Charlie Fink (Noah and The Whale) Announces Solo Album

Charlie Fink
Image Courtesy of Charlie Fink

When we first started Timber and Steel way back when Noah and The Whale were one of a handful of nu-folk bands we wanted the world to know about. In the years since Noah and The Whale drifted away from their folk roots and eventually disbanded back in 2013.

Now Noah and The Whale lead-singer Charlie Fink has returned with the announcement of his debut solo album Cover My Tracks.

“What does 10 years of being in a touring band give you permission to do afterwards?” Charlie Fink said of Noah and The Whale’s breakup. “If you decide you want a break from music, it’s not a great CV item. But the really scary thing was that at that moment I didn’t feel passionate about wanting to write.”

As well as being an album Cover My Tracks is also a play by the award-winning playwright David Greig, which will debut in London this June. The album is being likened to Noah and The Whale’s second (and in my opinion most outstanding) record The First Days of Spring in its delicate, yet expansive narrative.

“I think the sound of this record is the natural place I go to when I pick up a guitar,” Fink says. “The idea of simple, storytelling songs appealed to me. I feel like we could have followed up The First Days of Spring quite naturally with this record.”

Cover My Tracks is set to be released on the 2nd June and will feature string arrangements by Trey Pollard (Natalie Prass, Matthew White), backing vocals from The Staves, and the acclaimed classical guitarist Laura Snowden.

Check out the full track listing and the first single “Firecracker” below:

1. Firecracker
2. Anywhere You’re Going Is On My Way
3. I Was Born To Be A Cowboy
4. The End Of The Legendary Hearts
5. Give Me The Road
6. Orpheus Is Playing The Troubadour
7. The Howl
8. I’m Through
9. Someone Above Me Tonight
10. Here Is Where We’ll Meet
11. Firecracker Pt II

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 9th January


This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

Lachlan Bryan and Aleyce Simmonds have announced a collaborative east coast tour. Details here

– US singer-songwriter Sean Rowe covered “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”. Details here

– Melbourne alt-country band The Wild Comforts released their new album Silver City Sorrow this week and are heading out on tour. Details here

– Sydney’s Darren Cross released his new video “And The New York Rain Came Down”. Details here

The Pigs announced details of their new album The Pigs’ Home Brew: 13 Aussie Classics as well as releasing the video for the track “Devil Inside”. Details here

– Brisbane alt-folk quartet Elbury released their brand new video “Caught Out Alone”. Details here

Nova and The Experience released their new video “We Made” from their brand new EP Where We Go. Details here

– Perth singer Husband released his new video “The Money”. Details here

– US Americana singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham has announced a new album, Fear and Saturday Night. Details here

– Next week will see The Wild Wild Inner West Review hitting sydney featuring Michael Carpenter & The Cuban Heels, Amber Rae Slade, Fanny Lumsden and Chris Murphy. Details here

– Watch “Home”, the new single from young sister duo Charm of Finches. Details here

– Melbourne singer-songwriter Alanna Eileen is set to launch her new EP Absence next weekend. Details here

– Folk-blues artist Seasick Steve has announced details of his new album due this March. Details here

– Perth based singer-songwriter Joel Barker kicks off his national tour in Sydney tonight. Details here

Jim Lawrie (now without the Grizzly prefix) gave us a taste of his upcoming album EONS. Details here


“We always make a new setlist for each concert, and for festivals we usually add quite a few up-tempo tunes to fire up under the dancers”Afenginn chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“Festival shows are always a bit special- the audiences are always a bit excited because there’s been a lot of word of mouth about us, and they’ve read about us in the program. There’s always the opportunity to bring guests up on stage too, which we haven’t had much chance to do in 2014. But ultimately I think we are always a bit excited to be at a festival and that boosts the energy of the set. We’re all festival babies and ge a buzz from the babel of culture at a big gathering- the music, food, seeing people we haven’t seen in ages- meeting new ones”Stray Hens chat to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“At Illawarra this year I will be concentrating on my audio-visual presentation The Anzacs: 100 Years On. It runs for 75-80 minutes and Nerys (Evans) and I do it together. I present, she presses the buttons. There is a great deal of audience participation and even reluctant singers find themselves joining in. Was that me singing??? I think I do Anzacs twice at Illawarra and have a couple of other “concert spots” as well. Looking forward to it as usual”Ted Egan chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here

