The Faith (American band)
Alec MacKaye and Michael Hampton of The Faith, The Chancery, Washington, D.C., 1982
|Associated acts||Rites of Spring, Minor Threat, Embrace, Untouchables, One Last Wish, Happy Go Licky, State of Alert, The Warmers, Void|
|Past members||Alec MacKaye
The Faith was an early American hardcore punk band, from Washington D.C., with strong connections to the scene centered on the Dischord label. Along with Minor Threat, The Faith were key players in the early development of hardcore, with a (later) melodic approach that would influence not just associated acts like Rites of Spring, Embrace and Fugazi, but also a subsequent generation of bands such as Nirvana, whose Kurt Cobain was a vocal fan.
The band formed as a four piece in the summer of 1981 and featured Alec MacKaye, former vocalist for the Untouchables, on vocals, Michael Hampton and Ivor Hanson of Henry Rollins' first band, State of Alert on guitar and drums respectively, as well as Chris Bald on bass. They called themselves 'The Faith' and played their first show at H.B. Woodlawn High School in November '81. Alec described the name as "a positive kind of sound, not negative like so many others." "We felt that (The) Faith was a stronger-than-macho name. We did want something more hopeful and less nihilistic, in spite of our chaotic and sometimes destructive approach to performance."
Filling part of the void left by Minor Threat's hiatus, The Faith quickly became one of the most popular bands in D.C., and naturally signed with Ian MacKaye's Dischord label. After recording a demo in December 1981, the band released a split LP with fellow D.C. hardcore band, Void. It was released by Dischord Records, a local independent label founded by MacKaye's elder brother Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson of Minor Threat. The first pressing of the record sold out in two weeks. It featured the song "You're X'd," which addressed the straight edge philosophy popularized by Minor Threat and S.O.A. And at the same time it was a strong critic to the people that did not take the straight edge movement seriously and only pretended to follow it in order to sympathise with other people. The Faith members stated that they felt rather frustrated and angry because "people tend to compare the two sides of the record which is sort of dumb, we would have reviewed it as two separate bands--not comparing--instead of saying 'Oh, Void is so crazy and The Faith is just boring typical hardcore.'" "Our approaches to music were so different that there isn’t much point in comparing the two sides…they are never close enough to compare, only to contrast and to complement."
In 1983 The Faith released an eight song twelve inch EP called Subject to Change. It was produced by Ian MacKaye and showed the band progressing into more melodic territory with the addition of a second guitarist. Eddie Janney of The Untouchables as well as Ian MacKaye's short-lived Skewbald / Grand Union joined The Faith at the end of 1982 to play second guitar and made his recorded debut. The addition was made because they wanted to get some more complex guitar ideas into the songs and soften the impact of guitar malfunctions, which were a constant threat during good shows. Not to mention, they just wanted a fuller sound and liked the way Eddie played.
Like all the best punk bands, The Faith imploded almost as soon as they arrived; following the seminal split LP with Void, they played their last show in August 1983 and their EP was issued four months later. According to Ian "People were very unhappy, they just loved that band."
Being the record a more developed and mature set of songs, "Subject to Change" also proved to be The Faith's swan song, as the group disbanded by the summer of 1983. Drummer Ivor Hanson announced he would soon leave for college. Finding a replacement was not an option. According to guitarist Mike Hampton, the rest of the band was having trouble getting along. "It was a good time to stop, but I suppose it’s a shame that we flamed out before getting a solid tour set up and executed, but it’s also a wonder and a success that we did what we did." Alec declared that it was getting more difficult to be productive and creative together, although the end was also a beginning. After The Faith broke up, guitarist Eddie Janney formed Rites of Spring with Guy Picciotto; while Hampton, Bald, and Hanson went on to join Embrace with Ian MacKaye on vocals. When Embrace broke up in early 1986, Chris Bald rejoined Alec MacKaye in Ignition (with Alec on vocals;) meanwhile, Janney reunited with Michael Hampton for One Last Wish following Rites of Spring's breakup (later reformed as Happy Go Licky.) Finally, Hampton and Hanson reunited in Manifesto in 1991, while Alec MacKaye sang with The Warmers during the mid-'90s.
Washington D.C.'s The Faith took hardcore punk to new places in the early 1980s. Even during their existence, their music hinted at what was to come, softening the standard-issue hardcore approach somewhat with better-developed melodies and a more inward-looking perspective. To be sure, it was high-energy, high-velocity punk, but its subtle deviations from the norm opened up new vistas for the D.C. scene.
They were influenced heavily by the first wave of US and UK punk rock. Though the sound of the late '70s can still be heard in their demos, The Faith are leaner, faster and more direct than their predecessors. Chris Bald would write most of the lyrics while Michael most of the music. Chris defined their lyrics as "very personal, all I can really write about is things that influence me in my life. Whatever influences our lives is what we write about." Reason for which they never really were interested in writing about politics as many other bands, if not all, were doing it.
Minor Threat's influence is still obvious in tracks like "Face to Face," but The Faith definitely had their own thing going on. For one thing, Alec's voice is totally spiteful, and the slow songs really have a darkness that no other D.C. band came near to. His intense vocals were what really set them apart from any of their hardcore contemporaries. Instead of just the normal-typical hardcore brash screaming and pushing everything all in one verse, Alec had a way of making these minute blast songs almost melodic without compromising or losing any intensity.
By the time they recorded the Subject to Change EP – which was first released in late 1983, shortly after they disbanded – The Faith had adopted a more melodic and emotional approach, perhaps owing to the addition of a second guitar player. The two guitars together seem to chime, creating an unusual – for hardcore – sense of melody. And instead of employing hardcore's usual strangled bark, Alec MacKaye makes sure his words are clear and easy to discern: The Faith's musicality often trumps their rage.
In spite of their limited lifespan and discography, The Faith were a seminal influence on the early hardcore punk movement in Washington, D.C. Their songs not only stand up with the best of D.C. hardcore, but with hardcore as a whole. After breaking up in 1983, the members from The Faith continued to shape the sound of D.C. punk in their later projects. Nearly all of their membership moved on to either Embrace or Rites of Spring, by most accounts the first true emo bands. An often under-appreciated D.C. band, They went in two years from being one of the most pissed off and aggro early hardcore bands to introducing a melodic element that would have a huge influence on the future of D.C. punk.
Their split LP with Void remains one of the best hardcore records of all time. As well as their more catchy but still raging EP Subject to Change. Known for their inward-looking lyrics—a pioneering thing in a scene more given to social and political themes—and the gruff allure of Alec MacKaye's vocals, The Faith was highly esteemed by local punk fans. They have probably made a deeper impact on the underground. They created the sound that went on to shape much of what came after, especially later period D.C. bands. The Faith shows why hardcore has lasting power, how even music recognised mainly for its brevity and brutality can convey something emotional and immediate, even several years on.
- Alec MacKaye - vocals (1981-1983)
- Michael Hampton - guitar (1981-1983)
- Eddie Janney - guitar (1982-1983)
- Chris Bald - bass (1981-1983)
- Ivor Hanson - drums (1981-1983)
- Faith/Void Split (Dischord, 1982)
- Subject to Change (Dischord, 1983)
- 20 Years of Dischord (2002) - "Subject to Change" and a demo version of "No Choice"
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- The Faith profile by Dischord Records
- The Faith at AllMusic
- The Faith at Kill from the Heart
- An Interview with Thurston Moore: Thoughts on Faith