You have to appreciate a songwriter who gets hit by a car, suffers a traumatic brain injury, and still shows up at his band’s album release show a month later.
That's what happened to Benjamin Muller of Candid Kid, who's sitting around a patio table at Muddy Waters on a late May evening with his bandmates guitarist Tanner Uselmann and bassist Cooper Doten (sans drummer Reese Kling), recalling his 2015 accident.
“I was running across an intersection and made eye contact with the driver of the car that was turning, and we both realized too late that she was going to hit me,” Muller shares between rounds of whiskey and G&Ts. “I hit and broke the windshield with my head, and the rest of my body flipped over the car, and I rolled onto the street. Then, because of the adrenaline, I quickly got up and insisted I was OK. A witness told me to sit down, because my head was bleeding.”
Uselmann sat with his college friend as he recovered. They even heard their song debut on The Current together while Muller was in the hospital. Rather than taking some time off for Muller to recover after the album release show, the band pushed forward, writing songs for their sophomore EP, Blush, which will see a release show at the Entry tonight.
The two years since his accident have been tough for Muller, the trauma recently manifesting as anxiety and panic attacks. He was used to writing about personal relationships, so he stuck to that on Blush, but though it was difficult to get his thoughts on his recovery into song form, the distress he was feeling did creep in.
“The music was a lot more frenetic and discombobulated,” Doten says. “Ben might not have known it, but it came through. That’s why we are so excited about this album. We captured a time and place for all of us, and if you can capture what people are feeling in a time and place, it’s going to be a significant experience. Reese and I play in eight other bands, and what I’ve come to understanding about making music with people is that it’s as much about experiencing things and times and places with those people in order to create something that’s meaningful.”
Doten and Kling joined after Candid Kid's debut, Turtleneck, and for this reason, Blush could be thought of as the band's first actual album. Writing together unified the band even more, transforming the group into what Muller and Uselman intended when first they started playing together. “When I think about our first album, how at the time we put it out, we were silly and naive,” Uselmann says. “Even after that first record came out, we knew there was something missing from it. I’m super proud of those songs, but for different reasons. They were a necessary investment to have have happened to get to where we are now.”
Prepped with their iPhone demos, Candid Kid shopped around for a producer and found Brett Bullion, who has worked with Bad Bad Hats and Caroline Smith. Bullion noticed the band’s chemistry right away, and he proved the missing piece that completed their sound when they recorded last November. Less pop and more rock than their previous work, the songs were arranged beforehand and rearranged in the studio, and tracks like their first single “Jeans” leave you feeling like a strong undercurrent is pulling you somewhere not quite of your choosing. The five wild and dense songs are much more than the sum of their parts -- they're the sound of a glorious, colorful release coming after many years of unwelcome frustration.
Muller fully embraced letting things go with this EP. “I pull inspiration off what’s going on in the band,” he says. “It was hard writing with rules, and for a while I was writing in a way that needed to feel an all-encompassing understanding of this greater picture. Some of what’s on this album was really old stuff and some of it was stuff we finished writing in the studio, but it all felt new. From a songwriting standpoint, I grew in a way when we were recording. This album goes down the rabbit hole of what Candid Kid means to me -- why we named the band Candid Kid. It represents that music, as a whole, is one of most accepted ways for adults to express candidness and the in-the-moment, over-the-top feelings you feel in a specific space -- even if it’s not something that necessarily lasts.
“Music gives you an excuse to feel this way. It doesn’t have to make sense in the long term, and you can be inappropriate or incorrect in the way you spell it out, but in that moment that’s how you feel. That's what’s beautiful about it: that moment in between.”
Candid Kid Blush Album Release Show
With: Wingman and Jennie Lawless
Where: 7th Street Entry
When: 7:30 p.m. Thurs. June 8
Tickets: 18+, $8/$10; more info here