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[whitespace] The Faint
Who Ate All the Doughnuts? The Faint carbo-loads before hitting the stage.

Not for the Faint of Heart

The Faint lures wallflowers out on the floor--and sometimes onstage

By Jennifer Maerz

THE CURRENT concept of proper crowd behavior is way too polite, restrained and self-conscious. The whole reason to see a live act is to get something we can't get from our iPod. But instead of sweat, we get stoicism, the by-product of people either staying too sober at shows or getting too jaded on rock & roll.

For those of us getting bored stiff with stock-still crowds, Omaha, Nebraska's Faint slams industrial dance beats with indie-rock intensity, creating the kind of noise that forces people to get moving. The band has this "Front 242 meets Depeche Mode meets the new New Wave" thing going on--a mix of dark, cold, mechanical beats, somber classical arrangements and hard-driving pop songs that rail against complacent living.

The band released its third album, Danse Macabre (Saddle Creek), last year and has since sparked movement in the rock clubs and been named one of Alternative Press' "100 Bands You Need to Know in 2001." The Faint's Jacob Thiele is directly responsible for throwing down the hard rhythms that mess with a resting heartbeat. He's the man behind the synthesizer, a job that he gets so involved with at times that he breaks his instrument.

"Sometimes I get caught up in the moment, and it's not that I get violent, but I get reckless," he laughs, on a rare visit home after a recent whirlwind European tour. "Then my keyboards end up paying the price--or I end up paying it when I have to pay to get them fixed. I think it's worth it, though, because you can't put a price on how much fun [performing] is sometimes."

Thiele isn't the only one losing himself at shows. Faint crowds are known for being an action-oriented bunch, sometimes even forcing themselves onstage. "Something kept happening during [a recent] tour where people thought we wanted them to come up onstage and dance. I mean, that's fine, but that stage isn't that big, so if everybody is up there, there's not as much room for us. In Pomona, the show reached this point where it became so intense that everybody came up onstage, and it was really fun. And then for the next few shows, other people did that as well. It's kind of a weird relationship between the band and the crowd. You never want to interpret it too much. You just want to try and feel it."

Faint fans are going to have a much more difficult time trying to break the stage barrier, though, as the band returns as the opening act for perky pop act No Doubt. The combination of an indie dark-wave industrial band and a shiny, happy, MTV-friendly act is a partnership completely out of left field, but Thiele says the tour came together because No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal is a fan of the band.

"Tony put us on some top-five list, and so then the next thing I knew, Dapose, our guitar player, is like, 'Hey, do you want to go on tour with No Doubt?' I was like, 'You're kidding!' That's really weird, you know? This turned into a discussion that lasted for days, and we were like, 'Yeah, let's do it. Let's fucking try it.' That's what we're all about--we're down to challenge ourselves. We have to adapt [the show structure] in order to do this tour, but it's still pretty fucking exciting. We're not interested in repeating ourselves, we're trying to push things and make our music evolve."

Thiele says most Faint fans have been very supportive of the band's move up to the big-league shows, but the occasional "sellout" slam does arise. "I know a few people have been like, 'What the hell are you guys doing?' but those are the kind of people who assume that we must be getting paid a lot of money or whatever. The unfortunate thing is that a band in our position on a tour like this ends up losing a lot of money," he laughs.

"I'm not really sure how that's gonna work out for us. But the idea behind this is that it's an investment. We're all coming from this underground punk scene, and we don't have the ability to do everything we want to our way, but we're just trying to learn how to do everything we can."

The Faint opens for No Doubt on Monday (March 25) at 7pm at the SJSU Event Center, Seventh and San Carlos streets, San Jose. Tickets are sold out. The band performs Tuesday (March 26) at 8pm at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus Ave., San Francisco. Tickets are $14. (Ticketweb or 415.474.0365)

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From the March 21-27, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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