Reviews

Wet From Birth

Author: Peter Funk
10/30/2004 | Junkmedia.org | www.junkmedia.org | Album Review
Depending on who you talk to, The Faint are either the next big thing or the latest band to have missed their big chance. After spurning the advances of just about every major label in North America, the band decided that home is where the heart is and stayed with hometown label Saddle Creek. While there are those who believe the band missed their shot at the big time by not signing with a major, keyboardist Jacob Thiele would like you to know that the band is quite happy with the way things have turned out.

Now on tour supporting the new album Wet From Birth, Junkmedia spoke with Jacob between sound check and show time from The Faint's tour stop in Philadelphia. With Wet From Birth being received as either the best thing the Faint have ever done or a confusing hodgepodge of styles that leaves hardcore fans scratching their heads, Jacob opened up about the band's thoughts on the progression of their music as well as politics, happiness and AC/DC. You know, the usual stuff a rock band on tour thinks about.

How's the tour going so far

Really well. It's awesome. All the bands (they are on tour with TV On The Radio and Beep Beep), I think, are having a good time with it. No complaints. We've had some technical difficulties but that's to be expected. We've always been able to work something out.

You guys are in Philadelphia, right? Are you going to be hanging out on South Street?

I don't know where I am now, actually. It's a really bleak area where we are now. It looks like we're in the middle of nowhere, in some warehouse district somewhere.

When you guys are on the road do you get out and about and see the city that you're in?

We've got a bus. So usually we sleep on the bus and wake up in the next city. I'm usually pretty exhausted so I wake up with only about an hour or two to kill before we have to load in. If you really want to get somewhere you have to take a cab or public transportation. You can do it, especially if there's something you want to do in particular and it's available in the morning. But generally I do not. I get up and try to find a cup of coffee and something to eat. It's about all I have time to do. Occasionally check your email and clean up from last night.

Do you enjoy touring or does it get old quick?

No, it's nice. It's a comfortable thing because it gets pretty routine. You do all the same stuff all the time, just kinda move around. It doesn't really get old. After awhile you start to miss, I start to miss Omaha and my friends and my girlfriend. But playing shows every night, that doesn't really get old as much. There's a lot of stuff going on at our shows so there's always something to pay attention to. That's what I like about it. Maybe that's what we do to keep ourselves entertained.

Does the band like to party after shows? Do you guys live the rock and roll dream?

I'm one of the few guys who likes to go out afterwards. We all have kind of different lives slash styles. They don't match up, but somehow they compliment one another. It works out. Like Joel just goes back to the bus and works and talks on the phone with various people he has to deal with. Clark and I and some other guys in the crew and Todd and Dap occasionally are the kind of guys who like to go and see the nightlife. Todd is more inclined to do that if there's a dance club or somewhere he can go check out a certain DJ he wants to hear, see what the music's about. I think that's the incentive for Todd to go out because he's more interested in that sort of thing more than say drinking. I just kind of like to, I like the nighttime. I'd say at least half the time we go out to a bar, especially places in Europe. You go to a bar and we're like, yeah we're in a bar. Then someone says have you seen the old church down the street? No, let's go there. And you take your beer down there and see what's around. I like that kind of stuff more, history of different places, exploring.

By they way, I really like the new album

Thank you.

I think you guys did a good job of pushing away from the tag of 80s new wave revivalist that was being applied to the band with both "Blank Wave Arcade" and Danse Macabre, but still keeping your loyal fans interested. It must have been tricky to do.

Well that's something that we always thought we were doing. I guess we were just finally more successful with it this time around. We always wanted to not, we don't want to rehash anything and we want to be original and we have ideas that are original, though half the time it turns out that any idea has already been done. We come up with things on our own and we're just creatively driven and we want to be original. I think that even when we did Blank Wave Arcade we felt like we were doing something that was truly ours. And I can relate now when people just see it as more a new wave revival thing, it was a new wave theme sort of, I mean we even reference it in the title, you know, because we were on tour and so many people were like, you guys are new wave, goth wave, dark wave, whatever.

When I listen to Danse Macabre, we were lumped in with all this new wave electro stuff and I was like, why, I mean we're a rock band still. But when I listen to Danse Macabre all this synthetic electronic stuff is so forward in the mix that it makes sense, I don't blame people for passing that kind of judgment on us or whatever. This time around I feel like, I agree with you, I think that we've actualized our ideas more this time around. We had more time to actually think about everything that we were doing. And try and perfect the ideas we had to the best of our abilities. We constantly want to, we always want to evolve, to redefine what we do for every record. I expect we will alienate some people and we weren't really trying to avoid that, but I think a lot of the people that liked us in the first place got it, didn't think that we were doing just a modern version of new wave, they understood what was behind all of our ideas and what the songs really meant to us and I think those people are still devoted fans.

