Thick-skinned indie duo, Bad Veins, battles heartbreak with power pop
Bad Veins’ music video for “Falling Tide,” the throbbing electrorock track off of the band’s alluringly bleak self-titled debut (2009), shows the two mopey musicians at their worst. For nearly three minutes, the wallflower rockers appear too introverted to function, as they are featured sitting in the same spots during a birthday party, while more social party-goers participate in cake fights and card games, and play with little plastic army men.
Sébastien Schultz (drums) dances awkwardly and energetically in his chair, wistfully wishing, perhaps, for an invitation to stand up; Benjamin Davis (vocals/guitar/keys) disconsolately sings to himself, never letting go of his beer, as if he has just received a roofie lecture from a parent. Both of their beers are half-empty, but after speaking with Schultz about Bad Veins’ sophomore LP, The Mess We’ve Made—released April 24 on Modern Outsider Records—their lives seem more on the half-full side of the spectrum.
“I think with anything in life, hopefully you want to be pushing forward,” says 29-year-old Schultz, a French-American dual citizen, who will happily teach you how to properly pronounce his first name, if requested. He elaborates, “Hopefully to an extent, the tours continue to get bigger in a sense. More well-attended … if you’re a professor, you want tenure; if you’re an opener, you want to be a headliner.”
Like The Black Keys, the dynamic duo has roots in Ohio, and will soon be on the same bill as internationally acclaimed indie rock bands Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Two Door Cinema Club.
The Mess We’ve Made is still as classically gritty and synthesized as its predecessor, but even more epic, with the addition of real string, brass, and horns, the latter of which are added by Ashley Shepherd, who produced the record. Not only is this album much more upbeat and pop-friendly, instrumentally, but Davis’ vocals have become biting and confrontational. His language is especially killer in the clever five-minute and forty second comeback, “Kindness,” which serves as a matured response to “You Kill”—a song about a man who is constantly killed in his dreams by his own lover—off the band’s freshman LP.
Now it’s Bad Veins’ turn to play offense, evident in the chorus for “Kindness”: “I’m gonna kill you/ I’m gonna kill you with kindness.” Schultz’s punchy drumming adds more weight to the dancy diss, as well as Davis’ revelation: “When it comes to hurting you I’ll know one thing/ I’ve got this ammunition and it’s sure to stain.”
Though Schultz doesn’t vocalize his feelings onstage the way Davis does, he claims he’s confrontational too—but “only when I need to be,” he admits. “ I certainly don’t back down, but I hope I’m not pushed to that point. But if I am pushed to that point …” Schultz ends his sentence with a foreboding laugh.
On a less threatening note, Schultz is looking forward to performing for locals at The Crepe Place on Friday, May 25. If you adore live indie music and men in uniform, get ready for both, since Bad Veins always dons imitation army outfits—looking tough for when they sing about love gone awry.
“Most bands are a bunch of dudes in T-shirts and skinny jeans,” Schultz says. “We kinda wanted to set up a stage show that would stick out a bit more … things that kind of make it more of a show, more entertaining … to see a spectacle on stage, if you can call it that.”
When you meet the band’s trustworthy third member, Irene—a reel-to-reel tape player that is 11 years Schultz’s senior—and see the rotary telephone box that Davis uses to distort his vocals, you’ll know why ‘spectacle’ is a fitting description.
Bad Veins plays at 9 p.m. Friday, May 25, at The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 429-6994.