Hats provided by Todd Fink with Recapitate Headwear
Modeled by Peyton and Danielle from Sasha Models
This article appears in the March/April 2018 edition of Encounter.
Hats provided by Todd Fink with Recapitate Headwear
Modeled by Peyton and Danielle from Sasha Models
This article appears in the March/April 2018 edition of Encounter.
The evolution of CLOSENESS was quite literally a matter of the heart—not in a cheesy, romantic musing type of way, but the actual blood-pumping, life-sustaining muscular organ. Husband-wife duo Orenda Fink (Azure Ray) and Todd Fink (The Faint) are the masterminds behind the electro-dream-pop project. The couple say they always wanted to merge musical styles, but they could never quite find the time. Todd was touring in support of The Faint’s last album, Doom Abuse, and Orenda was involved in her solo work. As fate would have it, a frightening medical emergency involving Orenda’s heart temporarily brought everything to a screeching halt. In November 2015, she went under the knife to repair a birth defect that was
“I had it my whole life, but never knew how dangerous it was,” Orenda admits. “They couldn’t believe I was still alive [laughs]. With my condition, I had a bunch of extra electrical pathways on my heart that were not supposed to be there. They had to get rid of them.”
“We realized there was no better time to do this,” Todd adds. “If we were going to do it, we had to do it now. After her surgery, everything became more urgent.”
Todd and Orenda have been a unit for more than 15 years, and it just so happens both are incredibly talented musicians in their own right. It was because of this shared love and compassion for one another that Orenda finally took her arrhythmia seriously.
“I’ve had episodes my whole life,” she says. “A couple of weeks before I was diagnosed, my heart went into an abnormal rhythm. Normally, it would kick back in, but this time it just stayed. I was just so used to it that I was traveling, smoking cigarettes, hanging out with friends—but Todd was like, ‘Um, you need to go to the doctor immediately [laughs].’”
Orenda flew back to Omaha and went straight to the doctor. Two-and-a-half weeks later, the Georgia native was having heart surgery, which was the first time she’d ever had any kind of surgical procedure. What was supposed to be a three-hour event turned into 12 hours, but thankfully she pulled through.
“Your heart is such an immediate thing—it has to be going,” she says with a hint of sarcasm. “It made us kind of realize how precious and fragile life is, I guess.”
Back at home, she sunk into a depression, which can be common for heart patients.
“When you are faced with your own mortality so intensely, you get depressed,” she says.
Still recuperating in sweatpants and socks, CLOSENESS took its initial steps and Orenda quickly found solace in making music with her husband.
“We started the band almost immediately,” she says. “It was cathartic. Something about that experience [surgery] made me realize now there were no more excuses not to do it.”
On March 10, CLOSENESS unveiled its debut EP, Personality Therapy, and had its album release party later that night at Omaha’s beloved hole-in-the wall O’Leaver’s, where Todd and Orenda played to a packed house. Naturally, the Omaha music community came out in droves to support one of their own. Shortly after, the duo hit the road for Austin’s annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival and continued their road trip to New York City, something they’ve wanted to do for years.
“We’re looking to tour as much as possible,” Todd explains. “It’s part of why we wanted to do a band with just the two of us—to be able to make kind of, like, a vacation out of it, where it’s just the two of us together, and we’re able to drive around in our car. It’s not like working. We don’t have to be away from each other to do what we’re doing. I am really looking forward to that aspect.”
While traveling with other people has its merits, it also has its challenges. Oftentimes, the vastly different personalities can throw a wrench in the process, but for the Finks, it makes more sense.
“We’ve been together for so long that our tastes have melded,” she says. “From what we like to do to where we like to eat—we just know each other. That’s one of the hardest parts about being on the road with other people—always having to compromise. This seems like a dream scenario.”
Being a quintessential “rock-star couple,” however, didn’t always come easy. In the beginning, like all relationships, there were some hiccups, but it was nothing they couldn’t work through.
“He got in trouble in the beginning years,” she jokes. “Not like cheating or anything, but figuring out what a married man can do—like he couldn’t go skinny-dipping with girls on tour anymore [laughs].”
“I thought the ocean was huge [laughs],” he replies. “You don’t get a manual when you get married. You don’t know exactly where the line is.”
One big lesson they learned, however, is to not get caught up in the minutiae of everyday life.
“Pick your battles,” Orenda says. “You have to keep the greatest good of the relationship as the highest priority. Everyone slips on that in any relationship. If you’re in a really intense working relationship together, you’re going to have friction. It’s figuring out how to deal with that friction. You want the outcome to be forgiveness and loving each other. If you slip up, remember that’s the ultimate goal.”
“Winning an argument really isn’t worth anything,” Todd adds. “The goal isn’t to win. It’s to get back to a place of love.”
This article was printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Encounter.
