By Kyle Eustice
Although vocalist Todd Fink wants the title of The Faint’s new album, Doom Abuse, left open to the listener for interpretation, it’s hard not to notice the first three songs of the record, “Help in the Head,” “Mental Radio” and “Evil Voices,” carve out a certain theme. The Faint’s first record since 2008’s Fasciination, Doom Abuse hits you over the head with heavy synths, frantic beats and Fink’s psychologically analytical lyrics.
“The album as a whole is definitely more psychological than other ones,” Fink admits. “I’m interested in how the brain works, what it can do, what types of things aren’t understood yet. Being able to understand that you’re thinking with a mind and it’s this pile of tofu inside your skull that’s electrical and influenced by other things, it’s almost like a feedback situation, or thought loop, when you think about what you’re thinking about. We all have internal conversations all day long, that’s what mediation is—to get away from that for a second; to just make it stop.”
Fans of The Faint have been patiently waiting for this day to arrive. The group’s third studio album and its most revered, 2001’s Danse Macabre, was like a teaser that left the music world aching for more. The Faint’s next full length, Wet From Birth, came in 2004 and Fasciination, of course, came four years later. Six years has passed and Doom Abuse dropped just in time before The Faint risked vanishing into the indie rock abyss. While Fink realizes it’s an inordinate amount of time between albums, there’s a logical reason for that.
“There used to be pressure on us for a record to perform a certain way, but we’ve kind of silenced those voices,” he says. “That’s sort of what took us so long to make the last record, we want to think of it as a quality record. We don’t want to put something out and look back on it like that’s worse than anything we’ve ever done. In taking so long with Fasciination, by the time we were done touring on it, we were just like, ‘Ok, it doesn’t seem like a fun project to start another record right now so let’s just not do that and maybe we’ll come back to it when we feel like it. I guess I always figured we would, but we didn’t make any plans so we were just done for a few years.”
By all accounts, The Faint had broken up. Whether or not people realized this was a different story because the individual band members were still active. Fink was playing electronic music with his brother/Faint drummer Clark Baechle and Faint keyboardist Jacob Thiele in Depressed Buttons while guitarist Mike “Dapose” Dappen had his hands in various projects, as well. Fink also started playing with another Omaha-based band, Digital Leather.
“I kind of got away from songs altogether,” he says. “ I wasn’t really listening to songs. I got into just instrumental, electronic music and learning how to produce my own music because I’ve kind of relied on the other guys a lot in the band because I’m busy trying to come up with the songs a lot of the time so all the production, synth sounds, studio knowledge, and mixing techniques had sort of passed me by a little bit. So I used that time to really know my shit in that department.”
The Faint finally reconvened and started writing songs again, this time with a fresh perspective and renewed sense of commitment. One of the songs, “Evil Voices,” was available as a numbered limited edition 12” sold exclusively during the “10th Anniversary of Danse Macabre Tour” of North America in November and December of 2012. There were only 1000 copies of the EP and it quickly sold out. The song “Evil Voices” encapsulates the entire idea behind Doom Abuse.
“The track “Evil Voices” is close to the theme of the record,” he says. “It’s about not falling for every thought you think and remembering to widen the picture. You start telling yourself something and maybe it’s something positive and you’re building confidence or delusion, whatever, or you can think something bad about yourself and it seems like it’s so true, and it may be true, it’s just that you’re focusing on the bad instead of the good. It’s about recognizing when that’s not productive.”
With those voices muffled, The Faint is gearing up for another massive North American trek in support of the record and there’s a lot to fine tune before hitting the road. Doom Abuse is extremely fast paced for the most part, but ends with the down-tempo “Damage Control.” The Faint, in all fairness, really never has a bad show.
“We had starts on a lot of songs and we savored the ones that sound pretty fast and active with a lot of energy,” he explains. “We wanted to have at least one that wasn’t and “Damage Control” seemed like a nice way to end a somewhat bombastic album, to silence the ruckus.
“We’re trying to figure out what songs we’re going to be playing on tour,” he continues. “We only have a couple weeks to learn the ones we want to. We don’t want to play the whole album and not play the ones we like to play all the time so we’ll pepper the new ones throughout the set.”
It’s crazy to think The Faint might not have ever happened. Fink was at the pinnacle of having a very promising career in skateboarding, but rheumatoid arthritis took its toll, putting a swift end to his ambitions.
“The whole time I skated, it got harder as I got better to physically do things,” he says. “I got more hurt. I was trying for harder, more daring things so when I fell the injuries were more dangerous. It got to a point where I had talked about turning pro at a couple points so I decided to get knee surgery before I went that direction. The knee surgery pretty much just put me down. I couldn’t walk for over a year. Well, I could walk, but with a crutch because my leg was stuck at about a 45-degree angle. I took physical therapy and had another surgery to straighten out my knee. I thought, well, ‘Maybe I’ll shoot pool for a living. I’m going to have to really study up,’ so I started practicing that, but then kind of fell into playing music.”
Inadvertently, skateboarding taught Fink some valuable lessons, and in turn, led him to music. After doing a few songs for a skate video, they kept the equipment, met Conor Oberst, who booked a show for them before they even had a band. They had nine days to write an entire album [as Norman Bailer, Fink’s old band’s name] and it worked. Twenty years later, The Faint is still going strong.
“I’m super grateful for all the attention we’ve gotten,” he says. “I guess I just believe if you try to do whatever it is you try to do, if you just keep trying to get better, and insisting on it being better than what’s convenient, then things start working out for you. I started learning that with skateboarding, even before that. I think skateboarding proved it to me that whatever I spent a lot of time on that I loved doing, if I believed it would work, I could make that happen. Maybe it’s pure luck or maybe these new age mystics are right and what you imagine and believe in happens.”
The Faint with Reptar and Solid Golberg, June 13, at Sokol Auditorium, 2234 S. 13th St., 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. Visit www.onepercentproductions.com for more information.