I have a hard time believing that people who are hardcore Faint fans are going to have trouble with this record.

Yeah, I mean there has been some backlash but those people really didn't get us, didn't understand what we were trying to do before.

You know, some people really have a hard time with their favorite band evolving or taking a different tact

Yeah, it's a conservative thing. They get comfortable with something and they just want it to be the same, like AC/DC. AC/DC is my example for this all the time. I'm not picking on them but I don't blame them for doing the same kind of thing, you know, I only single them out because it's kind of undeniable with them. They haven't tried to do anything new, you know. You couldn't even make an argument that they had. I think that's fine. I think that's a different mindset. Maybe they think they've gotten better at writing songs but I think that their old songs are still my favorite.

I have a question about a specific song on the new album, "Paranoia Attack". I'd say that on all of your albums I haven't really heard any songs that were overtly political but that one feels like it really is.

Yeah, we are always kind of more into observing, just kind of commenting, creating scenarios and recreating scenarios. Like "Sex Is Personal", (on Blank Wave Arcade) which just kind of describes the environment of adult entertainment, doesn't really take a stance on it. It's just one big rhetorical question, what gets these men worked up "so sexual". Which isn't even a proper sentence. It's not really taking a strong stance. But with "Paranoia Attack", like I'm individually more inclined to be like fuck Bush on stage and vote for Kerry, but at the same time I agree with some of my band mates who believe we shouldn't ever be preachy, that we shouldn't tell people what to think, that we should let our art and our music do that. And then, you know, they can get what they want. Obviously they aren't going to get anything out of "Paranoia Attack" that is like pro-war or pro mind, media controlling the masses through fear or anything like that.

We kind of wrote that around the time we went to war and we were feeling really manipulated by how it was all being presented by the media. It was pretty much all we ever talked about in band practice so it came out in a song. As a collective, since we write all the songs together, Todd writes the melody and lyrics, for us to come up with a statement that we all could believe in, that was the one where we all felt fucking confused and manipulated by everything that was happening and how it was being presented to us.

I found a quote from Todd from an old interview somewhere, tell me what you think about it: "We're not interested in fame in general. It's not something we're striving for. I feel completely satisfied where I am right now. We tour, people come to our shows. We make music because we love it and it's nice to go play live for people and have them enjoy it." Does that still stand true?

Yeah, that's still absolutely true. There's a reason we don't put our picture on our album. There's a reason we didn't sign with a major label. I mean we do make a living at it, we do try and sustain our lives by touring. We do try to spread our music around and share it with everybody, but it's not for the money and it's not for fame. It's just how the industry works, I guess. I don't ever really want to see my face on MTV. I'm happier now than I've ever been in my life, probably because we do what we never even thought about, that we'd get to do. I always wanted to be a visual designer and I started getting into video before The Faint, so now I have that forum available to me as well since I design video for our live shows. It's totally rewarding, people seem to like it.

We've already exceeded all the goals that we had for the band if we had even written any down. We never really talked about it. We never thought that we would ride this train as far as we could go, that we were gonna "make it". So many bands that you meet, though not really in our circle, are so concerned with making it. I don't think I've ever heard anyone with our band say anything remotely close to those two words.

It's nice to hear you say that. It means you must be doing something right.

It's weird whenever I have this conversation I always think back to an article I read with Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices where he was like, it is possible to make a living being an indie rock band on any kind of label. And I was like, Wow, really? Like I didn't think that was even possible when I read that, but we kinda did it. Now I'm like, it really is possible. I mean by the standards we set we'll never be rich, it's just not possible. But I think that there's a certain comfort in that. I think that greed is the worst sin in my eyes. I'm not a religious person and I don't use the word sin very often, but the last thing I want to be is greedy. I kind of despise people that I see as greedy. I'm happy where I'm at. I think it's simple enough and complicated enough.

Yeah, so many people believe in the equation: happiness = wealth, wealth = happiness.

Yeah, especially if you watch TV. We were watching the debate last night and I just kept thinking that no one's talking about that. I think people need to do what they do best and not worry about having more money than anyone else. I think maybe people should strive for less, and maybe not worry about evaluating themselves in that way.

They're spending too much time watching Cribs

Yeah, and Extreme House makeovers.
Wet From Birth

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