Had a chat with Charlie Fink from Noah and the Whale about inspirations, Talking Heads, ukuleles, happy accidents and their new album Heart Of Nowhere…
Boar Music: I first caught you in 2008, playing at V Festival, and I remember two things in particular: ukelele difficulties and being bowled over that you were already playing to a tent that was packed-to-breaking point. The first and clearly most important question, then: does the ukelele sneak an appearance in Heart Of Nowhere?
Charlie Fink: Hey. That ukulele was always a difficult beast to tame live. Heart of Nowhere is ukulele-free, but this only allows for something new to take its place. No one was expecting uke in 2008 and no-one is probably waiting around for baritone guitar in 2013. But maybe they should be.
BM: To be releasing your fourth album in five years is pretty impressive. How do you maintain such a work-ethic, particularly in terms of how you manage your creativity?
CF: I think once you write and record an album, taking it out on the road can often develop the ideas you might have had since the studio, and further the band’s sound. It’s good to take a break from writing; to throw yourself into something else (normally playing) after what’s always an intense period. Coming back to writing with a fresh perspective and new influences can stop you repeating yourself and keeps you out your comfort zone.
For this record, we had several writing sessions initially that were just largely experimenting and seeking the sound and direction of the new material. Once this is discovered, often songs come much easier. These songs were developed over a number of sessions over nine months – between gigs and festivals – until we were ready.
BM: The first single from the album – ‘There Will Come A Time’ – feels like a fairly natural development from the Last Night On Earth. Given that, with each album up until now, you’ve made some pretty big stylistic and sonic developments, is there a change of pace here to maintain more of a continuity or sense of culmination with the new album? Or is ‘There Will Come A Time’ more of a helpful touchstone/bridge-point to different climes?
CF: With this record there was very much as sense of uniting the first three records while at the same time bringing something new to the table. In fairness, ‘There Will Come A Time’ is, sonically, the closest link between Heart Of Nowhere and its predecessor, but we also wanted to bring a continuity to our sound while referencing aspects of what had gone before, and incorporate the live sound of the band that had been benefitting from extensive gigging.
BM: The new video for ‘There Will Come A Time’ is an exciting piece of work. Working alongside that your Twitter-feed has been teasing a number of influences and intrigues – from floor-plans to ‘Burning Down The House’. (Thank you in particular for bringing that back into my life the other day.) Evidently, from the various projects surrounding the album, the “Teenland” narrative is a very significant aspect, but is that the lens through which the album has been written through as well? In other words, is Heart Of Nowhere a “concept” album? Is the context pretty important to the record, or do you feel each aspect stands alone quite well?
CF: Talking Heads should be in everyone’s day-to-day. Heart Of Nowhere has a set of themes and a mood, which allows it to stand up on its own, as we’d hope do all our records. The fact that these themes can be further explored by the film as a companion piece is great, but in essence, each medium should stand up by itself. Cross referencing and medium-hopping works best when both stand up on their own feet.
BM: Have you been working on bringing that particular atmosphere of the album to your live-show, or do you prefer to keep things more simple, and let the music speak for itself?
CF: Initially, we will screen the film at our shows, and then faithfully recreate the album with a string quartet, so you receive the best of both worlds.
BM: I see you’re playing the Hay Festival with Thumpers; a band which actually features a former bandmate of yours – Jack Hamson. Was that a conscious choice of support, or a happy accident?
CF: That was a very happy accident. We’re looking forward to seeing them play.
BM: On the note of Thumpers, are there any other newer bands that have caught your attention of late?
CF: We’re all huge fans of the Canadian band Bahamas, who are surely set to be the biggest band in the world very imminently.
BM: It’ll have been just under a year since you headlined the Warwick Uni Summer Party when you return to campus on May 4th. How was that show for you: were the audience up to scratch, or do you reckon that the Warwick students attending your next show could step it up a notch?
CF: We had an excellent time at Warwick Uni Summer Party and the crowd were exceptional. I’m sure this year they can raise their game even higher…