While countless rock groups clutch their guitars like Flat Earth Society members do their disc-shaped models of Earth, Nebraska's the Faint goes past the regular instrumentation of its "indie rock" genre to create something new. It pioneered an electronica-flavored, dance-punk sound with synth-saturated menace. Emerging from Omaha's own Saddle Creek label, the quartet flew above any kind of pigeonholing, as albums Blank Wave Arcade, Danse Macabre, and 2008's Fascination straddled brooding synth-pop and crackling garage rock. For its new release, Doom Abuse, the Faint strip away the pretense somewhat, with a slightly rawer sound, amplifying its characteristically jagged and uneven layers to a lean and refined point. Lead singer and principal lyricist Todd Fink calls it an "energetic album."
On Tuesday, the Faint showcases the album at a much-anticipated Culture Room show. We spoke with the musician about EDM, political music, and where the Faint are at in 2014.
New Times: So, it's been a while since your last full album. What's been going on?
Todd Fink: Well, three of us were doing some electronic stuff as Depressed Buttons. Dapose (guitars), put out a couple of albums as Vverevvolf Grehv, an electronic death metal thing that he does, and a Depose solo album, in a similar noise style.
I've been learning production, I wasn't doing songs for awhile really, I wasn't after that. I wanted to become fluent in the rest of what it takes to make music. So, I've been doing a lot of production stuff, working on projects on that, as well as the electronic stuff. What else? I don't know. Going around the country a bit, California, Georgia... Shooting pool.
Did you use any of the production stuff you learned on the new record Doom Abuse?
Well, strangely no, not really. After learning all the things about the production world, I don't think we used much of it on the record, aside from being able to describe what frequencies we wanted to be getting while we're mixing it down. We wrote and recorded the record in just one burst, so much so that we weren't as concerned with the production stuff. We wanted an album that was based on rougher sounds and our live performances. We brought that rough material into the studio and then returned to make it sound sweeter, more hi-fi. It would be a mix of what we like about lo-fi recordings, with what we like about hi-fi stuff. With that kind of attitude we were ready to not really care about the production side as much.
I think with the next album, we'll incorporate more of the production stuff that we've learned. It didn't seem like what we wanted to do for this record. We wanted more amped up more energetic album.
What was the writing process of the album like?
I take it song by song, some of them are real personal and some of them are almost chance poetry. It's like I'm making this collage and I let it come together and then it tells me what it means. Sometimes it's good to write a song about how you're feeling at that particular moment, but with this album, the vocals are more of an instrument and invitation to imagery.
You recorded the album back in Omaha. Is there a special something about recording in your hometown?
We've never really done it anywhere else. We've built a studio here in Omaha where we practice. It was nice on this record, we just had some room mics up and pressed record when we're having a jam or practice -- we actually used some of that in the record. That was kind a nice. We mixed it in tour friend's studio, so we could use the studio for songwriting.
Is there a track on this record that really sums up where the Faint are in 2014?
The one that felt like that while we were making it is "Help in the Head" -- that summed up what we thought the Faint got together to do. It sounds like how we felt about coming back together. It's not really like a "singley" song, even though we put it out as that! Now that we are practicing them again before the tour, I'm really loving them all over again.
Are there any kind of political messages or things going on in the world today that inspired anything on the album?
I'm not sure where the political thing and us comes from. I think it's based on a review published about our last record, it said something about the last record being too political, and we're betting when we're not. I don't know exactly what they said. I don't mind criticism, as long as it's done by someone who knows what they are talking about. Some of the stuff you hear about the lyrics are just plain wrong. A couple of reviews on this album have just been wrong, with people reading stuff into the lyrics that just isn't there.
My position on political songs, is that people should write whatever is on their minds, if it's important, then that's even more reason to write about it. Why would you not write about something that's happening in the world that you were passionate about? It's ridiculous to me. I guess the only reason not to is if you're just making music with a generous mindset of writing purely for other's enjoyment. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not what we do -- we're from the mindset of making something you feel like making, and you hope everyone can hear it, but that's not the main reason.
With the current popularity of EDM in America, do you think you could be seen as pioneers in this area?
I think we saw a future for electronic pop music or song based electronic music before it was second generation popular or whatever. I don't know, things that are really popular repel me. Electronic dance music in the festival setting, most of it I hate. There are some artists that I think we like and always sound fresh and stay true to their sound like Boys Noize and Erol Alkan.
How did you guys get into electronic music? I mean Omaha, Nebraska isn't the first place that comes to mind when you think about this kind of music.
We were doing our version of Sonic Youth or whoever and we kind of got bored of the sound, everyone was doing the same things. I guess we thought this wasn't us, we felt different, so we ditched the guitars for the most part, so we used our money to buy more keyboards. Right away we started songs that felt special, different and futuristic, though inspired by the 1980s and early MTV. These bands were so different to each other, playing up the visual elements of it. I remember seeing Devo, Adam Ant and Flock of Seagulls videos and thinking who are these amazing people!
We went after that, but made sure it didn't sound like it was from the '80s, so we incorporated noise, chaos and unlikely events in the songs.
So, what can we expect coming up?
I'd like to get more stuff done as soon as possible. We kind of ran out of time before we had to rehearse, and get the tour ready. We'll get some demos finished, and see if we can get a new EP our before the end of the year.
The Faint. Doom Abuse Tour with Reptar. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $25 plus fees. Call 954-564-1074, or visit cultureroom.net.