Saddle Creek | The Faint | Reviews


Wet From Birth

Author: John Fancher
08/31/2004 | | | Feature
On the verge of releasing their new album, Wet From Birth, The Faint are set to embark on a tour taking them to Europe and across the U.S. Choosing to stay on the homegrown indie label, Saddle Creek, has done nothing to stunt this band's popularity. Their nonstop touring schedule has undoubtedly run more than a handful of vans into the ground as they solidify their live show legend. Jacob Thiele, who handles the synth duties, took some time from his Nebraska afternoon for a phone interview in August. Thiele, pronounced like the color teal, joined the Omaha based band around Christmas of 1998 and the new unit recorded an album nine months later.

Interviewer: John Fancher

Me: Hello, Todd?

Jacob: No, this is Jacob.

Me: Hey man, I appreciate you taking some time out today.

Jacob: Yeah, no problem.

Me: Cool, I'll get right to this so I don't take up much of your time and just start talking about the new album, "Wet From Birth." I was reading on your Web site that you guys rented a warehouse that also served as a washing machine graveyard or something like that.

Jacob: Yeah, the washing machines are all gone. I'm actually sitting in their grave right now, or where they used to be anyway.

Me: They hit the road?

Jacob: Yeah, I don't know whose they were or where they're at now.

Me: So they didn't wind up as some giant, you know, alter piece of art or anything?

Jacob: I don't think any of them worked.

Me: Mine rarely does. So how long did you spend writing in the warehouse?

Jacob: We were here for, oh, about a year and four months or something like that, about a year. Not entirely all of that was for the writing of the album, there were points where we went on tour within that time, so there was some rehearsal and everything. But I think we spent roughly a year writing songs in this space.

Me: Cool, man. I like the way it came out. I had a chance to listen to it today.

Jacob: Thanks.

Me: I noticed that you put on some pretty psychedelic string arrangements. That's nice.

Jacob: Yeah, it's kinda what we were going for sometimes.

Me: Yeah, I know on the first song, "Desperate Guys," the strings were pretty prominent. Is that any sort of reference to how when people hook up, there are always strings attached it seems like?

Jacob: Uh, that's actually an interesting concept, but it wasn't really the idea behind it. Strings are sort of a magical sound I guess, maybe more along the lines of just the magic of that kind of moment. I don't think we ever really discussed that. We had this idea to put the violin in there, we just kind of liked the way the strings sound. It's just more about the aesthetic of it.

Me: I agree. There's a line in the first one that says "how embarrassed I would have been if you knew what I was thinking." Mind reading's a scary thought. Do you believe in mind reading, telekinesis, you know, projection?

Jacob: Um, I think that, yeah I guess I do hold some beliefs in that kind of stuff. I think of it sort of like that in thought there are perhaps wavelengths of certain kinds of energy and people line up, get on the same wavelength as somebody else. That's something we try and do on a subconscious level, when we're working out ideas it's like our goal to get on the same wavelength so we're all very excited about the ideas and the music we're working on.

Me: Yeah.

Jacob: But I don't know. As far as like someone just being able to have some super-human powers and tap in to your mind. I don't know if I've ever seen that happen.

Me: Yeah, if so, they charge 20 bucks.

Jacob: Yeah, right.

Me: Listening on through the album, there was song 7, I don't even know the name of it and I apologize.

Jacob: Let's see, song seven.

Me: Nice punk, up, agro vibe.

Jacob: Yeah, yeah, yeah. "Drop Kick the Punks" is what it's called.

Me: "Drop Kick the Punks." Yeah, that seems like it was written as one of those tear-down-the-house live show moments.

Jacob: Yeah, it's sort of like we wanted to write a really fun to play, fun in an anthemic kind of way, song about taking over a radio station and just playing whatever music we wanted to play. Like the kind of idea of a hostile takeover of a radio station because we're sick of hearing the same crap on the radio.

Me: Certainly so. Well, hey, if you guys did the hostile take over, what would be the first track you kicked out?

Jacob: I don't know, it depends on the mood?

Me: Yeah, really. If you were all bloodied and bruised…

Jacob: Yeah, maybe "Kick Out the Jams" by MC5. I don't know, something really raw. I don't know. Maybe that's the idea behind that song. Maybe it's just like "this is the first song you play when you take over a radio station."

Me: There you go.

Jacob: Maybe that's the song we were trying to write.

Me: There's a song that follows that, that's kind of has this reggae, dub with some guitar. That's nice.

Jacob: Yeah, "Phone Call."

Me: It seems like it will be a cool, fun dancehall tune.

Jacob: We have been interested in like dancehall and more specifically the more synth heavy dancehall stuff that's happened in the last 5 to 10 years. We've tried several times to work dancehall beats into songs and stuff like that. The original version of that song, Clark wrote that song, was a lot faster and more on the rock side of things. I don't know, he and Todd started fine tuning that song and I don't remember when it got slowed down to that tempo, but it seems to really fit the mood of the lyrics, that slower feel. A lot of elements of dancehall and reggae also seemed to fit the feel of that song. We finally got to work some ideas in that we've been trying to for a while. That song was actually pretty fun to work on and write. It felt like it just came naturally. Especially since I don't think any of us had talked to Clark about writing songs. He wrote it after he broke up with his girlfriend. It came straight from the pages of the book of his life. He broke up with his girlfriend and had to get some emotions out in a song or whatever.

Me: It's all about the bloodletting. You know, cleanse it, get it out, start anew.

Jacob: Yeah, I think that's the way art in general is supposed to be. It's supposed to be an expression of emotion. Something that's true to your life. Nobody likes it when people dress up and pretend to be something they're not.

Me: Hell no. I noticed song 7 and 8, they were contrasting on the speeds like you were talking about. What's the Faint's process for selecting song order for the final cut?

