On The Road With Maritime: Davey Von Bohlen

Two divorces made it possible for former Promise Ringers Davey Von Bohlen and Dan Didier and former Dismemberment Plan bassist Eric Axelson to hop in a van together, hitting clubs and bars across the nation as the new supergroup Maritime. October marked the one-year anniversary of TPR’s breakup. The Plan called it quits this past summer with a final tour. Loaded with a satchel of new songs—to be released on an unknown label in the early spring—Von Bohlen sounds better than he’s ever sounded. He sat down at a tour stop in Iowa City to talk about the new group, java, and what it was like to have a fist-sized tumor in his head.

What does Maritime do better than the Promise Ring, musically or socially?
That’s a good question; I don’t know yet. Promise Ring got both really good and really bad, both socially and musically, I think. We started, and we were good socially and bad musically, and then we were good musically and then less…not bad, but less good socially. So Promise Ring is both as high as I can imagine it and as low. This band’s too young to really know if we’ll exceed. It certainly feels good. The music’s so young, I’m not really sure what it is yet. Socially, there’s definitely a less passive dynamic.

Have you always liked coffee?
No, no, no. Most of the alternative kids in high school were drinking coffee because it was like, “Oh, we go out and drink coffee and discuss.” I didn’t do that; that’s never occurred to me. Let’s just convene. I want to have a night’s sleep, and then we’ll talk about it in the morning. I’m not a black coffee person, and I don’t think I ever will be. I’d like to think that’s not where I’d like to end up as a coffee drinker. I think probably touring all the time and getting in at 3:30 or 4 [a.m.] and having to wake up at 7 or 8 and drive ten hours to Salt Lake City or wherever—that will get you into the coffee mode where you’re just like, “I gotta have something.”

You’ve had some problems with your voice on tour. What do you do to remedy it?
I stopped thinking about it. When I was babying my voice, it was crap. Now, I have a few beers, and it seems to be fine, as long as I avoid smoking. I just don’t have a really strong voice; I can’t project as well as most people, so on those nights where the sound system’s kind of weak or the monitors aren’t really pumping the heat, I have to over-sing. If I have a few of those in a row, my voice will be kind of tired. As long as I can make noise, I’ll sing. It’s not like I’m Diana Ross as it is. It’s not a huge deal.

Was there an arrangement made to use the title Nothing Feels Good for Andy Greenwald’s book on emo (taken from the 1997 TPR record of the same name)? [Reviewed this issue Page by Page.]
Yeah. The guy wrote the label, or he e-mailed somebody, and it got forwarded to us, and it said, basically, that these are nondescript words. “Nothing,” “feels,” and “good” don’t need to be…in the law world, no matter what the arrangement of those words, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Whatever. So I don’t think there was any legal obligation. I’ve never been a money bloodhound as it is. I’m never like, “How can I make money from this?” All I would have said, even if there were legal issues, would have been, “Hey, why don’t you give us some bucks?” Which is what he’s going to do anyway.

When you had the tumor (removed in May 2000), you said you had a headache every day for a year and a half. How else did the tumor affect you?
It numbs you. If I had that pain right away, I’d be like, “Holy…something’s wrong.” But having it come on so slowly really makes you doubt that something’s really that bad. If I bumped into somebody, my whole spine would crack, all the way down to the bottom. And it would be incredibly painful; I couldn’t wear a baseball hat. Those are really the only two indicators that something was wrong. When they told me, I was happy. I think anyone would be really relieved to be validated. All this horrible feeling you’re having has a name and a solution. Everyone else seemed devastated, but I was like, “Yesss! Let’s fix it.”

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