“We are really looking forward to 2015. More touring is on the cards; new songs and a new album are on the way. Plenty of gigs and good times to be had for sure”Big Erle chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here


“I had probably my most memorable NYE a few years ago in the then Duck and Shovel, at a Beatles Singalong of all things, but this year, it was a case of same venue, completely different music on offer” – bring in the New Year again with the Woodford Folk Festival, Black Market Tune and Bill Quinn here

“I was like an excited 10yo boy. Heightening the experience just behind me was an almost two year old who was in paroxysm and frissons of delight and was joining in, improve-style, during the choral bits. Wonderful. An absolutely stunning achievement” – Bill Quinn enlightens us on the Woodford Folk Festival Fire Event. Check it out here

Releases This Week

Where We GoNova and the Experience

The Wild Comforts
Silver City SorrowThe Wild Comforts

Timber and Steel Recommends – Go To This Gig

Cygnet Folk Festival


Tassie’s little festival has become a must stop for many touring folk musicians and this year’s lineup is spectacular including Afenginn, Black Market Tune, Charm of Finches, Dan and Amy, Daniel Champagne, Dear Orphans, Fred Smith, John Smith, Lucy Wise, The BordererS, The Company, The East Pointers, The Mae Trio, The Spooky Men’s Chorale, The String Contingent and many many more.

Friday 9th to Sunday 11th January – Cygnet, TAS

Gigs Next Week

Archie Roach
Saturday 10th January – The Aurora, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 11th January – The Aurora, Sydney, NSW

Black Market Tune w/ Folklore
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th – Cygnet Folk Festival, TAS
Tuesday 13th January – Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 14th January – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra, ACT
Friday 16th to Sunday 18th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Charm of Finches
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, TAS

Cygnet Folk Festival
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th January – Cygnet, TAS

Debashish Bhattacharya
Thursday 15th January – City Recital Hall Angel Place, Sydney, NSW

Illawarra Folk Festival
Thursday 15th to Sunday 18th January – Bulli, NSW

Jessica Pratt
Saturday 10th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

Joel Barker
Friday 9th January – Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney, NSW
Thursday 15th January – Bar 303, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 16th January – Smiths Alternative, Canberra, ACT

John Smith
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, Cygnet, TAS

Kim Churchill
Thursday 15th January – The Corner, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 16th January – The Abbey, Canberra, ACT

Lachlan Bryan w/ Jack Henderson, Sam York, Aleyce Simmonds
Wednesday 14th January – Lizottes, Newcastle, NSW
Thursday 15th January – Lizottes, Kincumber, NSW

Olivia Chaney
Sunday 11th January – The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney, NSW

Paper Lions
Friday 9th January – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 10th January – Transit, Canberra, ACT

Friday 16th January – Theatre Royal, Hobart, TAS

Slow Club
Thursday 15th January – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 16th January – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD

Tamar Valley Folk Festival
Friday 16th to Sunday 18th January – George Town, TAS

Tamworth Country Music Festival
Friday 16th to Sunday 25th January – Tamworth, NSW

The East Pointers w/ The Button Collective
Wednesday 14th January – Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW

The Melbourne Folk Club feat. David Francey, James Kenyon, Lucy Wise
Wednesday 14th January – Bella Union, Melbourne, VIC

The Wild Comforts
Friday 9th January – Babushka Bar, Ballarat, VIC
Saturday 10th January – The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine, VIC
Thursday 15th January – Brighton Up Bar, Sydney, NSW

The Wild Wild Inner West feat. Michael Carpenter & The Cuban Heels, Amber Rae Slade, Fanny Lumsden, Chris Murphy
Thursday 15th January – The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW

Thredbo Blues Festival
Friday 16th to Sunday 18th January – Thredbo, NSW

Tim Edey
Friday 9th and Saturday 10th January – Cygnet Folk Festival, TAS
Thursday 15th to Sunday 18th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW

Tiny Ruins
Friday 16th January – The Aurora, Sydney, NSW

Upstairs & Underground feat. Betty & Oswald, Jacob Pearson, Caitlin Harnett, Goodtimes She Wrote
Saturday 10th January – Gaelic Club, Sydney, NSW

Friday Folk Flashback

“Shape of My Heart” – Noah And The Whale

Noah and the Whale were always going to move away from their acoustic roots so much so that we haven’t covered their latest album Heart of Nowhere anywhere on Timber and Steel. But we still love the music these guys make and we’re sure you do too!

