Noah and the Whale ::: Photo by Josh
When Noah and the Whale made their first tour swing through the states, we had to sit down with them. For over a year they’ve been building a home following in Britain, tirelessly touring to ever larger audiences and releasing and re-releasing a single “Five Years Time,” which is just now making it to the states in a car commercial (discussed below). Following the release of their first full-length Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down in September, they immediately hit the States. We had the pleasure of catching up with them after sound check before their September 29, Chop Suey show.
Josh (SOTS): Do you feel a bit of an odd duck in the British popular music scene?
Doug Fink (NOAH): Oh yeah.
Charlie Fink (NOAH): To be honest, you know it’s so far removed, that you don’t necessarily feel apart of it. It’s only when you watch, like when they show the rundown of the top twenty videos, and they’ve got all these polished video’s of dancing, and then you’ve got our Super-8 kind of stuff.
(Matt) Urby (NOAH): We don’t know what it’s like to be in a band like a girl-band or a boy-band you know. You just do it how you do it, and that’s what you know.
Josh: Do you guys consider yourselves a pop band? I’ve heard the term anti-folk thrown around but I don’t even know what that means.
Doug: I think it’s all pop. I think if you’re in the charts, your pop.
Charlie: It’s pop, but it’s a new kind of pop. It’s like in the same way that Daniel Johnston is pop. Or Jonathan Rickman is pop.
Urby: It depends on what setting it’s in. You say on the charts and stuff, and ah… But live I don’t think of us as a relfex as a pop band. You kind of go out there and just go for it. When I think of pop, I think of a kind of sheen…
Charlie: It does have a kind of melodies and rhythms… so definitely
Josh: But do you think there’s an evolving idea of what pop is. Versus what the Beatles were…
Urby: In Pop music you’ve always needed melodies, and stuff that people can sing along to and get stuck in people’s heads. But everyone from Neil Young has said you can’t never underestimate a melody. Whether you’re looking at stuff like Nirvana, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, the Beach Boys, going all the way back. It’s all stuff that people can sing.
Doug: I think what’s changed the most about it is the technology in some ways. And that does dramatically change the sound of what popular music is. Cause the way we records is say similar say to what the Beach Boys or Beatles even. Just the nature of the sounds that we like. Whereas if you are a pop band now, you use a certain branch of technology that gives it this sheen. And that is actually a major difference. The recording process is what has changed it the most. Now everyone can access it and make changes ad infinitum.
Abbey (SOTS): Most American’s have been introduced to you through the Saturn commercial. How did that come about?
Charlie: I think we just got a phone call, saying do you want to do this commercial. Initially we were not so sure. I don’t know. I think… since taking it it’s been a real opportunity for us.
Doug: In the U.K. we haven’t done any adverts but we have managed to put ourselves on the map. and I think one of the biggest players in that is the radio. Cause you have National Radio Club where you can broadcast out to millions of people every day. But there isn’t really an equivalent for our kind of music in the states. And I think for us, the most important part of the advert was ability to open up another market, with another audience. Expose more people and putting it out there.
Charlie: It’s interesting how you phrase that question.
Abbey: I heard the album then realized I’d heard it before. My first thought was “What are the Magnetic Fields doing a car commercial for?” That’s very strange to me.
Charlie: It’s also amazing when you come over here, being in hotel rooms, flipping on the TV, and the artists that do do commercials here. Like David Johnston, Interpol had one…
Urby: The other thing is though, we’ve been on the road for two and a bit weeks now, and the tour’s been phenomenal because people have come. And if people have come to see our live show, and get the album, which are the two things that we feel really represent us, and they got to that, by the medium of just hearing it [in the commercial], that’s great.
Charlie: Funny enough, we’ve actually met a lot of people after the gigs and stuff… there’s this French website that we did the Take Away Shows with, and a lot of people have heard of us from there.
Abbey: So are you guys done with 9-5 jobs for now?
Urby: Yeah… I’m glad to say
Doug: Although to be honest now our job is like 8-2. 8 in the morning until to 2 in the morning.
Abbey: What did you guys used to do as day jobs before this?
Urby: Tried not to think about it.
Charlie: I used to drive a van, delivering blood samples and urine samples.
Urby: He was a professional piss-taker. (Everyone laughs.)
Charlie: For driving around listening to music all day it was pretty good.
Urby: He took a chance on flesh. (Everyone laughs again.)
Charlie: You’re really bleeding that one dry now aren’t you… (Doug is losing his chair he’s laughing so hard.)
Noah and the Whale have just announced another North American tour for December and they’re coming back to Chop Suey once again on the 16th of that month. Complete tour details are below the fold.