A clever lyricist by the name of Charlie Fink once told listeners, “What you share with the world is what it keeps of you.” It was this saying, along with my everlasting love for music, that inspires me to continue sharing new artists with the world. I’ve always found it beautiful how such a short yet brilliant lyric can reassure someone that they’re doing the right thing with their life.
I’ve realized that this band’s heartfelt and honest philosophy can help a person in any time of need. If you’re in love and desire a record which shares your passion with the world, there’s Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down; and if you have encountered heartbreak for the first time, The First Days of Spring will mend your broken heart; and my favourite lesson Noah and the Whale have taught me is if you feel like your world is crumbling down, life goes on.
It’s truly incredible how music can become so influential in a person’s life. And when it comes to this band, they’re my greatest inspiration. So when I received news that I had the honour of speaking with Noah and the Whale’s Tom Hobden over the phone while he was in Sweden, you can honestly imagine my excitement.
Dig into our conversation as we discussed Heart of Nowhere‘s background story, why they started wearing suits, their incredible lyrics, and the direction they’re taking the next album.
AMBY: You recently wrapped up your North American tour. How was that experience?
Noah And The Whale: I think it’s safe to say it’s been the best Noah and the Whale tour we’ve ever done to date. It was fantastic. We played about eighteen shows and it absolutely slid by. We had some really nice moments, and some really nice gigs. I remember, one of my favourites was in San Francisco where a guy proposed to his girlfriend during the show. He kind of orchestrated it beforehand so we’d pass him Charlie’s mic— we were playing the song 5 Years Time and we have this breakdown section, and going into that we gave him the mic and he popped the question. It was really incredible.
AMBY: That’s amazing.
Noah And The Whale: Yes, and he got all of their friends tickets so they were all hiding upstairs and ran down at that point, and it was absolutely amazing. Obviously she said “yes”, otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a story.
Noah And The Whale: But it was really great. It was brilliant. We had some harsh weather conditions and it was nice to get a gig together even though the festival we were going to was cancelled. We played a show at this tiny little venue in Austin, where we got on the ‘ol Twitter and were able to scramble a gig together. Our tour bus had managed to go onto the next gig already [laughs], but we managed to get everything together remarkably. It was very special.
AMBY: I’m glad to hear that it went so well. I was actually at one of the shows— I attended the Toronto date, and it was my third time seeing you. It was incredible! You even threw in some songs that you typically don’t play live, like 2 Atoms in a Molecule and Stranger. For the North American tour, which song was your favourite to play?
Noah And The Whale: You’re absolutely right. It’s been a real eye-opener really because seeing just how well those early songs go down… We tend to play quite a fourth-album heavy set in the UK and in Europe, but we thought to just experiment we would play some songs from The First Days of Spring and Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down. I remember at that gig when we were playing Stranger, we really hadn’t played that song for maybe three years. It felt brilliant! It kind of reminded me of how special that album is. That album seems to have connected amazingly with people.
AMBY: Yea, I loved that song live. Now, you released your fourth LP Heart of Nowhere back in May. What was the best moment you had while recording it?
Noah And The Whale: The whole process was very different for us because we recorded the whole thing live. We wanted a very simple and pure sounding album, which was very different from the previous and well-orchestrated songs. We spent a little more time in the actual writing process because we always tended to write on the road, but by this fourth album we allowed ourselves a bit more space. Instead of Charlie being the mastermind behind all of the music and lyrics, we kind of each experimented a bit with the songwriting. Although most of the songs originally are Charlie-based. I think we were happy that they’re simple songs that people can love, and people can relate to. The most enjoyable moment for me was recording it live.
AMBY: It’s interesting, I hadn’t known that everyone had more input on this record regarding the songwriting. I’ve actually noticed that each of your records seem to have themes: Peaceful The World Lays Me Down I find is more about discovering and blooming relationships, First Days of Spring is about recovering from a broken one, and Last Night on Earth is bringing yourself back from that difficult time and how… pun not intended, but how life goes on. But what story did the band want to tell with Heart of Nowhere?