Thank Folk It’s Friday – 8th February


This Week in Folk

All the News From The Week That Was

Passenger revealed his latest new track, “Staring at the Sky”, in a live video featuring Stu Larsen and the legendary Ruby Turner. Details here

Wes Carr (or Buffalo Tales as he calls himself these days) hit the road this week for a tour of Victoria, Queensland and Northern New South Wales. Details here

– Sydney duo The Falls need your help to get to North America in March for Canadian Music Week and SXSW. Details here

– Some more details on the upcoming album from American folk-rock band Dawes have been revealed. Details here

– Award winning singer-songwriter Melody Pool will be launching her brand new album The Hurting Scene this month. Details here

– The new video from Woodpigeon, “Edinburgh”, from their upcoming album Thumbtacks and Glue hot the internet this week. Details here

– Singer-songwriters Jack Carty and Jordan Millar are hitting the road together for a massive national tour this March, April and May. Details here

– The shortlist for this year’s Australian Music Prize has been announced with acoustic/folk entries from Jess Ribeiro, Liz Stringer and Grand Salvo. Details here

The Tiger and Me have released “Made it to the Harbour”, the latest single from their album The Drifters Dawn. Details here

– A couple of tracks from the upcoming Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer album Child Ballads have found their way online. Details here

Noah and the Whale have announced plans to release their forth studio album, titled Heart of Nowhere, this May. Details here

Jordie Lane is rolling a bunch of support slots, festival appearances and headline shows into a massive tour starting this March. Details here

FrogFest, Sydney’s mini-festival of progressive folk and roots music, has announced its 2013 lineup including The Barons of Tang, Takadimi, GrandMasterMonk and Dave Bova Band: Divina Commedia. Details here

– Swedish trio Junip have revealed a bunch of details about their upcoming self titled album including the album art, track list and a teaser video. Details here

Sally Seltmann will be performing shows in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney this March to road test material for a new album. Details here

Turin Brakes have announced a single Sydney sideshow when they’re in the country for Gum Ball. Details here

The Lumineers have changed the venue of their sold out Sydney show to The Enmore and released more tickets. The Falls have been named in the support slot for the entire tour. Details here

Brighter Later have released their new video “Come and Go” featuring footage from 1970s wildlife documentaries. Details here

– Former Charlie Mayfair front man Dave Di Marco has just released the second single, “Unfold”, from his upcoming debut solo EP Deep and Down These Walls and announced an east coast tour in March. Details here


“Three of us are kind of the core band – that’s myself, Arlene Fletcher who plays double and electric bass and Megan Bernard on electric guitar. And then we’ve just gotten a drummer join us as well and he’s coming on all the legs of the tour except for South Australia – his name is Jordan Lockett. We’ve kind of evolved a little bit. I used to play as a solo, then it was a duo, then back to a solo. I recorded the album just myself with lots of guests – then for the launch I put together the full band and we played together for about eight months as a five piece. Then we’ve just had a bit of a lineup change in the last couple of months. I think it’s kind of found its natural settling of people who can be on the road a bit more” – Sophie Klein from Little Wise chats to Gareth Hugh Evans. Interview here



“Those afraid of a post-greatest-hits-lull will be disappointed, as this collaboration with master harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite carves out new sonic territory for Harper and contains some great songs to boot”Mackajay reviews Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite’s new album Get Up!. Review here

Releases This Week

Eli Wolfe
Perfect MomentEli Wolfe

Timber and Steel Presents

Little Wise
Little Wise
Friday 8th February – The Singing Gallery, McLaren Vale, SA
Saturday 9th February – The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide, SA
Sunday 10th February – The Old Mount Cambier Gaol, Mount Gambier, SA
Thursday 14th February – The Retreat, Brunswick, VIC
Friday 15th February – The Loft, Warrnambool, VIC

Nick and Liesl
Nick & Liesl w/ Evan & Mischa and Lucy Wise
Sunday 10th February – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC

Gigs Next Week

Brett Winterford
Saturday 9th February – Upfront Club, Maleny, QLD

Friday 8th February – Open Studio, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 9th February – House Concert, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 15th February – The Merry Muse, Canberra, ACT

