The lowdown on their new film/album release

Noah and the Whale are set to release their ambitious second album and film, both titled 'The First Days Of Spring' on 31st August. ClashMusic got out the dialing wand to speak to Noah frontman, and director of the film, Charlie Fink to get the lowdown on the project.

Read ClashMusic's review of 'The First Days Of Spring' HERE.

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We began by asking about the inspiration behind the project and the quantum leap since their well received but modest debut album, 'Peaceful The World Lays Me Down'.

It’s a big step forward from previous material, was that a conscious decision or just where the band were?

It’s one of those things, I mean it was conscious but also one of a million little steps, a million little influences but yeah…

In any way was it a reaction that notion of 2nd difficult album syndrome?

Yeah, to be honest, it came very quickly and easily this record. Well, not easily, it was quite a hard process writing it but it came very quickly. I think with writing in any art or whatever, you have to be patient cause sometimes there’s a big gap where there’s nothing coming and there nothing happened in your life or whatever. Sometimes you get lucky, well lucky’s the wrong word I guess it just kinda came all ready to go.

Looking at the film and album relationship, do you consider it the album full Noah and the Whale release or just a soundtrack to the film?

No, no, not at all. It’s very much an album as anything else we’ve done, even more so. My only concern with doing this film, and there were a lot of reasons why I wanted to do it, but my only fear was, I didn’t want to interfere with people’s relationships with the album ‘cause I know, when I find a record that I love, the relationship you get with it is important and so I do want people to be able to listen to the album as just the record, and the album as part of the film, and then the film as it’s own separate thing as well. It’s totally free for people to just digest it how they like really.

Did the film come first with the album prompted by a need for a soundtrack?

It was first conceived as an idea; to make a film where the backbone and the pace was defined by a record and then the ideas for the stories both came after that and, I guess, the music came first before any real structure was put to the film because it’s very controlling over what you can do with the film obviously. Then at the same time trying to write them, trying to keep them both in mind because obviously one very much needs to compliment the other.

Is it true to say that the film is your project? What was the rest of the band’s relationship to the film?

To be honest they just let me go off and do it. They knew I was doing it and were happy to let it be my project and the first thing they really knew anything about it was when they saw it. They didn’t know what it was about or what it was going to be. They just let me go off and do it.

The dual film and album creative process, were there any precedents you were following?

No, not really. I don’t think there’s really been, I’m probably wrong, but I don’t think there’s been anything exactly like this before and that was something that appealed to me. At the same time there’s other films where the relationship with the music and images is so close… It’s more that I came up with the idea and then you’d see films and think “this could really work”, where music is such a big part of film that taking it to this level could work.

There’s a couple of films, like for example ‘Grizzly Man’, the Werner Herzog film with the Richard Thompson soundtrack that really, really has such a huge impact , likewise Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack for ‘There Will Be Blood’ but the most powerful is a film called ‘Of Time And The City’ which is a documentary about Liverpool made by a filmmaker called Terence Davies and there’s no on-screen dialogue at all, there’s just his occasional narration and then music and images and you just sat there for the full hour and a half and at no point be bored. And I just thought this could work basically.

As a working musician you’ll used to putting out albums and the attendant reception and reviewing processes. As your first film release what are your hopes for ‘The First Days of Spring’?

I tell you what I really liked about this project, and it’s one of the reasons for continuing it, and it’s easy to take this film away and it’s one of those thing that people might think is pretentious or might kinda be with is, there’s this writer WG Collingwood who talks about how “art is dead and amusement is all that’s left” and I guess, in the best possible way, I kinda felt like doing this film which in a beautiful way is kind of pointless. It doesn’t exist as a commercial entity. It only exists to be this work that I really believed in and it got to the point where I couldn’t really imagine not seeing it through. It’s not a short film and it’s not a feature film it’s this weird indefinable thing that has no place anywhere and I think that’s what’s kinda special about it.

This is a pithy and absolutely pointless example but in the same way that, I don’t know if you saw the film ‘Man On Wire’ about walking a tightrope across the twin towers?, that action itself has no real value other than the pleasure of tightrope walking, what’s the pleasure in doing it? But obviously it’s also incredibly beautiful as well. That’s what I kinda mean by beautifully pointless.

You’ve been showing the film, most recently at the Belladrum festival, how has the reaction been?

I’ve only done a couple but it’s been really cool. It is a lot to ask people to trust. Firstly to trust a band who’ve made a film, obviously I think people would be kind of nervous of watch a film that a band had put together but people are coming and they’re taking it seriously and, from they say to me, enjoying it. I don’t know… it has been very satisfying. To me though, the greatest feeling I’ll get from this is finishing it, completing it and obviously there’s a very satisfying moment of seeing other people connect with it as well. As with everything you’ve got to be pleased with it and yeah, I think the feeling I got on completion of it is probably the best I’ll have.

The album existing as a very cohesive whole, what’s the plan for playing it live?

The old songs have been given some wood and varnish and even this album, the songs are being interpreting differently and we’ve always thought that songs are never finished, they’re always evolving. You can play them a million different ways but, it’s not like I’m trying to dictate, I feel every album needs to be listened to as an album and the reasons why we did do this project is how people listen to albums nowadays. They don’t listen to albums all the way through, they pick at them. Even when they do listen to them, they download them and listen while surfing the internet, doing other stuff, watching tv. You really need to give an album your attention and let yourself be immersed by it and that was a large part of what we were trying to do. It’s not like that has to be the only way to listen to music but I think it s an experience you should have and that I think, for me, is one of the most satisfying things about the album is that the songs have a far greater overall value than each individual song. The songs together form something better than each song itself and so I don’t know… I think it’d be cool at some point to play the album straight in order but I’m not sure. We’ll do what ever feels right.

How will this project inform the band’s material going forward without having to consider an accompanying film. Is this the new sound or will there be a return to 3 minute pop songs?

I don’t know, I don’t ever feel I’ve got to form a defined vision of what I do, I know some bands feel they’re searching to define themselves and one album will do that and that’s not really the case. I always liked the idea of being able to try out new things. At the moment, the stuff I’m listening to is a lot of Crazy Horse, Neil Young stuff and we’re thinking about doing a heavy rock album, something like that. I always try to go with my instincts, as much as I can, so whatever feels right to me at the time is what I’ll do

Words by Nick Annan

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