British indie-folk band Noah and the Whale have had a great start to their musical career. Achieving a chart-topping debut album in the UK and have earned similar success across the pond, it seems like this Twickenham band have only started. We talk to lead singer Charlie Finks about his influences, his successes and their new album, Last Night on Earth, set for release on March 7th 2011.
CM: Hey Charlie, how you doing?
C: Yeh I'm great thanks, been a good day.
CM: Your new album Last night on Earth is out March 7th. What's different that we can expect from it?
C: Everything is very different. In song writing terms, we are using characters more than before. Whilst previous albums were written in first person, this one is more through the eyes of other people. Most of the stories are based around the idea of the limitless possibilities of the night, particularly when you are young. The idea of change and that you can go out and that there is something magical happening out there - that you are on a bus and at the end of the journey, there is something magnificent. I wouldn't say it has a story; it's more thematic. The last album had a linear narrative but this one has a thread that goes through it. Production wise, there is much more synth and it is a much more contemporary sounding record than the previous ones.
CM: What were the influences behind making the record?
C: The big influences, in terms of writing and the narrative story-telling, were Tom Wait's Bone Machine, and Lou Reed's Berlin and New Sensations. In terms of sound, a little bit of Eno's Another Green World and various other things such as Tom Petty.
CM: What's your favourite track from the album?
C: It's a tough one because it's like picking between your kids [laughs]. But I'm very proud of the lyrics of the second track on the album, Tonight's The Kind Of Night, because it was the first song written on the album and it was the moment that I realised I was changing the style of writing, and the moment that I had found the voice of the record - a real breakthrough moment.
CM: Is it true you produced part of this LP in a synagogue in Bethnal Green?
C: That's right. It was this big space in Bethnal Green and it wasn't functioning, just a converted room. We did a bunch of demos there and because it's an echoey space, the sounds we got were pretty cool so we decided to keep them on the record. On the new single L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N, the drum beat was actually done there.
CM: You have described this record, like your previous offering The First Days Of Spring, as cinematic; what do you mean by that?
C: With the last album, I made a film to go with it and so that process has influenced the way I write songs. Now I write like I'm writing scenes with all the detail you have to give. Also, the songs are all set under short intimate moments in people's lives. Whilst the instrumentals are quite grand, they are not necessarily big sweeping things.
CM: It's sure to be a question you've been asked many times before but where did you get the title for your band from?
C: Noah and the Whale is a film reference from a film called The Squid and the Whale. It's a film I like very much.
CM: What are your favourite films of all time?
C: It's a tough one. I'm a big fan of David Lynch. I like Mulholland Drive a lot. Twin Peaks, to me, is the greatest piece of art of all time, it's amazing. Similarly, I like Paul Thomas Anderson. It's hard to pinpoint one, I like a lot of things [laughs]
CM: Your debut album made the UK Top 5. How was that for you guys?
C: It was a bit of a surprise but I was also very proud of it. Chart success is obviously nice and flattering because people are buying your music but it's really about making the best records we can.
CM: How has the response in the US been?
C: It's been good. The US is a big place and it takes a lot of work but we're very happy to put that work in. It's building nicely. We always have a good time in New York or LA, whilst Seattle and Chicago have always been good friends to us. I think we just connected with some people there for some reason.
CM: What is the best festival you guys have played?
C: Probably the best festival was Coachella; it was an amazing festival and we loved being there. It was an amazing audience and it was a cool festival to be at because it is in beautiful Palm Springs. But it was also probably our worst gig ever [laughs]. We flew into LA the day before, all jet-lagged so my voice was gone, and we didn't have the right converters so none of our pedals worked - it was all a bit of a disaster, but we managed to pull through somehow.
CM: Your brother Doug Fink left the band in 2009. Has his departure signalled a change in the band's sound?
C: Doug is still a big part of the band really, even if he isn't actually playing the drums. He's always the first person I go to when I need counselling [laughs]. He actually played on the demos for this record as well. The band has evolved anyway, but it would've evolved with or without Doug.
CM: Tell us about your new single L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N, set for release on February 28th
C: This was a turning point in the album. When we started playing the songs for this album, they sounded like 70s rock songs. I decided that I didn't want to make a 70s rock album so we came in and recorded that song. The production of how it sounds now is kind of how the demo sounded. It's narrative bound, like the other tracks off the album. In terms of its sound, it sits very much in the middle of the record.
CM: You're set to go touring across the country soon. What can fans expect from your shows?
C: It's very different; you wouldn't have seen us in this way before. We are trying to be as faithful to the arrangements we have got because we have found the way the songs should be played. But at the same time, we have more synth and new sounds.
CM: Is there an anxiety with making new sounds as you may alienate fans?
C: I try and not to worry about it because I think if you want to progress as a band, you should be willing to pick up some people and let some people go along the way. In an ideal world, I like everything we've done so hopefully someone else will do as well.
CM: What has been the highlight of your band's journey?
C: It's a hard one. For me, one of the most exciting things is finishing an album and being happy with it. There have been some incredible shows such as Somerset House in London last Summer. The second album was a hard album to tour because it wasn't particularly something people were expecting as it sounded drastically different from the first album. So when we first took it out on the road, it wasn't necessarily what people wanted to hear; it was difficult. But by the time Somerset House came around, it felt like we had won people over a bit; they connected with it and it was an amazing feeling. This year's going to be great and very busy. Any plans we've had, we've cancelled them [laughs].
Thanks for your time Charlie