Jacob: It's actually not an easy process. I get detached from it, but we'll spend a couple, few days just bickering about which songs go on the album and what the order is. In the past it's happened where songs didn't go on the album because they didn't fit anywhere. It was easier to create an order without that one little piece of the puzzle screwing everything up. It was difficult this time because we tried to vary the songs a lot. That makes it harder to have a flow to an album, make it seamless. But I think the idea with going from like fun, party crashing, rockin' song into slow reggae, I think we thought it would work because at that point the song before "Drop Kick the Punks" then "Drop Kick the Punks," it feels like it's just building and building and then at the end of "Drop Kick the Punks" everybody's just yelling and yelling, it's this release of tension or something perhaps. We felt like wiping the slate and starting with something slower. You know, like the DJ at the wedding reception, "We're gonna slow things down."

Me: Yeah, one for the ladies. You guys have booked a solid several months of live shows in Europe and then back through the U.S. It seems like touring has been your bread and butter, helped build your Faint following.

Jacob: Yeah, it really has. It's because we toured a lot that people became interested in us… Touring is a way to get your music out there, get better at playing with each other, to get better at performing. For us, it's like we played shows and played shows before we had an album out and people told their friends. We were on an indie label, we didn't have a bunch of money behind us. The one thing we did that also really helped was get the best booking agent.

Me: Hey, they should book you in Tulsa. (Reader's note: This was a blatant attempt at trying to improve my local music scene.)

Jacob: Yeah, we've been there. We played a basement show one time. Was that in Tulsa? It was a while ago. And we played in a record store in Oklahoma City. This tour and the last tour have been more difficult to book shows because we have a couple of stipulations. First of all, we don't like to play Clear Channel rooms.

Me: Hell no, dude.

Jacob: I think we've pretty much got around that. There were a couple of cases where I was told that it was pretty much impossible not to play a Clear Channel room, which seems totally unfair. We may not be playing any Clear Channel rooms this tour.

Me: Hey, well more power to ya.

Jacob: I hope we're not.

Me: Yeah, really. If you are, you'll have to fuck the dressing room up or something.

Jacob: Yeah (Reader's note: This response was followed by an "I've fucked up a dressing room before" laugh). The other thing is we're doing video projections. We have these two screens that are kind of massive, 9 feet tall and 12 feet wide. So we have to find venues that can house those things and that we can also hang our projectors the right distance away. We brought that on ourselves, that was our decision. We knew we would not be able just to play anywhere. It's fun though, we're getting to do what we want to do as far as the whole multi-media, more engaging live performance.

Me: Yeah, that's what I thought was cool. You incorporate films into the live music, kind of to feed those five senses working overtime.

Jacob: Yeah, we feel like art in general is headed in that direction, in that everything is becoming more of a combination of different elements. I just feel like we're trying to progress our music in that way as well as trying to make videos that compliment the music. Music still comes first. Sometimes when we're writing songs, we start incorporating ideas of what visually might be represented by a certain keyboard sound or something, a visual representation or a certain color. It feels really natural, like the way things should be.

Me: Yeah, in the 1960's they would do that with like an overhead projector and they would put oils on a clear plate and then press a clear plate on that and get these psychedelic blobs. So yeah, I see it as hearkening back to those days.

Jacob: Yeah, I read this book, "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test."

Me: Yeah.

Jacob: Which was… Have you ever heard of that?

Me: That's, uh, written by, uh?

Jacob: Tom Wolfe.

Me: Ok, Tom Wolfe. About Ken Kesey.

Jacob: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The main focus of the book is the acid tests and the parties they threw before acid was illegal. It was just sort of an overwhelming environment to stimulate all of the senses. They would have microphones set up on one side of the room that would send a delayed signal to the other side where the speakers were. So it's like you're on one side of the room and you can hear conversations with this strange delay from the other side. Meanwhile, there are other people on all four walls doing some sort of projection and people taking acid. The idea was to create the acid experience without actually having to take the drug. That's a fine idea in itself, I suppose. Some of the ideas that came out it are inspiring. I'd just like to create an environment where we're still the focal point of it. I like the idea of it being this big party where you can't really escape the stimulus.

Me: You just got to ride the ride.

Jacob: Yeah, pretty much. We've had some parties at our practice space, the one with the washers. The whole time it's been like when a band needed a place to play and we were friends with them and we wanted to make a good time for everybody. But we'll set up our projectors and project the band back onto the band when they're playing. And project different videos we like on the walls, hang some crazy lights from the ceiling and get a dance party going. When we've done it everybody's had such a fun time.

Me: I'm sure they did. That's one of those that 20 years from now someone will be saying, "That was the best night of my life."

Jacob: I hope so. That's kind of the goal, just to really help people enjoy themselves and loose their inhibitions and get the most out of life.

Me: Certainly. That's really all we can try.

Jacob: Yeah.

Me: What do you think the vibe will be like when you kick off your U.S. tour in Omaha?

Jacob: I'm glad we're kicking off the U.S. stuff in Omaha. It's the only show I get nervous before because of friends and family. But it's also the most rewarding. Last time we played, everybody was having a blast. More people were dancing and having a great time in the audience than any show we've played. It was overwhelming. It's like a high. I can't even begin to explain what it feels like, to be sort of the focal point of this big party where everybody's just really enjoying themselves. I remember Todd said something in the microphone about it blowing his mind or something. He said, "This is the best show ever."

Me: Do you have that one in your live show archives?

Jacob: I'm sure it's on tape somewhere. I don't remember seeing a video of that show now that I think of it. I should probably try and seek one out. It would be fun to watch.
Wet From Birth

Wet From Birth

LP / CD / MP3