InkSpot: Miss May I Frontman Levi Benton Shares His Favorite Tattoos
When Miss May I formed in 2006, vocalist Levi Benton didn’t want tattoos. “I had the old mom-and-dad mindset, like, ‘I’ll ruin my life if I get tattoos,’” he says. “‘I don’t really need them.’” But all that changed when he saw himself on Headbangers Ball. “After I saw us on the TV, I was like, I should get tattoos because we’re legit now.”
And so he did. His first was a grandfather clock/tree trunk, which the Devil Wears Prada guitarist Chris Rubey inked on him, but one of his most impressive is the beast on his chest. “It’s like my alter ego tattoo,” Benton says. “I’m a quiet, chilled-out guy. But I’m not like that when I’m onstage.” The combination of a leopard’s face with wings was completed over three sessions, spanning 20 hours.
Below, Benton shares the stores behind his most meaningful tattoos.
1. Grandfather Clock and Owl
“There’s no hand on the clock, which means my life is short. It was done in Chris Rubey’s kitchen. I was probably 18 when I got it. The owl is the animal of protection. Instead of getting a big, cheesy four-leaf clover, I got that. The moon is the light source. All the shadows on my arm come from the moon. [Tattooist] Tim Knecht had to go over the clock, too, to fix the light source. Chris was bummed a little bit that I redid it, but he understands. I told him, ‘It’s on my body and I have to look at it every day.’”
2. Three Red Lions
“If you look from the top line to the bottom line, they go from crazy lion to old, noble lion. They represent me and my little brothers, who are 8 and 12. I’m the old, noble brother. The roses are the colors of our birthstones. Whenever I’m hanging out with them and they have friends over, they show it off.”
3. Panther Head, Snake and Knife
“I was looking at really old-school tattoos and the design was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I wanted a snake killing a larger animal. Then we ended up picking a panther and having the snake holding a dagger. It was like, ‘Don’t underestimate the snake.’ I don’t identify with snakes. I just think they’re badass. I like exotic animals, I guess.”
4. Skull and Crossbones
“I was getting in the shower the day it was done, taking my sock off, and I caught the tattoo with my thumbnail. I scratched where it had already scarred. After that, it scarred up really thick. It was, no joke, like, as thick as two quarters. It was the thickest scab I ever had in my life on top of where I ripped it off. So bad. Now there’s a big chunk missing in his eye, but I’m going to keep it there because I’ll remember that.”
5. Pomegranate Flower and Compass
“The pomegranate flower represents birth. Underneath it, I still want it to say, ‘Ever since 1991,’ because that’s the year I was born. The compass is pointing north. Together it all means, ‘Ever since I was born, I was going up.’ I listen to a lot of hip-hop so that’s sort of my cocky hip-hop tattoo.”