The Faint Biography
Those five people (lead singer Fink, Fink's brother drummer Clark Baechle, bassist/guitarist Joel Petersen, guitarist/bassist Dapose and Jacob Thiele, who plays synthesizers) first came together in fewer numbers and under the name Norman Bailer, a "lite rock" band formed with future indie superstar Conor Oberst. After Oberst's departure, and the realization that the genre didn't quite fit who they were, the Baechle brothers and Petersen released Media, a foray into guitar-heavy indie rock, under the name The Faint in 1998. It wasn't until 1999's Blank-Wave Arcade, however, that the band found their sound: In place of guitars, they added synthesizers, and the effect was revelatory. Says Todd, "From our point of view, synthesizers seemed to have a limitless and almost magical quality to them; magical in the sense that you could create a keyboard sound out of almost nothing, and have it perfectly fit your musical disposition." Thiele joined the band, and with the line-up further cemented, they began to hone their live shows - part-rave, part-gallery affairs - that had audiences drenched in sweat. With 2001's Danse Macabre, the band ventured further into the world of dance music, and the missing member of the band came in the form of Dapose, a death metal guitarist and visual artist who helped to craft their visceral, beat-heavy songs detailing everyday malaise and job despondency. The album was immediately embraced by hundreds of thousands of kids around the world who longed for a record to which they could both relate and dance, and not long after, a remix album, Danse Macabre Remixes, followed. By the time the band released 2004's critically-lauded Wet From Birth, an album best marked by its sonic expansion of The Faint's signature sound, the band's shows were legendary and their musical prowess perfected.
After touring tirelessly throughout the world on the heels of Wet From Birth, the band returned to their native Omaha to find that the Orifice, their one-time HQ for all things Faint (recording studio, visual art studio, etc.), no longer fit. They took a lengthy, much-needed break, and then went to work on one of their largest projects to date: renovating a building, creating a studio and recording their new album there. "It didn't go all that well for a while. It's always hard for us to write music that we all like, and [at the beginning] we were out of practice," explains Joel Petersen.
With the paint hardly dry on the walls of Enamel, the new Faint complex, the band made another major decision: Rather than have their new album produced by someone outside of the band, all five Faint members would produce it, with Joel Petersen acting as chief engineer. "I think on the last record, we kind of felt a little weird about it," Petersen says of Wet From Birth. "Like maybe it didn't end up feeling like our record so much." That decision, however, carried with it moments of anxiety in the studio, as the band had never tried to produce their own albums before. "We knew we could make a great sounding record, but there were times when a song just wasn't coming together - when it didn't ring true. So we just took another whack at it. A bunch of songs were overhauled like this while others came together very quickly," Fink explains of the process. These overhauls provided the songs with a lean yet layered quality, and allowed for the band to explore several musical avenues. In addition to the band's desire to record a musical distillation of themselves, The Faint also aimed to retain their pop sensibilities while pushing themselves thematically and instrumentally into the future; the songs on Fasciinatiion, while engaged with the present world, are forward-looking. "In the past five years I've become more and more fascinated with everything. I also went on quite a future hunt," Fink says. "I was reading futurists and philosophies about the way things will be," Fink explains of the scenarios enumerated in a song on the album called "The Geeks Were Right." In a similar vain, "Machine in the Ghost" is a warm, halting song that builds into Fink half-shouting, half-positing questions to all those who've claimed to have the key to existence (to name a few: acidheads, mathematicians, the Pope). The theme of the unknown ahead is also seen on album closer "A Battle Hymn For Children," a gorgeously swooning ballad sung from a child's perspective that turns chillingly angry. The song, which cleaved the band in terms of its inclusion, ended up on the record because of that anger and conviction. "That song was quite possibly the most lyrically expressive out of the whole batch of songs. My main interest is, 'I can tell you mean everything you're saying, and it gives me goose bumps,'" Petersen says.
The album's title gives the best representation of its contents. The product of a keyboard with a broken i-key and the strictures of iTunes, it's an apt title for a record made in the spirit of the awe the universe inspires, with several eyes on it. "It's an extension of all of us," says Petersen. "I think what keeps us going in general is that we want to surprise ourselves. It's the quest for that that keeps us moving."