Shawn Braley

As Bad Veins heads into another year of growth as a band, eventually leaving their next big status behind, and becoming the band that others, who are now starting bands, will sound like.

The mixture of analog and digital, of vinyl and I-tune’s downloads, of vintage worship in a digital world, brings forth a band. This is not just any band. This is Bad Veins. Bad Veins is Ben Davis and Sebastian Schultz. These are names that sound as if they were comic book heroes. They recall some sort of Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne vibe. Bad Veins are the encapsulation of their super hero “human” names put in full force. Excuse me for being overly philosophical or hyperbolic. It just felt necessary. Bad Veins is a band that mixes melody and aesthetic with passion and tenacity. They have been together now for a little over two years, and have been the “up and coming” for the entirety of their existence. They are moving slowly, says Ben Davis (vox/guitar/keys/arrangements); “It’s a slow climb. We’re in a better spot than we were two weeks ago, and two weeks ago we were in a better spot than we were a month before that. It’s not easy to grow in the industry. We’re fighting for it everyday. It’s a fun endeavor but I feel like locally our perception is a little skewed, because it was two years of us playing our first record, before that first record was released nationally. So we’re ready to move on and all the sudden we have to embrace this new record as if it’s new to us, even though it’s not new to us. So we’re purposefully not playing any new songs, though we have new songs, we’re holding off on that until the rest of the world catches up with Cincinnati”.

The band, who crowded Covington’s Mad Hatter, are beloved by the city. Hailing from Northside, the small community where many artists tend to congregate, Bad Veins started as a simple solo project for Davis and was expanded to add live drums after just once show. The addition of Schultz (drums) was key to Bad Veins live show. Although the band will sometimes have 70 tracks going at once, all on the reel to reel (Irene), the passionate, live drumming of Schultz adds depth and heart to the stage. “The most honest way to explain my influence is, like, going to shows as a kid, and the whole band was just an influence on how I drum, the energy. Going to a lot of punk shows and seeing how the lead singer performs, and seeing the bass player and lead guitar player get into it. It wasn’t something for me that was just the drummer. It was going to see bands who put everything they had into the music” Sebastian added, and it shows as he “leaves it all on the stage” (as the band said jokingly).

As Ben Davis croons his way through the set, lifting his arms in the air while shouting out each utterance, the crowd follows suit, while dancing, swaying, this is the fulfillment of showing your love for the city you’re from; they will always love you back ten-fold. The songs of Bad Veins are cinematic in nature. Each song tells a story of the insecurities of making it in the industry. Especially a track that Davis calls the defining Bad Veins song, “The Lie”, where Davis repeats the line; “Sometimes to get by/I believe in The Lie”. What is such this lie? “Thematically for me it was always about working towards our musical career and how sometimes it seems completely unattainable. Especially when you’re living in the middle of the Midwest and it seems like worlds that you’re not connected to. Believing that you could somehow craft a life for yourself with the one thing that you’re passionate about is The Lie, I guess. (The song) is kind of ironic now, because we’re out touring and we have become somewhat successful and I’m out singing this song about how it can’t be done.” And this is where Bad Veins represents the entirety of human existence. We all believe in The Lie at some point in our lives, and we’ve got to find some way to get past it. As Davis uttered the last sentence, thoughts ran through my head about how it is important that such a song is sung but someone who has obviously overcome The Lie. It is important because it is honest, and represents what anyone with an inkling to attain anything worth achieving in life must go through.

Sometimes, being from Cincinnati, it’s hard to imagine anything or anyone “making it” from this city. As the city is growing and maturing with it’s independent music scene we’re seeing all sorts of wonderfully artistic and passionate bands spring up. Bad Veins is constitutive of that very frame of mind. They, along with The Pomegranates; All The Day Holiday; Enlou; and many others, are crafting a scene, not unlike Seattle in the early 90’s or New York in any decade. Cincinnati obviously doesn’t have the size of those other cities, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in heart. These bands are all genuine, particularly Bad Veins. Ben Davis acts as if being brutally honest in your lyrics forces you to remain honest in your everyday life. And that just isn’t the case with many bands who are fighting to be the next big thing.

As I relay my thoughts that Bad Veins sound makes me think of Weezer mixing with an 80’s band(such as The Cure or New Order) the band giggles at the thought. “We haven’t heard that comparison before, no…” Schultz says, after slapping his knee. I guess, in hindsight, the band fits more along the lines of The Killers, but it was the chugging guitars and heart on sleeve lyrics that made me relate Ben Davis to Rivers Cuomo.

Each song is an anthem of some sort, and as Bad Veins cut themselves open on stage for all to see, it’s interesting. The band has been playing these same songs for over two years now, yet they still retain a freshness to them when played live. ““I remember when I was a kid, and we lived out in the woods. We had like twenty-five acres of forest, and I had this four wheeler. He’d hop on the four wheeler with me and I’d take him through the woods”, Davis lamented, “I felt this excitement about all these places I was very familiar with because I knew he’d never been there. So he’s looking around at all these cool twists and turns and I’m feeling this visceral thrill because of him”. And so each show goes, as the band fight falling into “the motions” of playing the same set hundreds of times day in and day out. They aren’t faking the passion they pour all over the crowd; they feed it from the crowd.

As Bad Veins heads into another year of growth as a band, eventually leaving they’re next big thing status behind, and becoming the band that others, who are now starting bands, will sound like. And much like the Cincinnati Skyline shining brightly over the Ohio River, Bad Veins, with a catchy chorus and heartfelt instrumentation, will continue to turn heads as the sun comes up and they find themselves “in a place where they are gold and warm”.
Photos by Matt Sprinsky