Noah and the Whale

By Land or By Sea

Apr 01, 2008 Spring 2008 - Flight of the Conchords Photography by Andy Willsher Bookmark and Share


Noah and the Whale have been together for less than a year, but the London five-piece is on the verge of something big. They have released three 7" singles, one of which has been named the U.K.'s Radio 1 Record of the Week ("2 Bodies 1 Heart"). They have already finished their as yet untitled full-length debut, which is slated for overseas release in June. They have played their first U.S. tour dates at March's SXSW festival in Austin, and just days before speaking with Under the Radar, singer, guitarist, and ukulele player Charlie Fink learned that his band has even grander horizons ahead of it.

"We just found out the other day, we've been asked to open the main stage at Lollapalooza," says Fink. "It's amazing. I couldn't believe it when we found that out. So we're going to come out [to the U.S.] for the first 10 days of August. I think the plan at the moment is to do Lollapalooza, a bit of Chicago, a bit of New York, Toronto, and Washington."

Interestingly, it was America that led Fink to Noah and the Whale in the first place. After playing in bands through high school, Fink found himself disillusioned with the heavier style of music he had been making and decided to take some time off. He had been to the U.S. a couple of times before-Austin with his father, Boston once-but this time he decided to get more acquainted with the landscape. So he gathered two friends and embarked on a road trip, driving from New York to San Francisco, looping through the South and then heading north to Washing-ton state. It was on this trip that the seeds for Noah and the Whale were ultimately sown.

"When I was 15 and 16, I used to be in some really, really terrible bands and made some really terrible music," says Fink, now in his early 20s. "I guess when you're 16 and making music, you just want to make noise, really. You just want to rock out. And so I took a year out traveling and thought about what songs I wanted to write."

What Fink found was a renewed connection with the American songs he grew up on, with his mother playing Bob Dylan and Buddy Holly in the car when he was a child. Fink cites Neil Young as an influence and says that his Dylan obsession traces back as far as he can remember. Add more recent obsessions with Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Neutral Milk Hotel, and the New York anti-folk movement, and the foundation for Noah and the Whale's sound-something like a cross between a less frantic Neutral Milk Hotel and a less precious Bright Eyes-was born.

After returning to London from his U.S. trek, Fink began developing his ideas in solo gigs around London. Through these performances, Fink met Laura Marling, a solo singer/songwriter herself who would join Noah and the Whale. [Incidentally, Marling just released her Fink-produced debut, Alas, I Cannot Swim, in the U.K. in February.] Then, after adding Fink's older brother Douglas on drums, Matt "Urby" Owens on bass and harmonium, and Tom Fiddle on violin, the current lineup was complete.

The songs the band has already released, including the violin-drenched "Rocks and Daggers" and the whistle-and-handclap filled "5 Years Time," are folk-based, melodically-driven, and instrumentally diverse, with lyrics that tend toward the introspective. Fink says that instead of collecting previous singles, the band's debut will be more of a separate work, based in the classic tradition of the record album, but examining similar themes.

"The songs, at their most base, all deal with love, death, and time, really," says Fink. "Sometimes they're dealt with playfully, like '5 Years Time.' But they're all themed around that, and represented by whatever the vocabulary is. There's a lot of stuff about erosion, which is like a symbol of time, or the heart as a symbol of the love at your center, or whatever. I'd say it's an optimistic album."

Already the young band has much to be optimistic about, and the word on the street- which these days means the incessant buzzing of bloggers and Internet uploaders-has been building. In fact, if you search the band's name on YouTube, you can find the enthusiastic endorsement of one small child, maybe three years old, who, in his own toddler-speak, requests repeated play of one of Noah and the Whale's songs.

"I have [seen that]," says Fink. "That's brilliant. I thought that was great. Our biggest fan....Yeah, we're talking about trying to get him in one of the videos eventually. Maybe something for the future. We spoke with his agent. We'll see. He's a tough negotiator. He gets paid in sweets." 



Comments

Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published

URL

Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.