Ahead of their gig at Portsmouth Guildhall on Sunday, Noah and the Whale frontman Charlie Fink talks to JODIE JEYNES about his top-selling album, Last Night On Earth, and why it has been such a success.
Five years since Noah and the Whale’s ﬁrst hit, the indie folk band are touring their most successful album to date.
Last Night On Earth was one of the biggest-selling records of 2011. But frontman Charlie Fink says he didn’t imagine this situation when he penned 5 Years Time half a decade ago.
The 25-year-old from Islington explains: ‘I have very speciﬁc ambitions creatively and when it comes to short term, individual projects, but I very rarely think further than that.’
Noah and the Whale formed in 2006 and their ﬁrst album, Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, featured the vocal talents of Laura Marling, who later left the band (and her relationship with Charlie) and built a Brit and NME award-winning solo career.
Their second album, First Days of Spring, was a sorrowful ode to Laura and Charlie’s break-up. While last year’s release saw them return to upbeat tunes and life- affirming lyrics. The joyous energy of Last Night On Earth, which spawned hits like L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. and Tonight’s The Kind of Night, lies at the heart of its broad appeal.
As well as achieving platinum sales, the record was among the Top 30 biggest selling albums of 2011 in the UK. Only Coldplay, Mumford & Sons and Elbow sold more, in terms of UK guitar bands. While Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian and The Vaccines all feature below Noah and the Whale in the end-of-year chart.
The album is continuing to sell well as the band continues to tour it, a year after release.
They hit the road again last Saturday for a set of dates that includes Portsmouth Guildhall this weekend and the Royal Albert Hall in April.
The band’s recent success has also coincided with a period of stability for Noah and the Whale, who are now enjoying their longest stint in the same line-up.
Says Charlie (pictured second from right): ‘We’ve been ﬁve since last January.
‘It’s funny given that we’ve been a band for nearly six years. It seems strange that one year is the longest we’ve gone without someone leaving. I always tell people it’s like being on a tour of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, being in Noah and the Whale. People drop off all the time!’
But the last year has given the band a chance to develop their relationship further than they have been able to before.
‘You build an instinct, something vaguely telepathic between the band. You know how to read each other,’ Charlie explains.
While enjoying his band’s success, he’s also very happy to follow the achievements of his former bandmates, Laura Marling and Emmy The Great.
Charlie says: ‘It’s really exciting watching their careers. And it gives me great pride.’
He produced Laura’s Mercury-nominated debut solo album, Alas, I Cannot Swim, and he is working on production with hotly tipped Blackpool-born Rae Morris (‘she’s opening some of the tour, but not the Portsmouth show, and she’s really good’) and singer/actress Charlotte Gainsbourg (‘I’m a big fan of hers, so I was very honoured to work with her’). He is also working on the next Noah and the Whale record. Charlie says: ‘We plan to write it over the next two months and release it hopefully at the beginning of next year.’
But the frontman says he can’t explain anything about the new album other than to say how excited he is about it.
‘I have a natural self-deprecating humour , so I ﬁnd it very hard to talk about things and make them sound appealing,’ he says.
‘I’d rather let people hear it and decide for themselves.’
Beyond a fourth album, Charlie has no other plans. ‘At the moment the main focus is the record. It’s taking up most of my time when I’m not in the cinema,’ explains the singer-songwriter who is also a ﬁlmmaker and released a companion ﬁlm of the same name with the second album, First Days of Spring. The band even took their name from one of their favourite ﬁlms (The Squid and the Whale) and its director (Noah Baumbach).
Charlie admits he spends more time watching ﬁlms than bands. As we speak, he’s off to his local cinema. But he’s not going to see some highbrow art house ﬁlm...
‘I’m on my way to see Project X,’ says Charlie. It’s hard to imagine what this latest teen comedy will provide in the way of inspiration for Charlie’s own ﬁlm projects.
‘I’ve got a few things I’m working on,’ he reveals. ‘There’s a great Woody Allen quote where he says that, given the choice between fantasy/creativity and reality, he’d choose fantasy, but he has to come back to reality for meals.
‘“I hate reality but it’s the only place to go for a good steak.”
‘I’m like that. I try to occupy myself with creative pursuits, but I come back to reality for a meal occasionally.’
Where & when
Noah and the Whale come to Portsmouth Guildhall from 7.30pm on Sunday. Tickets cost £19.50 to £34.50 from portsmouthguildhall.org.uk or (023) 9282 4355.
They also appear on the Main Stage at the Isle of Wight Festival on Friday, June 22. See isleofwightfestival.com
Did you know?
Bass player Matt ‘Urby Whale’ Owens was a child actor and appeared in a ﬁlm called The Return Of The Native with Catherine Zeta Jones and Clive Owen.
..how the band found their sound
It was a combination of what we were listening to and the limitations of what we could do. I could only carry an acoustic guitar, so I ended up playing music on an acoustic guitar, simple as that.
...Emmy The Great being the support in Portsmouth
Emmy’s one of my good pals and it’s always good to tour with your friends.
...the last ﬁlm he saw that he loved
I only saw Cinema Paradiso for the ﬁrst time recently. That’s an absolutely beautiful ﬁlm.
...Barack Obama revealing he’s a fan of the band
That was incredible, surreal and very exciting, very ﬂattering.
...the Waters Sisters, who provided gospel vocals for the album
One of the sisters came in and asked for a latte with six sugars! She downed that, went in and gave the best vocal take I’ve ever heard.