By Adam Lovinus
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For an indie band, taking six years off can be an eternity. Yet for the Faint, it was a much-needed hiatus. After touring and recording relentlessly for the better part of a decade, the band realized it was time to put the Faint on hold, at least for a little while. But if not for that lengthy break, the quartet wouldn't have been able to seamlessly cook up their current record, Doom Abuse.
"We did our separate things and explored other genres," keyboardist Jacob Thiele explains over the phone between East Coast shows. "We didn't really go our separate ways, but we went into this world of techno and electronic music that we always wanted to do with the Faint. It was also fun to not do the genre bending the Faint are known for."
Formed in 1995 and originally known as Norman Bailer (at one time featuring Conor Oberst), the Faint meld indie rock, post-punk, dance-punk and new wave. While many of the young synth rock groups on mainstream and satellite radio today have poppier sensibilities, there's no denying the influence of these Omaha natives.
In the six years between records, Thiele, singer Todd Fink and drummer Clark Baechle were in a dance-music project called Depressed Buttons. The new moniker allowed them to release music they thought was cool without having to pay the price for music that, according to Thiele, "the world may not be ready for." Though they weren't touring and recording as the Faint, three-quarters of the band were making music together.
The lessons taken from Depressed Buttons made it easy for the Faint to cook up Doom Abuse. The collection took only three months to record and subtly incorporates elements from their side project. Thiele is confident the Depressed Buttons experience, as well as keyboardist Dapose's own projects, allowed for a more complete Faint record.
"We picked up where we left off," Thiele says. "That's the upside of developing our own sounds and having a recognizable style that we came up with years ago and have as a framework as something to start from at any time. It's like hitting pause and starting again, cleanly."
Even though the Faint toured behind the reissue of Danse Macabre in 2012, playing the new songs live for the first time has energized the outfit. With the tour's elaborate light setup and the strand of video panels set up around the stage, "[it's] an event that will overwhelm the senses, except maybe your sense of smell," the keyboardist says.
Plus, fans have been singing along to the new material, which has pleasantly surprised him. "I really feel connected to the audience when I see them singing the words, especially the new songs," Thiele gushes. "That's the real payoff as a band. You don't get a lot of instant gratification when you're writing a record. It all comes later, when you're touring and seeing the fans enjoying it."
When they started, the Faint were confident they were crafting a sound that would eventually be popular, but they didn't expect it to happen as quickly as it did. Their version of dance music not only won over indie rock fans, but it has also allowed them to carve out their own niche, which continues to grow.
The band have noticed how well-received Doom Abuse has been not only by critics, but also—and more important—by their fans. Thiele points to the Twitter response as an accurate indicator where their fan base stands.
"The response has been overwhelmingly positive," he says. "I've seen thousands of positive tweets to us about how people like the new record. I've literally only seen two people who didn't like it. But if we've only disappointed two Twitter fans out of all of them, that's pretty good."