Reviews

Wet From Birth

Author: Rachael Liberman
10/06/2004 | Chicagoinnerview.com | www.chicagoinnerview.com | Feature
Listening to The Faint for the first time is something like a spiritual experience, only it has nothing to do with deity and everything to do with a realization that there is still hope for the music industry. They're a reminder that not every band out of Omaha has to make you cry or make you engage in that rapid head bob and shoulder thrust dance that seems to be the only way to correctly enjoy an indie rock show these days.

Instead, The Faint is part of a driving force that reminds us that there is still innovation and creativity in contemporary music, and more importantly, that you can't go wrong when there's a synthesizer on your record.

According to Todd Baechle's (vocals/synth) account on their Web site, "Ten years ago, in a town very, very similar to every town in the United States, we started a band. It was 1994 and Joel [Peterson], Clark [Baechle] and I and our friend Conor [Oberst] were sitting around on the cement outside of a Slowdown Virginia show. Still glowing from the experience, we decided to start our own group. A couple of days later, Conor told us we had a show in two weeks at Kilgore's. Of course at this time, we had still never played any music together."

Three albums later, The Faint has constructed a sound that has made its way through punk-influenced indie rock to a sexy, danceable, new wave marriage of David Bowie and Depeche Mode. When Chicago Innerview caught up with Jacob Thiele (guitar and synth) the band was in Belgium, out of the Orifice (the nickname they gave to the warehouse they spent a year recording in), and on a tour for their fourth album, Wet From Birth.

Their live show, which includes a visual element beyond the strapping members of the band, is wildly entertaining and according to Thiele, creates a better understanding of the message they're trying to create lyrically. Some of the visions to expect during the show include time lapse, collapsing buildings, biological images inside the human body, and some animation.

"The video projection is kind of my department," Thiele said. "I'm on the design team and we try to supplement the songs and bring in some of the ideas that we couldn't bring in musically when we wrote the song. When we're writing the songs, we have all these ideas and a lot of them we can't fit in lyrically because you don't want to cram too many lyrics into one song - unless you're a rapper maybe. So a lot of ideas we save for the video and we're trying to get to a point where we make the video and write the song at the same time and allow them to really play off one another. But this is only our second tour with video projection and so we still write the songs first and I look at it as video supplement for the songs. I've had conversations with several people that said 'Hey, I didn't really like that song, but when I saw the video and you play it, then it really made sense.' So I think that sometimes we are successful in that."

But keeping the video and lighting and music and lyrics in sync is no easy task. To make sure that everything lines up, the band plays to repetitive clicks, similar to a metronome, in order to keep time. "The way we approach a live concert is similar to the way we approach writing music. We do things in sort of a sequence where the drummer, Clark, plays two clicks and then we can sort of synchronize things. It took us a while to convince Clark that this would be the way to do this, because I don't think any drummer wants to play to clicks. He took to it right away, apparently the only time he hears the clicks now is if he gets off. It's the secret behind our live shows. For us, it's just like playing to the drummer. But that allows us to program lights, which we've done on this tour."

But programmed lights are not the only nouveau part of this tour; fans will definitely find a difference in not only the new music versus the old music, but the size of the audience as well. What started out as just another Saddle Creek outfit has turned into a major up-and-comer, who some say blew it when they didn't sign to a major label. When I asked Thiele if he ever thought the band would get this big, he gave a humble response.

"Personally no, and I don't think anyone in the band ever did," he said. "Our goal was just to basically go on tour and be able to make enough money and not be broke. We went on tour for a couple years where we just lost money out of our own pocket. And it was still fun, we just wanted to go on tour and play some shows and share our music with everybody. Our goal was just to go anywhere in the U.S. and play a show and have people be there and be able to have fun with it, and we sort of accomplished that goal and then we started making money doing it. And we kind of just decided to not have any more goals and just kind of go with it and do what we felt was ethically correct with our band at all times and take it seriously, but not too seriously. But we're not trying to make it, we don't have that mindset, we never did. We feel really fortunate."

Before we stopped talking about the tour, I had to bring up the issue of groupies. I had heard that there was a new breed of hipster groupie that simply loved The Faint, and that they crawled around after each show. "Well, there's always girls," Jacob said, and I could tell he was smiling into the phone. "But with any band there's always girls that want to meet the band and possibly...do whatever. So in that sense, yes there are groupies, but on the other hand 80 percent of us have girlfriends that we're serious about that we live with and that we're in love with [sorry, ladies]. We just try to be polite to them."

But minus all the hoopla of their stage show, there's the new music from Wet From Birth, which critics have prescribed as an album with more substance. "I don't think I have a favorite song," Thiele said, "but the highlight of the album for me is the 'Erection', 'Paranoiattack', and 'Drop Kick the Punks' section." If you've heard the album, you know that the song "Drop Kick the Punks" is the song that's "not like the others", so I asked Thiele to give me a little background on where the song developed from.

"I think that we realized that people might want to do a radio promotion on this album and we were like 'Fuck radio, radio is so shitty' and so we were like, 'Man it would be fun if we could take over a radio station and kick the DJs out'. But then we ran with it and started writing this song and basically we wrote this song about paying off the DJs, which is what you do and which is how bands get on the radio, but then calling the cops on the DJs. And then getting the DJs in trouble and sort of overthrowing the radio station. When we say 'drop kick the punks,' we're sort of writing the song with punk attitude because we feel that punk rock has sort of changed and become something that isn't very cool."

It's been a little over a year since The Faint has graced Chicago with their presence, but they will be welcomed with open arms. "I guess the Chicago show is doing even better than the Omaha show right now in terms of tickets," Jacob said. "Chicago is the first city that really embraced us. Before, the Fireside Bowl was our biggest show on our first tours. Chicago has always been really good to us. I love Chicago; there's a lot of really good places to eat and great people that live there."

And the show is sure to be one hell of a dance party. But if you don't want to come and dance, you should at least come to see the raccoon penis bone they use in one of the tracks. They bang it on a car muffler.
Wet From Birth

Wet From Birth

LP / CD / MP3