Noah And The Whale: That’s really beautifully put. I think this time around the message would have been—it was kind of about that awkward period about being twenty-something. About not really knowing your place in life, and how you kind of have that breakout moment when you’re eighteen and you leave town. In hindsight, this album is about getting there and thinking “now what?” [laughs]
Noah And The Whale: It doesn’t all come easy. And actually, you have to dive deep and work out what to make of it all. There’s songs that deal with not quite getting used to the passage of time. Some of the songs are about not having any real responsibility at this age, which I guess you should because you go from a teenager to an adult. But what does that really mean? It’s not like our lives are that much different; we still go partying and still go have a good time. But you don’t have the responsibility of a permanent job, or a property, or being in that long term relationship necessarily. It’s kind of about holding on… [laughs]. Keep on doing what you’re doing kind of message.
AMBY: Alright, thanks for sharing that. One thing I absolutely have to ask about is lyrics. Because when I think of favourite and most influential ones, they come from Noah and the Whale. Which lyric from the band is your favourite?
Noah And The Whale: Wow, that’s a great question.
AMBY: Thank you.
Noah And The Whale: I think… I’m not sure if this is a specific favourite lyric, but as a whole message that a song conveys I think that all the lyrics in The First Days of Spring are perfect and powerful. I think Charlie managed to convey a real depth of meaning just through sparse lyrics which is very beautiful.
AMBY: It’s a gorgeous song.
Noah And The Whale: Yea, so that one. That song.
AMBY: Perfect. Now since the release of Last Night on Earth back in 2011, I believe, the band took on an certain image we love. So I have to ask you, what inspired you to all wear your suits?
Noah And The Whale: [laughs] I think looking back we always had a kind of specific thing going on on-stage in terms of clothing. The first album was this kind of blue and yellow, and I don’t know why. I never knew why that happened and we stuck with it for a while. Then we kind of went a bit slack and just wore what we wanted. Then in the third album there was a sense of new. I guess having toured we thought we had to pick ourselves up— “we need to smarten up a bit!”
Noah And The Whale: I guess it was to give us a more kind of convincing outfit as a band. And as a band, we decided to smarten our act up. We’ve all taken to it like ducks to water, especially Urby Whale. If you’ve noticed?
AMBY: Oh yes, with the hat and everything. He goes all out.
Noah And The Whale: He does [laughs].
AMBY: I recently found a video of you covering Beastie Boys’ single (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!) from a show in New York, and it sounded awesome.
Noah And The Whale: Thank you.
AMBY: You’re welcome! Can we expect any other upcoming surprise covers?
Noah And The Whale: We brought out a few covers on that tour, we did a Van Morrison cover in San Francisco. You know, Crazy Love, [sings] “love love”. That one, an amazing song. We did a Dylan cover as well, but I can’t remember what it was [laughs]. They were all very spur of the moment, and on this tour was very much about playing covers, taking requests from the crowd, and keeping it very personable. I don’t know what we’re going to do next. I think we pretty much decide on the day of the show, so you’ll just have to watch the stage I guess.
AMBY: The band has covered almost every emotion you can think of in the albums between joy, sorrow, heartbreak, worry, love… With these four records being so different, which direction are you thinking of taking the next album?
Noah And The Whale: Wow, good question.
AMBY: Thank you.
Noah And The Whale: I think we’ve always tended to write from where we are, and I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
AMBY: I actually read somewhere that Charlie was thinking of doing some kind of dance record. And that made me think of the Blue Skies remix, the disco one.
Noah And The Whale: Oh, yea.
AMBY: So is that a possibility for a path?
Noah And The Whale: That’s an absolute possibility. I mean, Charlie does say a lot of crazy things to the press [laughs].
AMBY: [laughs] Alright, well we’re not at the last question of the interview. What’s something about Noah and the Whale that nobody knows yet?
Noah And The Whale: That’s a good question. Something about Noah and the Whale… I can tell you a fact about someone in Noah and the Whale!
Noah And The Whale: Urby Whale, he has a kiwi allergy which is fatal. So, that’s pretty serious, isn’t it? I bet most people don’t know that [laughs]. So if you want to go to our gig and bring him a kiwi smoothie… Think again because it’s not going to go down well.
Thank you Noah and the Whale, for giving us your answers!
Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout