How Heart Problems Led this Couple to Finally Form a Band

Orenda (Azure Ray) and Todd Fink (the Faint) became CLOSENESS after Orenda’s surgery.

As my husband Todd and I have been promoting our new EP debuting as CLOSENESS, Personality Therapy, one of the most commonly asked questions is, “You’ve been together for fifteen years, why now?” We’d both been making music separately for a long time, he with the Faint, me with Azure Ray, O+S, solo and many other projects with dear friends. We had talked about starting a band together for many years, but there always seemed to be a different project looming on the horizon for one of us, shifting the focus away from our “one day” band with each other. Our worldview shifted just a little in 2016 bit due to some faulty electrical wiring — in my heart.

I was in New Orleans visiting my friend, artist Chris Lawson, and then in Athens visiting another friend and collaborator, Nina Barnes. Before I had left for my trip, my heart had dropped into an irregular rhythm. I was used to it. I had had irregular heartbeats since I was a child and throughout my adulthood. I remember early shows backstage with my and Maria Taylor’s first band, Little Red Rocket. In the midst of swilling PBRs and chain-smoking Camels, my heart would fall into a rhythm so fast and intense you could see it pounding through my shirt. Maria was used to it, too; she would coo gently and meditatively into my ear while I lay down and willed my heart to slow down. Eventually it would, and then we would go back to partying or playing a show. It happened all the time. So, when Todd asked me how my heart was over the phone while I was in Athens, I casually responded, “Oh, it’s still beating weird.” His answer wasn’t so casual. He insisted I see a cardiologist on my return home. I did — but I only went to appease him.

The answer was complicated, but it didn’t matter. I needed surgery, and I needed it soon.

After my EKG, the cardiologist looked at me in disbelief. He wanted to know how it was that I had never seen a doctor for this before. The answer was complicated, but it didn’t matter. I needed surgery, and I needed it soon. He said I was very lucky to be alive. Between Todd and me, I’m not sure which one of us was closest to passing out as a result of this news. For the next two weeks I was hooked up to a heart monitor twenty-four hours per day, and two weeks after that I endured a twelve-hour heart procedure. When I say I endured it, I really mean Todd did. I was asleep; he had to sit in a waiting room for twelve hours, anxiously waiting for any bits of news. Was I OK? Was I alive? How would this day end for him? For us? When I first opened my eyes and saw his face — pale, tired and terrified — I cried instantly. I could see in his face the enormity of the weight of losing me. And I didn’t want to be lost. Not yet.

I sealed myself off from the world for a little while. I had to. And during that time, we started work on CLOSENESS.

It may seem silly, but when I thought back on my life and if there was anything that I hadn’t done that I had always wanted to do, my first thought was that I wanted to form a band with Todd. It was the only thing I had consistently talked about doing but hadn’t done (except, of course, buy a beach house). My recovery was hard — almost more mentally than physically. I sealed myself off from the world for a little while. I had to. And during that time, we started work on CLOSENESS.

There was healing in this music for me. It was dark, but it had energy, and I think that energy started filling me back up in the areas that had been depleted. Most days I would lie still, staring out the window at the grey November sky, tired after so many conversations with Death. One day the clouds parted — I didn’t even know they were clouds — and through a leafless tree the most beautiful brilliant sunlight poured right onto my face. I smiled and started crying. I picked up my lyric book and wrote:

Deep underneath in a telepathic dream
The world falls away as your need for it wanes
Clouds pass the trees and I’m laying underneath…
And I feel the sunshine…

Todd Fink (born Todd Baechle) and wife Orenda Fink converged first on tour, then in love and now in music. CLOSENESS, the couple’s first group together, is the result of two incredibly talented musicians melding in life and in art. Both halves of this new project have work spanning a variety of venerated musical outfits. Todd is most notably the frontman of the Faint, while Orenda is best known as one-half of the slick Azure Ray, and has credits including Moby, Bright Eyes, Paul Kalkbrenner, Eric Bachmann, Delerium, Sparklehorse and Isaac Brock.