photo by Shannon Claire
The Faint used the word "hiatus" six years ago, after they concluded touring behind their fifth studio album, Fasciinatiion.
But the details indicated something much more undecided. Longtime bassist Joel Petersen departed the band's lineup permanently and singer Todd Fink lived in California and Georgia following the album's tour.
Fink says Petersen suggested at the time that his departure should be the end of the band and such a thought coincided with a collective feeling of burnout among The Faint's other four members. At the onset of the hiatus, there were no specific plans to continue The Faint.
"It was up in the air," Fink says.
Dapose says some of the hiatus would have happened without the departure of former bassist Joel Petersen. The band had crafted an album via an intensive process and then toured relentlessly behind it. There was an element of burnout for all of the members, Dapose says.
"We naturally would have taken a break from doing the band.”
After that extended break, The Faint began to flow back together in 2012. Fink moved back to Omaha and he quickly reconnected with, guitarist Dapose, drummer Clark Baechle and keyboardist Jacob Thiele.
"We were just too excited to get back together," Fink says.
Fink says once it appeared Petersen was the lone member not wanting to continue, they worked on continuing on as a four-piece band. By August 2012, the band plotted their return to the stage.
“We'll go play some shows because we're a band," Fink recalls thinking at the time.
The Faint members' activities during the hiatus added to the band's skillset, as Dapose and drummer Clark Baechle took up production work, notably on several hip-hop tracks by Team Love artist Rig1. Jacob Thiele and Fink pursued DJ gigs both together as Depressed Buttons and individually.
Fink also joined Digital Leather, whose frontman, Shawn Foree, co-wrote the final song on The Faint’s new album Doom Abuse, which came out April 8 on SQE Music. All of these experiences fed into the new album.
"It helps you see your music in a different perspective when you join someone else's mind," Fink says.
In reuniting, The Faint tapped into an excitedly renewed creative spark and mainlined it straight into Doom Abuse. This time the band's has decided to play to their own musical instincts, appealing first and foremost to their own tastes and their own enjoyment in being in a band together, Fink says.
"We got comfortable with how much of a fuck we do or don't give," Fink says.
The cerebral version of The Faint that crafted Fasciinatiion in progged-out layers of intricate electronic indie rock has taken a backseat to a primal, sweaty, dance-punk incarnation of the band on Doom Abuse.
The album is a delicate dance between impulse and control, where noisy punk rock crushes in from the margins giving just the right sense of claustrophobia to the band's strobing synthesizer-propelled melodies.
The Faint's nimbler lineup has also streamlined their sound on a batch of songs that strike new territory for the band without losing elements that the band has honed since 1999's Blank-Wave Arcade.
Dapose says the band began working on new material fluidly, hoping to capture songs in quick and intense bursts. The band utilized its ability to both rehearse and record in their midtown studio space, Enamel.
The main goal was to quickly capture any moments of inspiration that struck during jam sessions, with some songs being recorded the day they were written. Fink says the band recorded the parts for "Salt My Doom" the first time they played the song together. After tweaking a few parts at ARC Studio with Mike Mogis, the song was complete.
At times while creating Doom Abuse, The Faint would overlap work, crafting several songs during one recording session. Previously, work on one song would take a much longer time. Dramatically shortening the time tracking the songs kept the band members' perspectives sharp and focused, what Fink calls cutting the fat from the new songs.
"You could see what other stuff was irrelevant a lot quicker," he says.
The strongest elements of the new songs come in the collision between the dancefloor propulsion and the sudden intrusions of industrial clang and torrents of noise that crop up on the album.
"We like ruining music at just the right spot," Fink says.
The goal in the studio was to craft an immediate album, that kept the original performances in tact to build around. Less clean, less formal, more instinctual and rawer than previous Faint releases was the goal. That looser structure also carried over to the lyrics, which Fink says he still has no system down for how he writes them or how he comes across themes for songs.
More than ever, the music served as a guide. Often the melody seems like it's trying to say something, he says. The actual words form around that.
Dapose says that on these latest batch of songs it was easy for the band to all latch on to what the music was pointing toward even before Fink put actual words to it.
"We all collectively hear something in it," Dapose says.
Fink says that speaks to the feeling that the entire band was really on the same page throughout the sessions for Doom Abuse. At the same time, the band wanted to pursue an immediacy and fearlessness as they worked together. “Something energetic,” Fink calls it, noting that it’s a priority for every song to feel good coming off the live stage, as well.
Now the band has launched Doom Abuse into full orbit, there are three accompanying music videos either complete or in the pipeline. Tim Nackashi directed the shoot for "Help in the Head," while Nik Fackler crafted the just-released video for "Evil Voices." Harrison Martin is crafting a video for "Scapegoat."
The "Evil Voices" video began making the rounds in mid-April, starting with its premiere on Vice.
The rest of the media pipeline has been flowing too, including positive reviews from AV Club and other outlets, with one notable dissenting voice — a 6.1-rating in a Pitchfork review, the majority of which focuses on the album’s perceived political discourse.
Fink says he finds the criticism dismissible, simply by the benchmark that Doom Abuse appeals to The Faint's own musical and artistic senses.
"It doesn't hurt my feelings because I have better taste than they do," Fink says of the Pitchfork review. "I trust my own taste about our band."
Chris Aponick is a Hear Nebraska contributor. Reach him through Hear Nebraska’s managing editor via firstname.lastname@example.org.