Bad Veins | The Mess They Made

badveins sqI can’t have anyone near when I write; it seems like too vulnerable of a process.


In 2009, Bad Veins released their self-titled debut, a luscious bite of indie rock perfection. With strings and mellow beats and Ben Davis’s heartfelt vocals, the album was an oft-played one on my iPod. I sort of lost track of the duo—and really, you can’t blame me: there was a three-year break between albums—but the Cincinnatians have just returned with The Mess We’ve Made, and there’s no overlooking how good it is. To say it’s love all over again would be an understatement; calling this a stunning return is more like it. The Mess is beautiful and perfect from start to finish, with a tasty mix of strings, keys, guitars, and—yep, you guessed it—those vocals. They’re distinctive and accessible—and oh, the lyrics they sing. (Consider this from the stunning “If Then”: “I am the camera/ you’re out of frame”…perfection.)

As the band’s only other headlining St. Louis gig was canceled a few years back (more on that later), their July 12 show at The Heavy Anchor is not to be missed. I had a little e-chat with Davis, who covers vocals, keyboards, and guitar; he and drummer Sebastien Schultz are joined on the road by a reel-to-reel player they named Irene.

BadVeins KeithKlenowski

Why the three-year break between albums?

That break was due partially to poor planning, and another due to the label change. I didn’t write very much while we were touring the first record, which we did for over a year. When I did write the second record, we had to figure out how we were going to record it, and with whom. At that point, we scheduled the studio time with Ashley Shepherd (Audiogrotto in Newport, Ky.) and recorded everything. Once we were finished, we had to shop around for a new label, and that took a while as well. Once we decided to go with Modern Outsider, we had to schedule a release date that made sense. Add it all up, three long years.

I noticed you’ve switched labels. What most impressed you about Modern Outsider?

We’re good friends with Chip and Erin Adams, who own and operate the label. They’ve been huge supporters of ours for years, and when the opportunity to work with them presented itself, we went for it.

How did Irene get her name?

That’s a secret.

Is there a place where you find you write best? Any superstitions about songwriting?

Well, I write at home, with no one around. I can’t have anyone near; it seems like too vulnerable of a process. I tend to be drawn to spaces in my house that are very small, with very tight acoustics. The attic, the bathroom, sitting on the stairs—all very intimate acoustics. I don’t think I have any superstitions, really.

Tell me about the very best show you ever played: where, with who, what made it so memorable.

I think a lot of the shows we played with Two Door Cinema Club have been among my favorites. Their fans are so energetic and supportive. They give a ton of energy from the moment we walk on stage, and it’s easy and rewarding to return it.

Have you played St. Louis before? I used to book a club (Cicero’s) and was so psyched you were going to play there—and then you canceled.

Yes, we’ve played St. Louis before; last time was with We Are Scientists. I remember that show we had to cancel. We were stuck in Austin when our van broke down. We were stuck there for a week!

How does Bad Veins fit into this world of superficial pop songs and manufactured talent?

I don’t think it does, really. That’s why we’re poor.

It sounds as if you had a fairytale start to your career: one show as a band inspired immediate label interest. When did the ogre enter the picture, and what did he look like?

The fairytale perception was only in others, who were at a distance. I’ve been working hard for years, and “the ogre” has been here since day one. | Laura Hamlett

Bad Veins play St. Louis July 12 at The Heavy Anchor; tickets are $7.

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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