Admittedly, 34-year-old Omaha native Jonathan Tvrdik doesn’t sleep much. Between co-owning Benson’s Krug Park, working as a consultant for his wife Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik’s business Hello Holiday, being a father to 2-year-old son Hugo, directing music videos and commercials, making music, and holding down a day job as both the executive creative director at Phenomblue and head of product design at Rova, there’s not a lot of room for much else. It’s a path he can trace back to childhood.
“When I was a little kid, I played by myself and was always building things,” Tvrdik recalls. “I’m an adult version of that kid who is constantly making new project—like a band, bar, new app, or music video. I’ve always been a goal-oriented person with lots of irons in the fire.”
Ironically, that’s where the inspiration behind the name of Tvrdik’s upcoming solo album came from. Titled Irons, it’s a project over two years in the making and one that took careful crafting with the help of longtime friend and drummer for The Faint Clark Baechle. Busting at the seams with heavy themes of introspection and emotional growth, Irons illustrates a tumultuous period in Tvrdik’s life.
“For better or for worse, that’s where I’ve always been—busy,” he says. “I don’t even know what that has created in me—like who am I as a person? I’ve always been a workhorse, but who am I really? Each song dissects a different thing I am doing or interested in, or a certain vice I have as a result of all the stuff I am working with. It’s a very self-analytical sort of record.”
Beginning with “Something Better” and culminating with “Star Stick,” the 11-track album is like Joy Division meets The Faint, or as Tvrdik describes it, “Frank Sinatra on top of electronica-goth.” It was a true labor of love and Tvrdik really trusted Baechle’s expertise. Some tracks he thought were polished and ready to go; Baechle would hear them and mistakingly refer to them as “demos.” It took the experience of his fine-tuned ear to sew up any loose ends.
“We’ve made a lot music together over the years from a musician and engineer standpoint,” Tvrdik explains. “For this one, we started working through the process of what it was going to look like. I always knew when I was done mixing and recording it on my own, I would take it to him to refine. My producorial technique is very raw. For songs I thought were done and perfect, Clark would be like, ‘I got your demos’ [laughs]. I’m very right brained and he’s very left. I wanted his brain to go through it with a fine-toothed comb and nit pick the hell out of it, which he did. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”
Although Tvrdik’s music background goes back to The Cog Factory days, where Omaha staples like Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, Cursive’s Tim Kasher, and The Faint’s Todd Fink (Baechle’s older brother) got their start in the early ’90s, naturally he’s experienced plenty of evolutionary changes in terms of his musical output. At one point, he was in a hardcore band, and later a noise-based outfit. While he felt he was still emotionally expressive in all of them, it’s with the forthcoming Irons he felt he was truly able to effectively communicate to the listener exactly what he was experiencing.
This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.
Perhaps we’re spoiled in Omaha. While mainstream America suckles on pop-tart music offerings, we’ve grown fat on a steady diet of indie rock.
For goodness sake, independent record label Saddle Creek Records is in our backyard. Indie rock star Conor Oberst considers Nebraska home. And hometown music legends The Faint continue to release new music for fans to devour.
In fact, the Omaha-based and internationally touring band, The Faint, just released a career retrospective, CAPSULE: 1999-2016, featuring 17 years of hits along with two brand-new tracks. The band currently consists of Clark Baechle, Dapose, Graham Ulicny (in place of long-time keyboard player Jacob Thiele), and Todd Fink.
“The new release is a collection of songs from the time when we started making music until now,” says Fink, the band’s lead singer, in a recent phone interview while on tour.
The new album, CAPSULE: 1999-2016, is filled with heavy, punky, electronic, pulsating, dark dance music of the past. The two new songs are titled “Skylab1979” and “ESP.” After a September digital release, the vinyl double LP was scheduled to debut on Oct. 28.
The Faint’s newest album signals a return to a familiar label, Saddle Creek. (That’s right, after briefly breaking away to start their own label, The Faint has returned to Saddle Creek.) In August, Saddle Creek shared a video for the band’s second new track, “Skylab1979,” which compiles old footage from outer space missions into a static-laden supercut.
We’re always looking for what’s going to happen next. We never quite get the momentum of other trends. That might hurt us, but we make music that we like and hope that fans like.”
While on tour, lead singer Fink shared his thoughts about the recording process, the band’s live shows, and his 17-year career with The Faint.
Although the band was conceived in 1994, and performed under the name “Norman Bailor” with a young Oberst, it grew into something much more. Songs faded. Faces changed (other former members included Matt Bowen and Joel Petersen). But the band’s insatiable desire for perfecting their sounds never wavered.
The Faint was electro-dance-punk before there was such a genre. “We were trying to push something futuristic, trying to find something that felt beyond guitars and traditional (rock) sounds,” Fink says.
