Zoe likes beeps.
Sophie likes strums.
They both like the Decemberists.
Two best friends on a mission to make the world a better place for music.


Noah and the Whale Interview

I knew I would love British band Noah and the Whale from the very first verse of the first song on their new album, Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, which was just released in August. Their catchy folk-pop is exactly what I love, and lyrics like:

"Last night, I had a dream
We were inseparably entwined
Like a piece of rope made out of two pieces of vine
Held together, holding each other
With no one else in mind
Like two atoms in a molecule
Inseparably combined"

make the lyrically obsessed fangirl inside me nearly cry with happiness. Noah and the Whale are a fun and clever band with unmeasurable potential. I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys love, The Lucksmiths, color coordinated outfits and/or joy. I was able to have a brief phone interview with Noah and the Whale's Charlie Fink yesterday thanks to my new amazing friends at WBRS (thank you so much to Andrea Fineman)!

Noah and the Whale's US tour starts next week, I advise you to check it out.


In several interviews with you that I’ve read, you seem to take offense to being labeled as twee. Do see twee is a negative term?

I do think it can be a detrimental term, I don’t think it has to be, and if that’s something you aspire to then maybe it’s not. I just don’t think it’s true [about our music] and in terms of what we are trying to do perhaps it does slightly undermine it. In England now that comes up less and less and I think people have got their heads around it now just about.

What is your songwriting process like?

Usually I write the songs and then I bring them in and sort of when I bring it into the studio is when it comes out, and kind of evolves, you know? So it’s a staggered process perhaps.

So is the songwriting mainly your responsibility or do you start with an idea and then the rest of the band helps out?

No, it’ll come in fully formed, but it will develop.

How did you get involved with the Take Away Shows?

I’m not really sure actually. We sort of bizarrely met them for the first time at South by Southwest, and they did some filming around us, which I’m not sure has come out yet. Then they sort of invited us to come to Paris and do some filming while we were out there. It’s amazing, we just think that they are like, the best thing. It’s incredible the films they make, we love it.

How did you feel about that experience?

It was honestly one of the most fun experiences of my life, doing that filming, it was great.

I noticed your take away show was a lot longer than many others I have seen, which was cool.

Yeah, they told us we’re the only band they have ever filmed twice, which was pretty exciting.

On one of your takeaway shows there is a brief clip of you playing the song Black Cab by Jens Lekman. What do you like about his music? Is Jens an influential songwriter for you?

Yeah, definitely, I think when I first started writing out the songs we were going to play he was a big influence. I think that album [Oh You’re So Silent Jens] is just a phenomenal album. I could tell you specifically what I like about it… his lyrics remind me of Jonathan Richman, they both can be quite funny and poignant at the same time.

Obviously when you do things like the Take Away Shows, it’s in a very intimate setting, and it seems you work well as a band in that setting… but do you prefer playing shows like that or do you more enjoy the festival-type experience of larger shows?

I personally prefer the more intimate shows. But obviously it’s just a different thing, right now in England we’re starting to get dragged out to play for bigger crowds or whatever. I saw Bonnie “Prince” Billy play at a 3,000 capacity venue in London and he manages to make that venue feel like he’s playing to 300 people. I think everything is what you make of it. I think it’s more in how you approach it. I think honestly there are some challenges to playing both, they have different limitations.

Your song 5 Years Time has gotten a lot of airplay and popularity in the UK, but in the US most people still haven’t heard of you… this seems like a common phenomenon. Do you have any ideas about why the culture in the UK is more accepting of a wider variety of music?

I wouldn’t say that in England there is a bigger acceptance of a wider variety of music… I think where we sit on the charts or the radio or whatever, the bands we sit next to aren’t really anything like us. I don’t know, I think it’s the same, I think there are some great bands that get only sparse coverage and a sparse fan base, I think it’s just like your artists, but I’m not really sure. I guess the one difference is that radio is a bit more diverse and a bit more powerful in England than in America. I think that getting on the radio here is a bigger deal.

Yeah, definitely, whereas here it’s becoming increasingly unpopular to listen to the radio.

Yeah, and from what I understand it’s only a small selection of bands that get played on the radio [in America].

What artist would you love to play a show with? Why?

Uh, tough one. I mean obviously Bonnie “Prince” Billy would be good, wow, that’d be unbelievable, quite tough though, I mean if they didn’t like you, what would you do? Maybe if we could get Neutral Milk Hotel to reform and play a gig…

What is the favorite show of the ones you’ve played so far?

Some of the festivals this summer have been really special. I think for me one of the best gigs I’ve ever done was this gig we played in London at this venue called Bush Hall, which is only 300 capacity, and at the time we’d never brought in a big crowd, just for us, you know? And it was almost Christmas, and it was just amazing, it was just really special, you know like seeing your music connect with people for the first time, properly, that was a very special gig.

What kind of music did you grow up listening to? How did you get into playing music?

Well I guess my mom used to play a mixture in the car, between pop and folk, so it would be like Buddy Holly, The Beach Boys and Dylan. I think when you take them out it’s like the instant hook of the melodies of The Beach Boys and Buddy Holly, and the rhythm when you are a kid. And I think that Dylan has the melodies that even when you are a kid you can appreciate, but honestly, the lyrics didn’t really have the same effect back then. But I think from that came some kind of like accessible rhythm and melody that is in our music

What direction are you going to go in for your second album (musically)? Will it be a departure from the style of the first?

It’s pretty different; I mean it’s hard to tell now. I mean the funny thing is when bands go in a different direction often the songs aren’t that different, the melodies aren’t that different, they’re just playing around with soundboard or whatever. The funny thing about Dylan going electric is that a lot of it was just his acoustic songs readapted, like Baby Let Me Follow You Down and stuff like that. So I think we did play around with sounds we haven’t used yet, and the lyrics are a lot more personal, the first album is quite broad. It doesn’t feel unnatural, and it feels like a pretty straightforward move for us, but it’s definitely different.

Ok, well thank you so much, I’ll see you at your show in Boston!

Brilliant, looking forward to it.

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