ve Made, drops on April 24th. How did, or how does, the creative process work in a band that only has two members?
Benjamin Davis: Well, that’s a loaded question. I think that a four-piece band would be a lot different from how we do it. Undeniably, I am a control freak, and I have my hand in everything. That’s even true with [drummer] Sebastien’s work. With just us two, we talk openly about ideas all the time, and I have to try to create room for him to be creative.
TBS: Bad Veins was intended to be a solo project for you, but you later found Sebastien and wanted him to be a part of the work, correct?
Ben: Yeah. For me, he had the work ethic I was looking for in a bandmate. A lot of people don’t believe that one could be a musician for a living, and they don’t understand the baby steps a group needs to take to get there. There’s that old saying, “The difference between a goal and a dream is a plan.” I feel like most people don’t have that plan, and a lot of other bands think, “Well, we’ll never be big, so why practice?” Sebastien saw that there are achievable goals and wants to put in the work to make it happen. That’s a rare trait in a person.
TBS: You talk about having your hand in a lot of the music behind this band, but how has Sebastien’s presence shaped the group?
Ben: What Seb brings to the band is incredible, because I would not or could not do what we do without him. I often compare him to the Muppet Animal. They’re both drummers, they’re both crazy and if you add an Animal to your band, you’d have to keep them under control, making sure that they’re fitting into the world you’re working in.
TBS: How do you view your new album in light of your other work?
Ben: I don’t think that our dynamic has changed between the first two records—we approach making music the same way. On this album, though, I had a lot more attention to detail, and there’s a lot more to listen to—to wrap your brain around—and that’s largely because I spent more time composing and arranging on this album.
TBS: How do you strike the balance between doing right by your fans and maintaining a fresh sound?
Ben: Seb and I both really love pop music. We like rock—when we’re on tour we’ll have some Zeppelin or some Sabbath—but we’ll also get into Katy Perry or Fleetwood Mac. Anything that has accessibility and pop sensibility we like. I feel like I have to make that music, and coincidentally other people seem to like it. So, the harder I work at my craft, the closer I actually get to pop music.
TBS: You won the Target Music Maker Award, as well as a few other accolades. How do you qualify that in your terms of success?
Ben: I definitely don’t revel in awards. If anything I’m cursed with the “now what?” syndrome, where I can never enjoy anything because I want to figure out what’s next. Sometimes that’s good—it keeps you going and makes you want to get better, but at the same time you never enjoy it.
TBS: When you tour do you find you have a hard time translating your sound?
Ben: We use the old binary reel-to-reel tape deck and we place it center stage for a live show. So, while we’re not trying to recreate the album live, the elements of it are there. We don’t try to trick anyone into thinking we’re reproducing the sound ourselves, though.
TBS: And what are one of these live shows like?
Ben: You should expect to hear things you don’t normally hear, because of the backing tracks we choose to use. Harps, woodwinds, brass, lush arrangements to flesh out the music. Now you don’t see that stuff a lot.