Catching up with Noah and the Whale before their gig at The Wedgewood Rooms in May, I got to take a look into the story behind the band from the infamous random gang of criminals that stole their vintage band equipment in 2009, member changes later that year and their current success with their own brand of upbeat indie / folk / rock that has proved to the masses that Life for this band, does indeed go on.
Packed with band members that bring ‘film buff chic’ to their music in a way that looks natural, Noah and the Whale have won the hearts of many over the years. Most significantly with the honest emotional expression in their second album ‘First Days of Spring’ accompanied by a film portraying the break up between lead singer Charlie Fink and previous member, Laura Marling. An infamous love triangle with Mumford & Sons that needs no explanation, google shall reveal all to those not in the know.
However, Tom Hobden (fiddle) explained that the band recently decided to take a more “life-affirming” step with their music leading to the upbeat wonderment that is their current and third album recently announced as going gold, Last Night on Earth.
The most overwhelming feeling during the interview was the infectious enthusiasm of the smartly dressed musicians Tom and Matt “Urby Whale” Owens (Bass). Amusingly though, we are reminded of their normality when Urby describes his old office job as a salesman:
“I don’t miss it at all, especially driving back from Leeds after a gig at 3am and being back to work the next day.”
The band name, Noah and the Whale, was derived from an award-winning movie The Squid and the Whale and its Director, Noah Baumbach, which marks the influential importance of film for the band. They consider each song or album and its accompanying video as one entity, Tom said:
“We are all film buffs, Charlie’s been directing videos for us throughout”.
The band also talked about how distressing it was for them in 2009 when a whole trailer of vintage equipment was stolen in the car park of their hotel just prior to their US tour. Urby said:
“They actually followed us after our gig, which was quite sinister really.”
Luckily though, after 3 months of hiring and purchasing new equipment, all of the gear was returned after being found stored in a barn. Apparently, having randomly left the equipment in a farmer’s barn following the theft, the culprits later returned to steal the farm equipment instead. It was only when the farmer reported the loss of his property that the police noticed the ‘Noah’ marked boxes and returned the bands equipment un-harmed.
Noah and the Whale regard Charlie as the songwriting centre of the band but described the songwriting process as an idea that they then break down and “flesh out”. When it comes to working on an album they don’t just throw a bunch of songs at it, they plan and build a story in succession based on a specific number of tracks and work within this boundary, to which Tom said:
“Ultimately it lends to a better album because the songs have been written collectively”.
Noah and the Whale’s ability to go for an “honest delivery with no thrills and no spills” along with their indulgence in the visual arts certainly sets them apart from the rest. A quality demonstrated during their gig that evening, where the band seemed to enjoy their instruments and music like boys in a playground, an innocence and openness that makes Noah and the Whale so intriguing and refreshing.
The fantastic lighting design and screensaver type visuals on the stage projector also added to making the gig into a thrillingly enhanced emotional experience, like the sold out venue had been boxed in an alternative world. The set was a satisfying mix of new and old including the rarely played, Five Years Time. One of their most popular songs in the early days which Urby admits that they did avoid playing for a while, not only because it was being played a lot, but also because it was a difficult one to fit in with the second album and its more emotive narrative.
However the new album has opened to door to a more varied set and the night aptly ended on the favourite sing along track ‘Life Goes On’ to which the audience packed with the chilled out festival going types joined in chanting willingly:
“L. I. F. E. G. O. E. S. O.N!”
Future plans for the band are to utilise their 3 album material ammunition and tour for the next 12-18 months. They are lined up for several festivals this summer where Urby plans to “muck in” and get involved. When asked if he will be dawning a disguise when out in the open he said: “I won’t need one after the first day!”. Urby also summed up the bands thoughts towards the tour:
“We are in a very happy place on the road now.”
Having given the guys a disposable camera with the promise of its return in the provided self addressed envelope, we look forward to revealing some exclusive photos of their tour soon! So watch this space!
Photography by Hannah Mesquitta
Pictured: Tom Hobden (Fiddle) and Urby (Bass), Jennifer Le Roux (Jen the Red).