Deer Tick with Two Gallants
Friday 8th February – The Annandale, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 9th February – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Tuesday 12th February – International Arts Festival, Perth, WA

Don’t Mention The Wall
Friday 8th February – Gunnedah, NSW
Saturday 9th February – Uralla Arts, NSW
Sunday 10th February – Bellingen, NSW
Thursday 14th February – Congo, NSW (house concert)
Friday 15th February – River Music Folk, Nowra, NSW

Donavon Frankenreiter
Friday 8th February – Caves House Hotel, Yallingup, WA
Saturday 9th February – The Ocean Beach Hotel, Perth, WA
Saturday 9th February – Breakwater Hotel, Perth WA
Saturday 9th February – Ocean One Bar, Perth, WA
Sunday 10th February – Whistling Kite, Perth, WA
Friday 15th February – Woolshed Pub, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 15th February – Prince Of Wales, Melbourne, VIC

Julia Stone with Vance Joy
Thursday 14th February – St Stephen’s Uniting Church, Sydney, NSW
Friday 15th February – St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, QLD

Justin Townes Earle with Robert Ellis
Friday 8th February – Heritage Hotel, Bulli, NSW
Saturday 9th February – Milton Theatre, Milton, NSW
Sunday 10th February – Annandale Hotel, Sydney, NSW
Wednesday 13th February – Lizottes, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 15th February – Capitol Theatre, Tamworth, NSW

Mustered Courage with Bill Jackson & Pete Fidler
Thursday 14th February – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC

Nick and Liesl
Saturday 9th February – Pure Pop Recordsm, St Kilda, VIC
Sunday 10th February – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC

Rory McLeod
Friday 8th February – Harvester Moon, Bellarine, Vic
Saturday 9th February – Spotted Mallard, Melbourne, Vic

Ruby Boots
Friday 8th February – Baha Taco, Rye, VIC
Saturday 9th February – The Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Friday 15 February – Perth International Arts Festival Gardens, Perth, WA

Sarah Blasko
Saturday 9th February – Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday 14th February – Hamer Hall, Melbourne, VIC

The April Maze
Saturday 9th February – Kuranda Ampitheatre, Kuranda, QLD
Thursday 14th February – Townsville Folk Club, Townsville, QLD

The Wooden Music Festival feat. The Perch Creek Family Jug Band, The Quarry Mountain Dead Rats, The Bearded Gypsy Band
Friday 8th February – Diggers Club, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday 9th February -The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW
Sunday 10th February – The Clarendon Guesthouse, Katoombe, NSW
Friday 15th February – Beetle Bar, Brisbane, QLD

Wes Carr
Friday 8th February – The Brewery, Byron Bay, NSW
Saturday 9th February – The Loft, Gold Coast, QLD
Wednesday 13th February – Workers Club, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 14th February – Baha Tacos, Rye, VIC
Friday 15th February – Wellers Restaurant, Kangaroo Grounds, VIC

Friday Folk Flashback

“Sunshower” – The Little Stevies

Next week The Little Stevies will be launching their live album Most Requested at The Workers Club, featuring their new lineup (sans Robin). We thought this was as good a reason as any to post the song that made us fall in love with the band in the first place.

Noah and the Whale Announce New Album

Noah and the Whale
Image Courtesy of Noah and the Whale

I like to think of Noah and the Whale as one of the inspirations for this blog and while they have definitely strayed from their folk roots, particularly with their Springsteen-esque 2011 album Last Night on Earth, we’ll always have a soft spot for these guys.

Noah and the Whale recently announced via their mailing list that they will be releasing their forth studio studio album, Heart of Nowhere, on the 6th May.

“Without giving too much away, we are incredibly proud of Heart Of Nowhere,” Urby from the band wrote on their recent mail out. “It was recorded live, and spending the last two years on the road with the same lineup, has greatly benefitted our collective playing. Charlie’s voice is resplendent throughout, while the band itself has honed a tighter, sparser and more muscular sound which was developing at the live shows. Ultimately though, our focus is on forever serving the songs themselves, and in this department I believe this could be our strongest and most ambitious collection yet. In short, we’re just very excited for you guys to hear it.”

We’re really looking forward to hearing what Heart of Nowhere has to offer. More news as we get it!

