With the onslaught of great bands coming out of the UK in the past few years, it safe to say that Noah & the Whale
has made their mark as one of the best. On their debut album, Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down
we got a first taste of their emotion driven rock, fronted by the deep vocals of lead singer Charlie Fink
and backed by a great band of young musicians, including Tom Hobden
, Urby Whale
and Doug Fink
. We recently had a chance to hop on the phone with the band's drummer, Doug, to discuss the band's future prospects, including an interesting upcoming tour along with a sophomore album nearing completion. We also talked a little bit about the amazingly talented Laura Marling
and the band's benevolent charity work. Take a look. -Greg Lozoff
Baeble: Firstly, your band name is quite unique. I've heard that it has something to do with the film The Squid and the Whale. could you tell me a little bit about your band name came to be?
Doug Fink: Yeah, It does indeed. Originally, it was the Squid and the Whale
by Noah Baumbach. Take the full name of the director and the tail end of the film and then you have it. It's also a reference to the fact that cinema is a source of influence for us.
Baeble: Your upcoming tour is called Club Silencio. I've heard that it's going to be a different sort of tour. Could you tell me the concept behind it?
Doug: Yeah, well I guess it's not totally original. I think people have been re-imagining live gigs for so long now, but the idea is to basically combine cinema with the music. So you get the kind of theme of Mullholland Drive's Club Silencio, which pretentiously [laughs] is somewhere to deal with reality and illusion and whether something is actually happening or whether you're basically imagining it. So the idea is that the whole evening will run as a complete program, sort of in an old fashioned way. There will literally be a program. There will also be a compare; a virtual compare, that will be projected on an enormous screen at the back of the stage. And the idea is basically that we show some short films that we've selected. There will be footage that we've made ourselves and then there's the support act, and there will be some footage while he plays, and then there will be some more material and then we come on, and then again there's some more material there. Yeah I guess it's not really totally ground breaking but we put some thought into it and we're quite excited to see how it turns out.
Baeble: Well it sounds really interesting. Are you going to be playing mostly songs off of your first album Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, or will you be playing new songs specifically for the tour?
Doug: It's definitely going to be a good balance of things. I mean, I don't really know where this is leading towards. I mean we played in Brooklyn last week and we kind of made the decision to play more or less all new material. We were in New York to mix the second record. So yeah, I think the set is quite exciting. Well obviously it's developing so it's hard to know what works live without actually playing it live. And added to that is the need to combine it with the visuals. We think we've got the set well worked out so it's going to be a nice balance between the two I think.
Baeble: I hear you are playing Italy this summer
Doug: [cutting in] The rumors are true.
Baeble: [laughs] Is this going to be your first time playing there?
Doug: Yeah, first time in Italy. We basically got offered to do this string of four dates. And as far as we can gather, if you do those four dates you've done the length of Italy [laughs]. So that was the plan. I mean we like Europe a lot. Italy being one of our favorite places so it's a great excuse to go have a few days there, but yeah it should be good fun.
Baeble: Are you at all nervous or are you more excited to find out how the Italian audiences will react to your music?
Doug: Oh it's exciting! I think as long as you entice people to express an opinion, either way it's exciting. I think the bottom line is you have to feel like your doing a good show. And usually between the four of us we can agree that the set is going to work and then afterwards we're happy with our performances and then you know, it's all good really. It's just exciting to play to new people. It's one of the great thrills actuallyof live music.
Baeble: You guys seem to be a big fan of the cover. When I saw you play in New York City not too long ago you did a cover of the Smiths' Girlfriend in a Coma, and I just saw the other day that you have a cover of Daniel Johnston's Devil Town on your Myspace page. Are there any covers that the band is working on for the upcoming tour?
Doug: That's a good question. Actually no [laughs]. Not at this point. No cover material actually due for the tour. Like I said we're being slightly more prescriptive with our set than we would normally be. By the nature of the multimedia aspects you have to know what you're going to do, for the ease of the whole engineering of it. So no, not for this tour. But it's always great to do cover versions, like just explore songs and kind ofwell you know it's nice to play the music that's influenced you.
