Interview with Charlie Fink of Noah And The Whale: Go Majestic

Promising London-based indie folk purveyors, Noah And The Whale, led by composing guitarist Charlie Fink, deliver fragile romanticism to love-starved minions. Alongside Rain Machine (the solo premier from TV On The Radio’s lead voice, Kyp Malone), Noah’s Whale shows goodly restraint rendering their lovelorn retreats for the terminally pained.

For well-regarded ’08 debut, Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down, Fink’s Whale offered oblique tenderhearted sentimentality merging twee-pop charm with low key anti-folk sensitivity. Whimsical hand-clapped whistle-bound ukelele-based affectation, “5 Years Time,” briskly strummed Mexicali-horned anodyne, “Shape Of My Heart,” casual Sufjan Stevens/ Pedro The Lion knockoff, “2 Atoms In A Molecule,” fey music box tranquilizer, “Second Lover” (duping Jonathan Richman’s nerdy insecurities), and hastening Neutral Milk Hotel-like sing-along, “Jocasta,” reached aboveground audiences abruptly. They got to headline Manhattan’s respected Bowery Ballroom and Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg to great fanfare.

Dropping any cognizant twee tendencies for more pastoral settings, ‘09’s serenely pristine The First Days Of Spring intimately narrates a wondrously melancholic seasonal love cycle. Besides its poignant titular opener there’s gingerly neo-orchestral serenade “Our Window,” despair-clad urge “I Have Nothing,” and lonesome halcyon gusher “My Broken Heart.” Romantic relief finally comes midway through with “Love Of An Orchestra,” where classically-trained choir, the Exmoor Singers, alleviate the pain and increase optimism by uploading church-worthy harmonies into a rousing devotional anthem. Though highly accomplished and truly ambitious, it takes a few listens to fully appreciate The First Days Of Spring’s ethereal subtleties, but the experience ultimately proves rewarding.

Though Fink has no permanent residence (“doing the nomadic thing at the moment”), he dreams of life in the rural countryside, bluntly stating, “My songs are not set in the city. Maybe that’s part of why they sound like they do.”

How would you compare this album to your debut?

It’s difficult to say. It’s different in many ways. For me, it’s just a gradual process. The changes that happen, happen slowly, bit by bit. People who’ve heard the records back to back say it sounds like a different band—almost. But I think the seeds from the new record were sown on the first record.

What initially inspired you to pursue music as a vocation?

The first stuff I listened to was my mother’s Buddy Holly, Beach Boys, and Bob Dylan records—a mixture of classic pop with folk. My initial passion for music probably came through her. It has always meant something to me. So I started playing and writing—it was a natural thing.

You’ve brought up Dylan, who may be a great literary source. Did you learn compositional structure in school?

No. Not at all. When I first started writing music, I was 14. More than anything, I was interested in melody. I used to go to a CD store where I used to live and they’d sell packs of 10 CDs for five pounds. There were bands you never heard of that the store was trying to get rid of. I’d buy them, look over the lyric book and write their lyrics to music without hearing the songs. Later, I got interested in the lyrical work. But it was never taught to me. I just naturally got interested in that. I guess Dylan is the lyricist I appreciate most. Also, poets and films.