New Noah and the Whale Daytrotter Session

Noah and the Whale
Image Courtesy of Daytrotter

Noah and the Whale have moved far enough along the musical spectrum away from folk and closer to pop that we probably shouldn’t be covering them anymore. But when they’re writing songs as Springsteen-catchy as “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” and “Tonight’s The Kind of Night” they’re really hard to ignore. Plus we have such a soft spot for the boys being one of the bands that really got us back into folk music in a big way.

The latest string to Noah and the Whale’s bow is their second Daytrotter session (you can listen to the first one from 2008 here). You can really see how much the band has grown between the two sessions. Their latest Daytrotter Session contains the tracks “Wild Thing”, “The Line”, “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” and “Tonight’s The Kind of Night” – listen to it right here (after you sign up!).

Noah and the Whale’s “Waiting for My Chance to Come” Video

Noah and the Whale

A lot of the press surrounding the new Noah and the Whale album Last Night on Earth has focused on how much it draws inspiration from 80s rock, particularly that of Mr Bruce Springsteen. And no song from the album typifies that sound more that the track “Waiting for My Chance to Come” which now has its very own video, complete with 80s posturing on a boat. Watch it below:

Review: Noah and the Whale at The Factory Theatre, Sydney

Noah and the Whale
Image Courtesy of The AU Review

Noah and the Whale supported by Husky
2nd August 2011, The Factory Theatre

There are five bands that we credit with igniting our interest in the current nu-folk scene and ultimately planting the seed that would become Timber and Steel: Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons, Johnny Flynn, Emmy the Great and Noah and the Whale. Since we started this site we can happily say we’ve seen three of the five acts live and this week we managed to cross a forth, Noah and the Whale, off our list when we caught their Sydney Splendour sideshow at the Factory Theatre.

Scoring the Noah and the Whale support slot was always going to be a massive coup for up-and-coming Melbournians Husky. The crowd at The Factory Theatre was one of the largest I had ever seen Husky play to before and they definitely stepped up to the plate. Husky’s set was tight, professional and very very well received from the audience. I have to say I’m incredibly excited about the forthcoming album from the group given how good the songs are sounding live. The absolutely cracking cover of America’s “Sandman” just added to what was a fantastic set from Husky and it won’t be long before they’re headlining shows at venues the size of The Factory.

Noah and the Whale’s latest album Last Night On Earth is by far the least folk-orientated of their career so I was a little curious whether their older material would get a look in during their first ever Sydney performance. I needn’t have worried however as the band tore through material from all three of their albums, deftly marrying their folk and pop material for one fantastic show.

Kicking off the show with “Give a Little Love” from their first album Noah and the Whale presented one of the tightest live shows I have seen in ages. Every song was pitch-perfect, the sound was amazing (possibly because I had planted myself right next to the mixing desk) and the energy on stage was palpable. Looking around me during the set I was amazed at just how many people new all the words to all the songs – and here I thought I was Sydney’s only Noah and the Whale aficionado.

Charlie Fink is not the world’s strongest vocalist (although his voice is unique) and I thought away from the tight production of a recording studio he may struggle but the man put up a hell of a performance. All rock star posturing, grandiose gestures and microphone flailing, Fink looked completely at home fronting one of the hottest bands in the world to a hugely appreciative audience. I was also impressed that Tom Hobden stayed true to his promise from our interview earlier this year staying out front on the fiddle for the majority of the set instead of hiding behind the keys (where he seemed to spend a lot of Last Night On Earth).

Probably the folkiest track from what was really a pop-rock set would have been “Rocks and Daggers” which had the band (and audience) in full hoedown mode. A rocked up version of early single “5 Years Time” was treated to whoops of excitement from the audience, probably equal to the reception greeted by recent single “Tonight’s The Kind of Night”. In fact the entire set was so well balanced with all of their most popular songs that I couldn’t help but jump up and down with excitement to the opening chords of each track.

Finishing the gig with “Blue Skies”, one of the most uplifting songs from the band’s break up album The First Days of Spring was a masterstroke, and was only topped when they returned to the stage for a two song encore including the pop masterpiece “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N”.

As the boys waved themselves off stage and the lights came up the only words I could muster to describe the experience was “man that was tight”. And it was – Noah and the Whale put on a show that was above and beyond what I’ve come to expect from a gig. Tight, exciting, engaging exhilarating and quite possibly one of the best gigs of the year.

The Best of Glastonbury 2011

Bellowhead At Glasonbury
Image Courtesy of Folk Radio UK

We’ve had some absolutely amazing festival lineups in Australia over the years but its very easy to cast your eyes overseas, especially to the UK and US, and feel a little bit jealous of just how good they’ve got it. Case in point was this year’s Glastonbury Festival which not only finally had great weather (no mud baths this time!) but also sported a lineup you’d give a kidney to see here in Australia.

The BBC managed to capture many of the performances from the weekend to be streamed from their official Glastonbury web site but sadly those streams are only available if you live in the UK (or if, y’know, you have a UK proxy server), something that’s frustrating for fans here in Australia. But as luck would have it the BBC have very kindly let a few key performances (like the Mumford and Sons one from a couple of days ago) slip quietly onto YouTube for all the word to see.

We thought we’d assemble our favourite videos from the collection available to view outside of the UK all in one place just for you (sadly it’s not as extensive as what our empirical forefathers can see). Along with the Mumford and Sons video check out songs from Bellowhead, Laura Marling, Paul Simon, Noah and the Whale and Fleet Foxes below:

Mumford and Sons – “Roll Away Your Stone”

Bellowhead – “New York Girls”

Laura Marling – “Rambling Man”

Paul Simon – “So Beautiful Or So What”

Noah and the Whale – “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.”

Fleet Foxes – “Sim Sala Bim”

Noah and the Whale’s “Life is Life” Video

Noah and the Whale
Image Courtesy of Noah and the Whale

We keep talking about how Noah and the Whale have gone “pop” on their new album Last Night on Earth and I think we have the finest example of that right here. Combining eighties synths with Springsteen-esque riffs “Life is Life” is definitely not folk but it is Noah and the Whale so we still love it.

In case you missed our interview with Tom from the band yesterday check it out here once you watch “Life is Life” below:

Noah and the Whale will be in Australia for Splendour in the Grass and are playing the following sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne:

Tuesday 2nd August – Factory Theatre, Sydney
Wednesday 3rd August – Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Interview: Noah and the Whale

Noah and the Whale
Image Courtesy of Noah and the Whale

Noah and the Whale’s new album Last Night on Earth, with its Springsteen-like licks and pop sensibilities, is probably the furthest the band have ever been from the indie-folk they flirted with when they first started out. But the music is still very very good and Charlie Fink, the group’s enigmatic singer and song writer is producing some of the best work of his career.

Heading to Australia for Splendour in the Grass as well as a sideshow in Melbourne and Sydney (supported by local lads Husky) Noah and the Whale’s charming fiddle/keyboard player Tom Hobden called Timber and Steel’s Evan Hughes to chat about their upcoming visit to Australia, the pop focus of the latest album and what’s next on the agenda for the band now that they’re at the height of their popularity.

