Bad Veins are a rarity in today’s musical landscape: An act who didn’t set out to become critical darlings or the next “buzz” band, but managed to achieve both after only playing a handful of shows. However, despite the fact that Bad Veins’ music has been instantly embraced since their inception in late 2006, the duo of Benjamin Davis and Sebastien Schultz decided not to rush out the disc you’re currently holding in your hand. The result is Bad Veins, an album that’s unique but familiar, and not only lives up to the hype but surpasses it. Looking back, it’s hard to believe it all started out a little over two years ago in a non-descript attic in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The group was originally conceived by Davis as a solo project, yet after Bad Veins’ first gig he quickly realized he would need a collaborator—which is where drummer Schultz entered the picture. “I always loved watching Sebastien play in his old band because he is just such a dramatic drummer,” Davis reveals. “We hooked up one day and I showed him all the stuff I’d been working on. I muted the electronic percussion and let him play on top, and after the first practice these songs were way cooler than I ever imagined they could be,” he continues.
Bad Veins’ second gig was opening for Snowden, who were so impressed with the duo they instantly began singing their praises to anyone and everyone – especially in NYC. In no time, the band was performing at a showcase for the popular Manhattan-based web site Gothamist yet this was only their third show. From there, the palpable buzz surrounding the act spiraled out of control, eventually leading to five-figure grants, product endorsements and a deal with Dangerbird Records.
The immediate amorous response to Bad Veins may be directly linked to their live shows, specifically their ability to accurately replicate their luscious songs with some help from a third member: Irene. The lovingly named antique reel-to-reel player handles 50 to 70 extra tracks, allowing the dynamic duo to create their huge orchestrations the way they were intended.
A year after this duo’s first show, they found themselves at CMJ touted as “the breakout act of the event” on the Festival’s site – yet it was Davis who was taken most by surprise. Although they could have easily capitalized on the attention they were receiving, Davis and Schultz decided instead to work with the music licensing company Black Iris (who hired Davis as a freelance composer after hearing the first Bad Veins demos) and utilize the commercial company’s studios as well as expert engineers in Richmond, Virginia and Los Angeles, in order to fully realize this flawless collection of songs.
The finished album is as cerebral as it is visceral, and showcases what Bad Veins are capable of. “I’m so glad that we waited and made this record on our own terms,” says Schultz. From the military drum introduction of “Found” to the final rattle of “Go Home,” Bad Veins is a cohesive collection of songs that sounds more like a labor of love than an attempt to move units. This is especially evident with the album’s breakthrough single “Gold And Warm,” a track that unifies the best parts of the Killers and the Walkmen while retaining the band’s indie sensibility and landlocked Midwestern roots. Additionally, Bad Veins are also extremely proud that Dangerbird decided to release the album without changing a note, a fact that’s largely unprecedented but totally understandable.
That same attention to detail is applied to Bad Veins’ lyrics, which are rich in metaphor yet aren’t so ambiguous that you won’t understand what Davis is talking about. “I think there’s a common thread on the album that stems out of my personality,” he explains. “There are fears and insecurities involved in no matter what you do and I’m the kind of person who thinks about those things a lot – so they weed themselves into pretty much every song,” he continues. “I typically write about something that I’ve experienced, so they always have this woven element of my own personal demons.”
There’s no clear genre or box to stash this band into and even Bad Veins themselves aren’t exactly sure where they fit in. But, they can’t wait to start performing live and find out. “I think everyone from some indie kid in Ohio to a Williamsburg hipster can find something to latch onto with this record and enjoy it,” Schultz explains. “I don’t feel badly because we don’t fit in anywhere,” he continues, admitting that even if it ended tomorrow, Bad Veins have already accomplished more than they ever imagined. “If we can spend this next year on the road and see the world by playing the music we want to play, then we’ve already succeeded.”