Experimental rock at it’s best, Pet Clinic is a 5 piece band hailing from Western Pennsylvania whose sound has been compared to The Pixies and The White Stripes. David Bubenheim, John Henderson, Ian Edwards, Kenneth Nelson, and Mike Arendt originally formed the band 5 years ago and have been churning out heavy riff-laden rock and roll with spacey interludes ever since.
David Bubenheim, Pet Clinic’s frontman, joined us for a discussion on the band’s incarnation and creative motivations.
Pet Clinic is an intriguing name for a band. Is there a story behind it?
Before the band was formed, my eye caught this vet sign on Rt. 8. Every time I drove to the city from my hometown, Mars, I’d look at this lit sign. It’s been there since my mom was a little girl so it’s a bit of a landmark if you know the area. Well we ended up using a 15 second long exposure photograph of the sign lit up at night for our first vinyl release. In the band, we all love dogs and cats and all kinds of pets but, this isn’t why wanted to call ourselves Pet Clinic. The name has rung a bell for me because I love the idea that we treat people like pets and pets like people. Why is it that our pets become so close to us and yet the people in our lives are nearly dispensable. It’s something I’ve chewed on for awhile and the name Pet Clinic, for me, boxes it up nicely.
When and how did Pet Clinic get their start?
Pet Clinic has been a band for roughly five years. We formed gradually. It wasn’t a preconceived idea I had or anything. In short terms, I’d say, Pet Clinic is a flame we were given. Our drummer (Kenneth Nelson) and I were in two bands that became sisters named Landline and Debates. We were both a three piece and I played drums in Landline. We had a guitarist/vocalist named Brandon. He was also the bass player in Debates, the band Kenny played drums in.
Between practices I picked up a guitar and showed Kenny what I had been writing. He immediately started playing drums and I knew we were going to play together. At that time I was also playing in a band called The Blonde Girls as a bass player. I showed Mike a few songs and he came over to my house with Kenny. I then met our soon to be keys player John Henderson.
I invited my friend Tyler to play bass and we kind of just wrote little parts and played them for hours without thinking of playing out or [doing] seriously structured song writing. Looking back, we were like Bambi trying to stand for the first time. I think we didn’t play out for at least a year. We also had to rifle through a few bass players, all of which had brought so much to the table in their own way until the perfect match came along. Our bass player’s name is Ian Edwards. He and Kenny grew up playing music together in the Edwards Nelson Duo. So once he joined the band, it was like we had this built in rhythm section. I wouldn’t want to be in a band with anyone else.
How would you characterize the type of music Pet Clinic generates?
We aren’t trying to fit into any sort of casting with our music besides that of authenticity. If we can’t convince ourselves of an emotion with our music, how could we ever expect anyone else to feel anything from it? If anything, we can let our feelings stand in the way of writing or performing. Although, we are also proud to not be a parody of something that already happened. When I use the word authenticity, I don’t mean to say we are doing something that’s never been done. I am suggesting however, we are captivated by our conviction to tell the story in our way from our point of view.
I am not fearful of treading on dangerous ground poetically in our music. To have a tune to a poem really allows us to break some of the unwritten rules in writing and do it just because.
I am personally excited for our upcoming release because we are certainly treading on uncharted territory as a band.
Have you had any musical collaborations recently?
No, but the future is 180 degrees wide. I have always been proud to be a part of this city’s underground music. That pride has been growing recently. I have learned, the more I go out and make a conscious decision to love on the local bands, the more I feel it in return.
We are a people that support each other without much else to go on besides that denominator of performance. It’s like, you don’t even need to know my name but I wanna shake your hand and express to you how much I appreciate you and what you just did in this room. As far as collaborations go though, yeah I’m sure something’s gonna happen.
Does Pet Clinic have any upcoming performances?
On January 16th we’ll be part of a huge night in Pittsburgh. We are performing with about 100 other bands in the Strip District Music Festival. I’d suggest everyone and their mother to come down. You’d be a fool to not be a part of something like this. Really, there will be something for everyone. We hope to see you there!