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The First Days of Spring

Noah and the Whale presents their new album with a counterpart of a beautifully shot film as a visual narrative.

Charlie Fink, from Noah and the Whale, is a clever young man. Not only has he, and his band, provided you with a new surprising album The First Days of Spring, he has also created a compelling film as a visual narrative for it. In this current fast world of ours that is becoming less and less personalized, where attention span is lacking, he is challenging you to indulge and immerse in those painful, yet beautiful, times you didn’t (or still don’t) want to face.

Dazed Digital: How have you found the response of the audience to the new songs of the audience so far?
Charlie Fink: It’s been good, yeah. At the moment we are playing at festivals so it is a bit strange because they’re not paying to see you per se. It is like a test, but so far, so good.

DD: How and when did the idea of a narrated film using the album as soundtrack come about?
Charlie Fink: I came up with the idea before writing anything. Even before thinking of the narrative. The songs came first in the process, as they set the pace for the film and when I was writing them I was trying to keep the images in my head, the melody being reflected as images in the film, and the images showing the emotion in the characters.

DD: The film focuses on the characters that create a story line with inter-connections, with attention to details, snapshots, close-ups that enhance the composition and the frames…
Charlie Fink: Yeah, we wanted people to get a complete immersive artistic experience, so that they get all their senses involved. We want to get people to ‘swallow’ both the film and the music at the same time and that’s why we made it that way – both images and music complement each other.

DD: There is an apparent use of silence (even if the music/lyrics are on the background) and intimacy that makes this project very personal.
Charlie Fink: Yes, the film allows people to project themselves. And obviously the story is a very universal one; something that everyone has experienced.

DD: How would you rate the experience of making your first film?
Charlie Fink: It’s one of those things - once you get moving, you get on with it, there is no point in worrying about it once you’re immersed in the project. But I must say it was a pretty exhausting experience as well (laughs).

DD: This is a pretty personal album and the media can be fierce. Considering this album may have been part of a healing process, how do you thin you will cope with the inevitable personal questions and comments?
Charlie Fink: Well, the way I see it is that what’s important is not what we do but what we make, which is very different. What I try to stick to is: It’s not important what my life is like or my story, but what I make or what I made of it. The album was a cathartic experience, indeed. But it is me deciding and making choices. So when it comes to people writing things, I just ignore them.

DD: It is interesting to see that you keep a very realistic perspective on relationships such as “I’ll be all right in one year” kind of thing…
Charlie Fink: Well, you can get so engulfed in a situation that it is very difficult to get out of it. But I try hard to see the bigger story… even the bad things can have great consequences, you know? Sadness is important. Even the darkest parts of my life I do not want to give up, because they are so important to shaping who you are.

DD: The instrumental sections and ‘Love of an Orchestra’ somewhat break the mood of the film and album; is that intentional?
Charlie Fink: The structure of the album is pretty much one document and all lyrics as one story. The structure is very very defined: four songs, instrumental section with ‘Love of an Orchestra’ and four other songs. And that central piece in the film and in the album is meant to be a transition. In the film it is a surrealist section, the desk and the walls break up. It is a momentary release. Is that point where you give up and it is glorious because you’ve given up…

DD: Emery Dobyns produced the album with you.
Charlie Fink: He’s amazing, I love him. He’s great to work with. He’s exactly what we needed. Every decision was made together but he helped us realize lots of things and he captured all sounds right.

DD: Your new album sounds quite different to the first. Did it evolve progressively or was it something that just came out, as an idea to create a unique sound?
Charlie Fink: It is the sound I had in my head all along. Of course, personal circumstances influence and the band also evolve… but this record realizes much more what we are trying to do than the first one. In that sense, the band I respect the most is Yo La Tengo. They have been making music for two decades now and they still add more to what they already got – they nurture what they’ve got, like Neil Young, for example. I’ve been listening to those and ‘The Breeze/My Baby Cries’, a cover of Kath Bloom by Bill Callahan and her album Loving Takes This Course. It’s just incredible.

DD: What do you want people to feel after listening to the album or seeing the film?
Charlie Fink: It’s an album that I made for myself, I wanted to be true to myself but, any album is a beautiful thing, you know? What I really really want from people is to immerse themselves in it. Even if you hate it, I don’t care. It seems like a strange thing to ask but in this modern age of music and art, it isn’t. People now take everything completely for granted in music. An album is probably the most powerful piece of art that exists. It’s the experience of listening to it from the beginning until the end, combined with the artwork inside… I’ve listened to David Lynch talking about people watching films on iPhones and I find it so depressing – they’re just giving the surface of what is there. I’m not trying to dictate what’s to be done but you know… Like, it goes back to vinyls… You couldn’t try them out, you had to listen to them. It was an amazing experience. And I don’t want to sound like I am criticizing but it’s also down to the artists. That’s why we made the effort to give it as a package, the album, the film …with photos included so that it comes in physical form too, because the responsibility is now on the artist as well. When R. G. Collingwood said ‘Art is dead’ he couldn’t have been more right for times like ours. But I am hoping it is only cyclical. I really hope we all go back to those past values again.

Noah and the Whale: The First Days of Spring album and DVD released on Young & Lost Club on August 31.
Upcoming screenings will be held at the Watershed- Bristol, Cornerhouse- Manchester, Film Theatre- Glasgow, Showroom- Sheffield and at the ICA- London.