Faith No More, the alternative band of musical anarchists who helped introduce a healthy dose of the bizarre and unexpected into the hard rock scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s, has already been reunited for more than six years now. Living here in their home country of the United States, though, you’d have hardly known it. Faith No More has done a slew of European festival gigs and some serious South American touring since their 2009 reformation, but a comprehensive trip across North America never materialized.
Until this week, that is. Now, Faith No More is officially back, with new music and a new tour to promote it. It’s been decades since Faith No More played in Houston, but Tuesday night they’ll take the stage at Bayou Music Center for the first time ever — and just when we were beginning to wonder if they’d forgotten about us.
Billy Gould, Faith No More’s bassist and founder, says that we shouldn’t take the reformed band’s six-year snub of the Lone Star State personally. The feelings of frustrated estrangement were mutual.
“The funny thing about it is, in the beginning when we started getting back together and doing shows again around 2009-10, there weren’t that many offers coming from the States,” Gould says. “It’s a big country, and routing-wise, it just didn’t make sense at the time to just go to one place that’s so far from another place. So, that’s kind of why it didn’t work out.
“Once we announced the new material and that we were putting out a new record, there really came a lot of interest from those areas that I think maybe promoters weren’t aware of,” the bassist continues. “We haven’t been to Texas in such a long time, and I’ve got friends there. We used to play there a lot back in the day. It’s going to be cool to reconnect.”
Reconnecting, it turns out, is kind of what Faith No More’s big reunion has been all about. A lot of time has passed since the band’s breakup in the ‘90s. Getting together for a couple of big shows afforded the group an opportunity to discover that their natural, schizoid musical chemistry was still intact. Perhaps more importantly, they realized that they’ve come to actually enjoy working together again.
“We had a split from being a band that went about 13 or 14 years,” Gould says. “We started to do shows, and we starting seeing a little more of each other. It just kind of came to a point where we already know how each other works, musically, and it just seemed to make sense that we should be doing really creative things. So, we did! It actually was very simple.”
The result of their reconnection is Sol Invictus, the band’s first album since 1997. If the reunion in itself was a bit of surprise, new music from Faith No More was a slim prospect that even hardcore fans had more or less given up on ten years ago. Unsure if their 21st-century explorations would even be worth a shit, the group kept their rehearsals quiet for nearly a year until they were sure they had something. Now, Gould says, they can’t get enough of the new stuff.
“It’s a ten-song record, and we’re doing five of those songs per show — sometimes more than that,” he says. “That’s definitely where our heads are at right now: the new stuff. All the songs we’re playing in our set, we like. Because when we get tired of them, we stop playing them!”
The new material sounds undeniably like Faith No More, anchored by the rock-solid rhythm section of Gould and drummer Mike “Puffy” Bordin. The reaction to the record from both fans and critics has been positive, with most everyone pleased to simply have the band back. Casual listeners hoping to find another “Epic” hit single are going to be let down by Sol Invictus, however. It’s a record that challenges listeners and delights in zigging when we expect it to zag. For Faith No More, defying expectations is at least half of the fun.
“I think it’s good to keep people confused a little bit, because in a real weird way, there’s an interaction between us and our audience where people have to figure out why we’re doing the things we’re doing,” Gould says. “At the same time, I think, people come to expect that from us, and it’s part of the picture. Sometimes we’ll do some stuff that might feel a little left-field, but people kind of accept that a little more now and try to understand why we did it. I think that’s great!”
In order to get at the meat of the band’s modern-day mission statement, the bassist invokes the work of the new rock stars: chefs.
“It’s kind of like a restaurant and someone’s preparing really different ingredients, and they serve it to you and you’re wondering why they’re mixing peanut butter and salmon,” Gould says. “Why would they do that? If I’m just walking down the street and I need something to eat, I probably wouldn’t like it. But if I knew that there was a chef there that did unusual things to try to challenge the person who’s eating, I would better see where he was coming from with that dish. I think that’s kind of what our fans are like.”
Frankly, Faith No More’s fans in Houston are ready to be challenged, coddled, confused or whatever the hell else when the group finally rolls into town for the first time in forever. Many of them, especially the younger ones, just want a chance to see and hear a group that they’ve never had before. It could be their only chance, too: Faith No More is taking this reunion thing one day at a time. Born rebels against rules or expectations of any sort, they’re not making any promises about what the future holds.
They are, however, looking forward to it.
“We’re in tour mode right now,” Gould says. “We’ve got touring set up all the way to October, and I think that’s when we all kind of check in with each other and see where we’re at. Anything is cool with me, as long as the whole band is behind it.
“I think that’s one of the great things about being in this group now is that we can kind of write our own rules,” he added. “It makes for a much happier environment for us.”
Faith No More plays Bayou Music Center (520 Texas) Tuesday, July 28 with special guests Napalm Death. Doors open at 8 p.m.