Baeble: So you told me you're working on a new album, could you tell me about it? Is it going to be along the same lines as Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down or will this album go in different direction?
Doug: For three weeks in January we recorded it. We mixed it last week in New York with a fine gentleman called Henry Dobbins, who's the producer and engineer on it. And yeah we're really excited about it. I mean, it's definitely still us, and it hasn't really changed enormously, but it's definitely more electric than the first record. Just really I guess a tip of the hat to some of the music that we've been listening to since we've recorded the first record. And maybe it's slightly more experimental certainly with sounds anyway, and it's slightly less precious. Like before we went to the studio we had time to really think about the sounds we wanted. And, you know, Charlie's lyrics are recognizably Charlie's lyrics. We'd never call it a concept album. It just doesn't feel like that at all but the way the story runs kind of, well it is a narrative I suppose, or a thread that connects all the songs and I think that's basically about the disillusion of a relationship. And then the other big plan for the record is Charlie's making a film for it. So there'll be a...well I guess you could call it a feature length music video that will run for the whole length of the album, so the album is effectively the soundtrack for the movie. So that's exciting too, and that's going to be filmed in April.
Baeble: Did you choose a title for that yet?
Doug: At the moment it's probably going to be called First Days of Spring
. Even though it's coming out in, well summer here and probably September in the US. So it might be a bit incongruous, but yeah First Days of Spring
it looks like.
Baeble: We here at Baeble are big fans of Laura Marling. Will she be again providing backup vocals on the new record?
Doug: No. I think Charlie made the decision basically to have no female vocals on it really, no backing vocals. It's kind of just where the sound is. I mean I wouldn't necessarily rule out future collaborations, but they're both young songwriters so you know, Charlie produced her first record, and Laura sings on every track on our first record so I think it makes sense then to kind of move apart, in terms of recording. But she is actually in the process of sort of demoing her new stuff and it sounds pretty cool.
Baeble: Is it true that Charlie is also designing a T-shirt for the Yellow Bird Project?
Doug: [laughs] Yeah, I mean we all are. It's a bit of a group effort. Yeah it's going to happen. We keep coming up with an idea and then someone says no I don't like that idea, so we haven't settled on something final yet. But it's a really great idea.
Baeble: How important is it for you guys to be involved in charity organizations like Yellow Bird?
Doug: I think it's really important. We would give charity as individuals regardless of being in a band, but I think whatever walk of life you come from there is social responsibility. I think if you can exercise that purely through your bank account that's fine, but if you can use yourwhatever credibility (you may have) as well I think that counts. I mean, we definitely don't do as much as we'd like to do. But I mean, over Christmas we were doing demos for our first record and then we got some extra time so over the course of about 24 hours we did another album. We were just having some fun, and we call it our punk album [laughs]. It's really just us doing some covers and some of our originals and we just called it the A-Sides. And then with Young and Lost Club (Records) we put that out over Christmas and did a gig, and all the profits from that went to a charity called Age Concern
in the UK, which is basically for the elderly and disadvantaged people. So yeah I think it is important to have social responsibility wherever you come from really.
Baeble: We'll that's nice to hear that you guys did that.
Doug: Yeah you should check out the A-Sides, it's good fun. There's some tracks on the Myspace page.
Baeble: I definitely will. As a big Noah & the Whale fan I'd like to hear anything you guys put out. Finally, do you have any plans to play at any of the big Summer Festivals this year?
Doug: We are indeed. In the US we're doing Coachella, which is going to be really great. And then we're doing our tour off the back of that, that's in April, so it isn't really Summer, but it will feel like Summer for us. And then I think we're due to do Lollapalooza as well in the US, but I don't know if that's been all confirmed yet. And in the UK and Europe we'll do the usual round of festivals which should be good fun, it's always good fun.
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Noah and the Whale on Myspace