In 1997, the band was renamed as The Faint. Two years and a lot of experimenting with synthesizers later, The Faint nailed its signature sound—throbbing and moody. CAPSULE: 1999-2016 takes fans on the band’s musical journey.
“That whole time we were figuring out what we were doing,” Fink says. “We waited. We were waiting to find out who we were as musicians, what our vision for music was going to be.”
Being visionary helped The Faint quickly find their audience. With Blank-Wave Arcade in 1999, the band began to enjoy breakout success, and people took notice.
Throughout the new release of CAPSULE: 1999-2016, The Faint continues to keep their die-hard fans in mind. “We’re always looking for what’s going to happen next,” Fink says. “We never quite get the momentum of other trends. That might hurt us, but we make music that we like and hope that
Visit thefaint.com for more information. Omaha
This article originally published in May/June 2015 edition of Omaha Magazine.
As Orenda Fink awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, she found herself transformed into a 15-year-older version of herself.
The Kafkaesque revelation, which was triggered by the death of her beloved dog, Wilson, sent the dream-pop singer-songwriter, then 36, tumbling into existential despair.
“I didn’t really have anywhere close to an idea of a concrete framework for thinking about death—I just never really thought about it,” says Fink, now 39, who is also half of the on-again, off-again Saddle Creek Records duo Azure Ray. “You think about it all the time, but you never really think about it.”
Unbeknownst to the grieving dog mom at the time, she says, Fink’s white chihuahua-terrier mix had come to unconsciously symbolize, in a sort of Jungian slip, everything she had experienced throughout most of her 20s and 30s.
So when the arthritic, cancer-ridden Wilson—whom she named after the genius behind The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds—was eventually euthanized, Fink says, it was as if her entire adulthood had been put down, leaving Fink in a deep depression that even anti-depressants couldn’t tame.
“I feel like I died—that something in me died with him,” she says. “He was like a time capsule for all these experiences.”
Despondent, desperately clinging to any clues that could define who she was, how she fit into the cosmos, Fink did what any musician of her caliber would do: She wrote a record. But before her third solo offering, Blue Dream, could manifest, Fink would have to endure a yearlong journey into the darkest parts of her being and extract, through dream therapy, answers that she says had always been with her.
“I am walking down the street, wrangling three dogs with no leashes,” Fink writes in her dream journal just after she began therapy in 2013. “The first dog is Wilson as a puppy, the second dog is Wilson old and infirmed. The third dog, the most haunting, is Wilson as a white blur of a dog with no discernible edges or lines.”
Fink says her first vivid dream about her dog started a night or two prior to her first therapy session. Each dream thereafter included Wilson in some form or another, she says, symbolically conveying messages that she’d then decode with professional help.
“The therapy started with dreams and it ended with dreams. All we talked about were dreams throughout the course of the year,” Fink says about opting to heal her depression solely through Jungian dream therapy.
The self-described Type-A Virgo, already prone to anxiety and impatience, says she furiously wrote in her prescribed dream journal with the sense that she was communicating with her collective unconscious, or the pool of cumulative knowledge that psychiatrist Carl Jung believed (or “knew,” as Fink points out he’d say) was inherent in all of humankind.
“It was just a phenomenal process,” she says. “Because when I got it, when I understood what the message was, it was immediate sobbing, weeping—transcendent sobbing.”
During her spiritual awakening, Fink says she started writing music again, which had become an almost lost art form to her in the wake of Wilson’s death.
“All of a sudden, I had this little pile of songs that I realized were about what I had just gone through, and it was essentially the whole story,” she says.
Fink named her aural tale Blue Dream, which she released on Saddle Creek Records in 2014. The polished yet surreal eulogy to Wilson—and to her former self—plays like the soundtrack to a lost episode of David Lynch’s early-‘90s serial drama Twin Peaks.
The woeful tunes were produced by Ben Brodin (Mal Madrigal, McCarthy Trenching, Our Fox, The Mynabirds) and Fink’s husband, Todd Fink (The Faint), who says he witnessed his wife overcome much of her distress through the album-creating process and her discovery of a universal, timeless consciousness. The Faint front man says he was initially skeptical of what he calls Fink’s “prophetic dreams,” but that those days are now long gone.
“I think it makes perfect sense to look for answers in your dreams when you have a relationship with your subconscious like she does,” says Todd. “I’m just glad she found what she needed.”
With an oversaturated music-producing market, including technological advances that have facilitated the production and distribution of songs, Fink’s next battle might take place well below the apex of self-actualization on the hierarchy-of-needs pyramid. But food, shelter, and…well, a good life…won’t be hard to find as a working musician, Fink says, just so long as she can stay true to the artistry of her work and keep it “as pure as possible.”
“I guess I’m just, as hokey as it sounds,” Fink says, “a believer in the universe taking care of you, however that’s supposed to be. If I’m meant to create music and I have things to contribute, then the universe will somehow keep that going.”