The Faint - Biography
The Faint formed in Omaha, Nebraska in 1995 and were the forebears of a burgeoning Omaha music scene (referred to as the “Omaha Sound”), which included Conor Oberst’s Bright Eyes. Before The Faint began to shift toward a new wave and electro-punk sound, they were an indie pop band full of nods to The Cure and Chavez. Only the slightest touch of new wave reared its head on their first album. The group’s original members were vocalist and keyboardist Todd Fink (originally Todd Baechle), his drumming brother Clark Baechle, and bassist Joel Petersen. The three were more passionate about skateboarding than about music in their youths, but when Fink began suffering from knee problems, he took up music and his friends soon followed. Although their roster would eventually expand to include five members, three was enough in 1995 to get them signed to Saddle Creek Records, an Omaha-based label founded in 1993 by Conor Oberst and his brother Justin Oberst. Conor Oberst was a member of The Faint at that time, though they were originally called Norman Bailer. Conor Oberst would quickly depart to pursue his solo career and release several albums under the moniker Bright Eyes.
The Faint initially released several split 7”s and one hard-to-come-by cassette. Sales were not great and the group was struggling to find its identity. In 1995, they recruited keyboardist Matt Bowen, who’s influence can be heard on the band’s first full-length album, Media (1998 Saddle Creek). While Media mixes genres and does not have a consistent musical focus, it does contain some great songs, which show the promise of the group’s future. During the ensuing tour, Bowen left the group and was replaced by Jacob Thiele. With Thiele in the lineup, the band placed an even greater emphasis on synthesizers. The change was clear and present on the The Faint’s second album, the sexually-charged and synth-laden Blank-Wave Arcade (1999 Saddle Creek), released in 1999. Blank-Wave Arcade received the remix treatment in 2000 with the limited release of Blank-Wave Arcade Remixes (2000 Saddle Creek).
After the remixes, the band returned with an artier edge. No longer as obsessed with sex as before, The Faint’s lyrical content took on a more gothic tone. Song titles such as “Agenda Suicide” and “Posed to Death” replaced the Blank-Wave Arcade titles “Sex is Personal” and “Casual Sex.” While the focus of the lyrics shifted, The Faint did not lose their love of new wave and they expanded on the sound for 2001’s appropriately-titled Danse Macabre (2001 Saddle Creek). The mixture of danceable club tracks and dark lyrics made for fun listening, and The Faint garnered their best reviews yet.
While recording Danse Macabre, the band added a second guitarist to the lineup — the death metal-loving Dapose (Mike Dappen). Dapose’s musical background served to darken the group’s sound even further. Things were going very well for The Faint in 2001; they had a well-received album in the stores and tales of their awe-inspiring live show (complete with a rave-esque light display) were helping them sell concert tickets. They took something of a victory lap toward the end of the year and released Mote/Dust (2001 GSL), a 7” containing two remixes of Blank-Wave tracks, a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Mote,” and a new song called “Dust” written with Conor Oberst.
In 2003, The Faint released another remix album, Danse Macabre Remixes (2003 Astralwerks), featuring contributions from Medicine, Paul Oakenfold, and Photek. The collection hit number 19 on the Billboard Top Electronic Albums before the year was out. In 2004, the band returned with Wet from Birth (2004 Saddle Creek), their first album of new songs in three years. While the album was wrought with some unfortunate lyrical clunkers that delved into toilet humor, the album proved to be a worthy successor to Danse Macabre. Most critics lauded the release for its ambition, calling The Faint the greatest of the current dance-punk groups. Wet from Birth landed the band in the Billboard 200, where it peaked at #99.
For a long stretch after that, The Faint took a well-earned break from the studio in order to build their own studio in a renovated building that they dubbed Enamel. They vowed that an outside producer would not be brought in for the next album and that all five members would produce it themselves. In case that wasn’t enough independence, they set up their very own record label, blank.wav, through which they released Fasciinatiion (2008 blank.wav) on August 5, 2008. The revitalized band took to touring with a vengeance for the rest of 2008. In 2009, they toured North America with the electro-pop group Ladytron.