Evan Hughes: What can we expect from the live show while you’re here? Are you just going to be playing stuff from the latest album Last Night on Earth or is it going to be a mixture from your entire back catalogue?
Tom Hobden: It’s going to be a real mixture. We’ve got three albums worth of songs now which is a really awesome position to be in – there’s so much to choose from. I guess the challenge for us has been making that coherent because obviously we’ve got so many different sounds, the records all have different qualities and it’s important to realise all those live. It’s been fun putting a show together.
EH: The three albums are so different to each other and I’m interested to see how you move from the folky sounds of Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down all the way to the pop sound of the current album. It’ll be interesting to see how you guys meld that on stage.
TH: It’s not really a conscious thing. We’ve never really seen ourselves as any kind of band in a specific genre or whatever. We’re kind of instinctive I guess – whatever music we’re listening to at the time has a dominant effect on the final outcome of the album. Back in the Peaceful… days we were young, we were playing instruments we had around us – fiddle, acoustic guitar, harmoniums and things – and then as we’ve grown and matured we’ve wanted to try different things. I think that’s pretty natural really.
EH: I would definitely describe Last Night on Earth as being a lot more poppy than your previous stuff.
TH: Definitely, yeah.
EH: Was that a conscious decision to go in that direction?
TH: A very conscious decision, yeah. We were coming out of a year of touring the second album The First Days of Spring which is obviously a very sombre and desperate kind of album. The natural direction for us was to make something more positive, more outward looking. We turned to people like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen for that initial spark of inspiration – and lyrically Tom Waits and Lou Reed. Last year we started doing so many different things and having so many different ideas – we wanted to make a record that was really pop centric and really concise. We pretty much went by the Tom Petty mantra “don’t bore us, get to the chorus”. It’s remarkably different. Charlie [Fink] for the first time was writing from a character point of view rather than a first person point of view which he’d never really done before. That was also a very conscious decision. And we were playing around with a drum machine pretty obsessively Charlie’s brother [Doug Fink] left the band to become a doctor just before we started work on the album so we were literally without a drummer. We were getting excited about Brian Eno records and Prince records and the like so yeah, it’s a very distinctive album this one.
EH: I can definitely hear Springsteen and Petty influences on the album. And it looks like heading in the direction of a more poppy sound has really paid off for you guys – it’s been really well received and Noah and the Whale are everywhere you look at the moment.
TH: Yeah it’s been remarkable. We’ve been on tour for just over a year now so I guess the best moments that we have of judging how it’s all going is by the live show. The reaction has just been phenomenal. It’s really exciting stuff.
EH: On Last Night on Earth you play a lot more keys than you do fiddle. Is that because its what the music was calling for or is it more part of your own personal musical direction?
TH: The thing with violin is I always like to get out there, I hate padding strings. I felt like The First Days of Spring I’d gone pretty full blown on that with it being quite epic, quite cinematic. Which I absolutely love and is effective in that context. But in this context of a pop record I wanted to emulate people like cellist Arthur Russell’s approach – you know, really stark and to the point. The tracks where the fiddle does feature it’s a real primary source – “Just Me Before We Met” or “Waiting for My Chance to Come” – it’s got a real distinctive impact on the song. That’s what I was striving for this album.
EH: When we see you up on stage for this tour will we see you playing more fiddle or more keys?
TH: Now it’s pretty much more fiddle actually. All the previous albums are heavily fiddle based so. There’s only a couple of songs now I do on keys.
EH: You’re obviously coming out to Australia for Splendour in the Grass and you’re also doing a couple of side shows while you’re here. Can we expect a different show at the festival than in the headline gigs?
TH: Absolutely. The thing with festivals is you’re often playing to new people and the best strategy is to put on a ball breaking show – really keep people’s attention. And obviously we have a very short spot at the festival so you kind of have to cram it in a bit. But on our side shows we definitely have a much more varied approach – its a real mixture of songs and different moments in the set. It’s a different feel.
EH: Have you seen the lineup for Splendour in the Grass?
TH: I have, it looks incredible.
EH: Do you ever just pinch yourself and go “I can’t believe I’m playing on the same lineup as Coldplay and Pulp”?
TH: Everyday. I pinch myself everyday. I genuinely can’t believe any of it. It’s very humbling.
EH: At these kind of events do you spend any time hanging out with the other artists?
TH: You do get the chance yeah. It’s obviously very surreal. Probably one of the nicest things about playing festivals is that you just see so many of your friends, other musicians from other bands that you just don’t see all year round because they’re on their own tours. At Splendour we’re gonna catch up with The Vaccines who are very good friends of ours. It’s quite a nice meeting point I guess.
EH: You’re only doing to two sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne. Is that because you’ve got such a tight schedule?
TH: Yeah, that week is completely insane. I think we’re starting with Fuji Rock in Japan then flying straight into Splendour, doing those sideshows and then flying out straight away to Lollapalooza and then Edmonton Folk Festival.
EH: So will you get a chance to have some time off anytime soon?
TH: Not officially. We’ve already booked ourselves up until December the 17th. We’re pretty busy.
EH: So what’s next for Noah and the Whale? Obviously Last Night on Earth is still at the front of everybody’s mind and it’s doing so well but have you got a plan for the next record or the next project?
TH: Not really. We’re very much in touring mentality at the moment. I mean we jam some stuff out – we’ve got kind of a good set up on the bus with keyboards and guitars liying around.
EH: Do you think with the success of Last Night on Earth there’s any pressure for the next album to be in the same pop vein?
TH: There’s absolutely no pressure. We just make the albums that we want to make at the time we make them. We’ve got such a varied back catalogue now that we can go in any direction – I don’t think anyone would be too surprised.
EH: Well I can’t wait to see what comes next. Thank you so much for having a chat to us today.
TH: Thank you – its been great, I really enjoyed it.

Noah and the Whale’s Splendour sideshows are below:

Tuesday 2nd August – Factory Theatre, Sydney
Wednesday 3rd August – Corner Hotel, Melbourne

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