Noah And The Whale make reference to the film The Squid & The Whale and its director Noah Baumbach. How does your band’s moniker tie into your muse?
(laughter) I think it was just a film I liked and as a band the name was cool to put together—a nice collection of words. It kind of suited what we did—more in the past —that mood and the ring of it.
Spring concerns breaking up and, perhaps, peaceful resolve. Will your next full-length endeavor be thematic?
Definitely. I’m always trying to capture something about my life at the time of writing. So I guess the next album will probably be reflective of the next period of time. The one thing I don’t want to write about is being on tour. I’ve got a few songs done for the next album —different material.
I see your music as being neo-classical folk in the guise of indie rock.
The band did start as a folk trio with me playing acoustic and my brother on stripped down drums with Tom Hobden on violin. We made fairly simple folk songs. As we progressed and wanted to do other things, we kept the violin and some of the instrumentation, which gives it something unique. Because it had those foundations, whichever way it went, it was always gonna have something different about it.
You use the four seasons to narrate a relationship that spirals down then swerves to upwardly uplifting. Where’d that come from?
The one thing I reference during it is English poet T.S. Eliot. He has a poem called The Wasteland. ‘April is the cruelest month breeding lilacs out of the dead land / mixing memory and desire.’ Spring is the season of new hope, but also, if you come into it with a melancholy mind, it could be painful instead.
Are you familiar with Tindersticks work? They revel in comparable soft-focus acoustic settings.
I never really listened to Tindersticks, but you’re not the first person to make that comparison. Their stuff I’ve heard I really liked. But it wasn’t an influence. I’m investigating them more now.
You’ve also done production work for part-time Whale singer Laura Marling’s Alas I Cannot Swim. Have you produced anyone else?
I’ve done a few English artists and I also produced our new record. I’m looking to hook up a few projects for next year. There’s one guy—I’m not sure what he’s calling himself. A bunch of things. So far I’ve only done solo artists. I want to do bands as well.
Tell me about the film that coincides with Spring. Did you do the camera work and editing?
I wrote and directed. I had a small team of people working with me. It’s a companion piece for the record. It’s a complementary, different narrative from the one on the album. It’s not the same. It’s not like R. Kelly’s music. There’ll be a Q & A film screening the day before as well in New York at a piano bar.
What contemporary artists inspire you the most?
I don’t know how much these influences come across on the record, but I’ve been listening to Talk Talk’s Spirit Of Eden, Nick Cave’s Boatman’s Call, and Wilco. Classical artists like Franz Liszt and Dmitri Shostakovitz are inspirational.
Will future arrangements instrumentally expand outward or be given less ornate settings?
I always like the idea that songs could evolve and change. The recording isn’t the full stop. We always try to interpret songs differently live. I don’t necessarily stick to the arrangements we’ve got. At the moment, they’re transforming into heavier guitars playing string lines. I like doing them stripped down as well—like ‘Blue Skies.’ There’s no one set way. We’ve never done two consecutive tours where we sounded like the same band. With this project, the entire focus was on thematic songs. I was basically trying to write a 45-minute setting rather than 10 songs, five minutes each. I tried to do an album that proved the whole is greater than the parts. A lot of albums now are more about the individual songs —which isn’t a bad thing. But I wanted to unify these songs.
Check out Noah And The Whale at Mercury Lounge Nov. 2, 3, and 4. noahandthewhale.com.