Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Interview with Charlie Fink (Noah and The Whale) - Noize Makes Enemies


Pain. As humans, pain is, a feeling, we all encounter; whether it be on a regular basis, on a small scale, or on what feels like the worst level possible. And nothing hurts more than the pain that associates itself with love. That feeling which physically hurts as the abstract emotion turns to concrete and reaches in, squeezing each atrium of your pitiful organ.

But as humans, we hurt and then we heal. Often a direct result of whatever cathartic process we’ve immersed ourselves into as a distraction. Some of the best and most beautiful creations emerge from this form of therapy. Bon Iver created ‘For Emma, Forever Ago; an album bursting with more pathos than the runner up in the X-Factor final. Cue Charlie Fink’s proverbial rehab and Noah and The Whale’s second album ‘The First Days of Spring’.

And the Autumn it follows? Fink’s own heartbreak with the end result an eleven track masterpiece that replaces textbook folk handclaps for lyrics so rich with torturous accuracy that the listener is left wishing they could have articulated their own pain so efficiently. Similarly, the vocal supplements of Emmy the Great and Laura Marling have been replaced with divine orchestration:

“It’s very different from the debut. It’s different lyrically, its different instrumentation, everything’s very different. The ambitions for it are also very different.

"The album is very a much a single person’s story and it’s definitely not a duet. At no point is the album a duet and so it would feel unusual to have an extra voice there, it needed to be quite solitary I think. We have a choir singing on a few songs and the reason I liked that is the texture of it and also there fact that it’s less personal than if it’s just one other person’s voice. There’s quite a big difference between a choir and duet.”

Meeting Noah and The Whale’s lead singer and song writer, Charlie Fink, at the band’s North-West London studio, it’s hard to believe music of such epic heights was created in what appears to be such basic surroundings. Sat in black skinnies and an over-sized pastal striped shirt, Charlie effortlessly exudes an unavoidable likeability and as he fingers his indie curls, it’s clear he’s every bit as passionate abut this album as the end result implies.

His creativity and work ethos is also demonstrated by the film he has produced to accompany the album. Featuring the likes of Daisy Lowe, Fink’s development from music videos to the film, named after the album, was something as unconventional as his mission statement:

“It’s not the same thing at all but, along the lines of ‘Man on Wire’; about the guy that walked between the two twin towers, it’s like in a way that’s the most beautiful pointless act of all time because it has no purpose other than the pleasure of tightrope walking which is, I’ve never experienced that pleasure but you know, I think it’s the same thing. It’s creating something because it’s beautiful.

“It’s trying to make something that was such a peculiar shape that it’s almost pointless, in the best possible way. It’s not a short film, it’s not a feature film, it’s this weird unmarketable non-commercial product that’s just a piece of art. And that’s what I like about it.

“The initial inspiration was also the idea of how people listen to albums now that they don’t sit down and listen to an album as one experience and take it in, so to create a fully immersive album and that is as much in the writing process of the album as it is in the film as well. There’s this quote from W.D. Collingwood which is that ‘Art is Dead, and amusement is all that’s left’ and he wrote that quote like 100 years ago, so if you made that quote now it’d probably have more weight than ever."


The film, ‘The First Days of Spring’ is available with the album, but characteristically ambitious, Charlie has bigger plans for his debut film:

“I’m doing a tour, because for me, it really belongs in a cinema, that’s really it’s home because that’s the real purpose of it so I’m going and I’m taking the film to different cinema’s around England and screening it and doing a Q&A with it. I’m doing Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield, London and maybe Brighton.”

Whilst Charlie’s development and maturation is something exposed on the new album, Noah and The Whale’s very foundations are also undergoing big changes:

“We’re introducing a new line up because bizarrely, Doug, who plays drums, is becoming a doctor and so we’ve got a new drummer in and we’re bringing in a 5th member to play extra keys and guitar. So we’re trying to get them up to speed for touring in September but we’re doing a few more shows with Doug as well. We’re kind of just remoulding the live thing really”

Having done ‘the live thing’ throughout the Summer and Reading and Leeds still to come, the band look set to transform into a sort of musical collection of gypsies as the first days of Autumn encroach:

“We’re basically going on tour forever, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m packing up and moving out of everywhere I live in London. I’m moving out of here (studio) and my home and going to kind of just have a couple of bags of stuff and just enjoy the road and just travel when I can in between touring. It’s really going to be a great feeling I think.”

And fans of the band can expect a set list throughout their touring that truly embodies Noah and The Whale:

“I very much try and do things by instinct, whatever feels right, and so I think we’ll just play the set that sounds best to us which will incorporate a bit of both and maybe some stuff that’s even newer than the new record.”


Whilst, when most of us feel as if someone has torched the space between our lungs, we turn to a box of red wine, Eastender’s Heather Trott’s freezer drawer of ice cream and a lot of self-destructive behaviour, the others count to ten, compose themselves and use it to their advantage. Thankfully Charlie Fink was one of the latter. Defining the album/film combo as one of his proudest achievements: “The thing is when I first kind of envisaged this project, it seemed like such a vast and unassailable task to get it made and the process of actually completing it is very satisfying, regardless of whatever happens to it.” it’s clear that, despite early heartbreak, this year, and the future, has very exciting prospects for Noah and The Whale.

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