By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
They admit, however, that it could be getting better, that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't necessarily a freight train bearing down on them. "I think that the label we're on is doing really well, really taking off," Baechle says. "Saddle Creek started off doing tapes, and it's worked basically as one guy [Robb Nashel] running it, and the bands on it doing things to promote it. It was pretty much everyone's..." He trails off. "How long have we been doing this? Connor, how long have we been doing things on Saddle Creek? Eight or nine years."
Baechle is in Kansas City, borrowing the mobile phone of longtime friend Connor Oberst, who fronts Bright Eyes, another Omaha band on Saddle Creek that's undeniably gained momentum this past year; Bright Eyes' dreamy last record has been the backbone of college playlists this year. In March, both bands played the packed Saddle Creek Records showcase at the annual South By Southwest Festival in Austin. (As it happens, both bands will be in town this week as well, since Bright Eyes is opening for Grandaddy at the Gypsy Tea Room on July 15.)
Another thread that ties the trio of bands on the Holiday Matinee tour together is that all three practically live on the road, and they surround themselves with other musicians that work just as hard. Vue's toured twice since the start of 1999, when they changed their name from The Audience after putting out two records. The Faint has been on tour so often, Baechle can't remember, exactly, how much touring they've done. "We probably started touring five years ago, and we've probably gone out eight or nine times. We've booked it all ourselves, and just now we've decided which contacts were good, and who was sketchy." He adds the punch line: "It's all really sketchy."
White also knows the hell that ensues when you take your rock band across the country. "Our guitarist quit yesterday," White begins. "The tour starts in 12 days. We don't know what we're going to do. We might find someone, or I might be able to improvise." Like what, one of those circa-'70s dual guitar/bass arrangements? "Yeah, I'm trying to track down this dude who has one."
At the moment, White is at home in San Diego, a rare moment between stints in the van. "We just got back from a tour. This [will be] our sixth in a year and a half. We're aware of the reputation--it's true. Everyone we know [who plays music] works really hard." And, in most cases, they have the talent to match. Some of the most exciting indie bands of recent memory have come out of San Diego: The Black Heart Procession, Gogogo Airheart, Tristeza, and The Locust come to mind.
"All of our friends from San Diego, we consider our peers," White continues. "There are certain bands we always play with." What about The Locust, the bouffant-wearing, keyboards-and-grind act that everyone seems to have an opinion about? "We're not really comparable to them, but they're our good friends. Michelle [Maskovich, keyboardist in The Camera Obscura] was in Swing Kids with those guys. The label [Three One G] put out one of our records. They're really amazing, I think."
Like White and his hometown, Baechle's extremely enthusiastic about the music scene in Omaha. "If I had to name the actual point where I [decided I] wanted to be in a band and play music, it was seeing Slow Down Virginia, the band that became [Omaha-based] Cursive. Joel [no last name, thanks, The Faint's bass player] and I were there, and we were just blown away."
Now, naturally, Baechle wants to be the band blowing impressionable youths away. Hence the band's sound and stage setup. "We play dancey music because we want to have more fun live," Baechle says. "The lights are part of that. We wanted a good live show, but we don't, uh, choreograph moves. It's not a coincidence that we're all wearing black though, but that's about the only thing we do plan out. We just want people to dance. When we book our tours, we try not to play bars, because people just aren't as interested when there's alcohol to be had."
Reading from almost the same cue cards, White offers that "we talk about our appearance, but we don't really do anything. We try to be more dancey; we like to see people dance with more interesting dance steps."
To that end, The Faint is going in new directions, trying its best to push toward a new sound. Baechle's excited to talk about the new records that they're supposed to get their hands on today. "We have a new picture disc, a 12-inch of remixes from our last record. It made sense to do it, we just posted on the Web site, 'Who wants to remix us?' and chose from the ones we got back. We were really impressed with who offered." Like who? "Oh, I can't tell you who did all of them. There were some impressive names that didn't make it. They sent us disappointing remixes."