Q&A with Bad Veins' Benjamin Davis

Bad Veins mastermind talks about where the Indie Pop act has been and what to expect when he returns to the Woodward Theater stage Feb. 17.

click to enlarge Bad Veins' Benjamin Davis
Bad Veins' Benjamin Davis

About a year and half ago, Bad Veins, one of the best Indie Pop acts to ever come out of Greater Cincinnati, seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. On Feb. 17, BV mastermind Benjamin Davis is bringing the project back to the stage to play Woodward Theater (1404 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, woodwardtheater.com) at 9 p.m. Locals Moonbeau and MARR open.  

Bad Veins emerged just over a decade ago — featuring Davis on keys, guitars and vocals, drummer Sebastien Schultz and “Irene,” a ’70s reel-to-reel tape machine that houses intricate backing tracks — and immediately garnered national attention, leading to record deals (with respected imprints like Modern Outsider and Dangerbird) and national tours, including opening jaunts with Two Door Cinema Club, Walk the Moon and others. (Read CityBeat's cover story on BV from 2008.)

In 2015, Davis was joined by drummer Jake Bonta and issued The Mess Remade, a retooled version of 2012’s The Mess We’ve Made (with expanded cuts), which became the first release through a new deal with Dynamite Music, a Capitol Records affiliate. Touring continued and singles were released in 2016, but then everything just stopped.

Davis recently fielded some questions from CityBeat about the temporary break and what fans can expect at the Woodward show and going forward from Bad Veins. 

CityBeat: Can you explain what was going on when, at least publicly, Bad Veins kinda disappeared late summer 2016?

Benjamin Davis: We were doing some radio tours in the summer of 2016, the kind where you hit several cities per day. The single “Under the Cover” was being tested out on top 40 Radio. It was crazy to hear it right in between Taylor Swift and One Republic. I think it was just quirky enough that stations were into it. All the while we were starting to push the song, Jake and I were kind of going through very different personal crises. I won’t speak on his, but I was feeling extremely burnt out on the whole thing. Performing had lost its charm, touring was not appealing at all. I just wanted to go home and focus on something else, anything else. When Jake decided to walk away, I decided to take a break and try to figure out what I actually wanted.

CB: What has been going on over the past year, as you’ve been working your way back to the stage?

BD: The weeds grew up around me for months before I felt like hacking them back down. And even then I had a few false starts where I thought I might be ready, then I wasn’t. When I finally dusted myself off, it had been so long that I felt like I was starting from scratch, which was refreshing but also tedious. I’d forgotten everything. I couldn’t remember my lyrics or how to play most of the songs. Some of it came back pretty quickly, but some I had to rehearse for weeks before feeling like I knew what I was doing again. Now I feel like I’ve got a better handle on it than I ever have. 

CB: Who’s the new drummer for live shows?

BD: I’ve recruited a great local drummer, Dan Crowe. He was introduced to me by my pal, local singer/songwriter Jane Decker. I’ve been flirting with the idea of bringing in a bass player and guitarist to the live show, but for now I still like playing with just a drummer.

CB: You mentioned you’re still signed to the same label (Dynamite Music)? 

BD: Yes, we’re still with the same label. It’s a boutique outfit under the Capitol umbrella run by two great guys, Marco Liuzzo and Mitch Davis, who is famously the son of music industry legend Clive Davis. They re-released The Mess We’ve Made to a wider audience under the name The Mess Remade. It was supposed to be a quick predecessor to the next Bad Veins album. That album is finished and now back on the agenda. 

CB: You also mentioned (there’s) a whole unreleased album? What’s the plan for that?

BD: Yes, there is an entirely finished, still unreleased Bad Veins album. If I’m allowed to have feelings about it, I think it’s really great. I want to get it out into the world sometime this spring or summer.

CB: Have you rethought your approach to Bad Veins since last the fans heard from you? I realize you’ve always written the material and played the music in the studio, but BV’s identity has always been as a duo – is that changing?

BD: I don’t know. Bad Veins has always had a bit of an identity contradiction. It was originally a solo project, but that doesn’t work well for performing live, so I’ve always needed other musicians. Whether those other musicians are ‘official’ members or not is a strange thing to consider.

CB: How about this old chestnut — if you could go back 10 years and give early-Bad Veins Ben one piece of advice, what would you say? 

BD: Oh yes, this one. Well I’ve definitely made my fair share of mistakes. I would just tell myself to stay calm and stay positive. Sounds lame right? It can be easier said than done.

CB: What can fans expect when they come see you Saturday at the Woodward? Lots of new songs? Will the rest of the catalog be well represented? A new live approach? Giant elaborate stage props?

BD: We’ll be playing songs from all three albums, and the Outliers EP, (plus) a few no one has ever heard. I think the last time more than one new song was in the set list was the very first Bad Veins show. We’ve upgraded gear and tech stuff, but that’s not particularly exciting — should sound better though! No new giant elaborate stage props, but I’m sure there will be soon.

CB: What are the next steps from here for Bad Veins?

BD: We’re working on some touring, getting this album released and all the promo nonsense that surrounds that — music videos, etc. Should be a busy year!

CB: How is Irene?

BD: Irene hasn’t aged a day. It’s really amazing. She’s looking forward to seeing everyone at the show.

Contact Mike Breen: [email protected] and @CityBeatMusic.


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