On the Road With Noah & the Whale’s Charlie Fink

After speaking with Noah and the Whale frontman Charlie Fink, you’re immediately struck by how closely his voice and personality mirrors the quiet tension of the band’s latest record, The First Days of Spring. Beneath every well-considered word, there’s a level of abstraction he makes no effort to suss out. It’s that restraint that makes Spring shimmer in a season littered with noisome, overstated blockbusters. Fink and his crew don’t feel the need to bang you over the head with overwrought concepts. It’s also what made pairing them with indie darlings Phoenix such a no-brainer. Noah and the Whale wrap up their tour next Tuesday in Paris. Fink discusses living on the road and a few of his more surprising musical influences. Also after the break: A trailer for Fink’s companion film to the album of the same name.

So your band name is a homage to Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale. Can you elaborate? I like that film a lot, honestly–I like that it had a mood that we thought reflected in the first record. The flow of the language is nice. Now that we changed, maybe that mood’s different.

You released Spring during the fall. What’s up with that? We recorded it during the spring. It was relevant to us at the time of the recording. Also, in Australia, it was released in the spring. There are themes of spring, of rebirth, in the record.

What non-musical influences did you have for the record? There’s a poem by T.S. Eliot called “Wasteland.” The first line of the poem is, “April is the cruelest month.” The narrative of the record is entangled in the themes of spring.

What songs do you love the most off it? We were trying to make a record that people would listen to as a whole. It’s hard to kind of separate out. Even for me. To break up the tracks. You know one day it’d be cool to do perform the whole thing together.

What does the band have planned for 2010? When I get back to finish up some writing, we’d like to do an EP. Record it in January, come back out to the States in February, do a tour then, and then do an album in the summer.

What are you currently listening to? A mixture of stuff. We’ve been having a bluegrass jam in the back. Collectively, the band’s favorites are Tom Waits, Neil Young, Wilco. Personally, a few classical things, like Stravinsky.

Anything surprising? The one people wouldn’t expect is Kanye West. 808s & Heartbreak is genius. I like Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” I think Lady Gaga’s singles are genius. Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” was a great song, too.

Does any of that inform the band’s music? I always think, “Shit! I should write like that. I should write more pop music.” I find it hard to really plan what I’m going to write when I sit down to write. I wouldn’t be averse to writing pop songs one day. I love La Roux. When we were in LA, we went to one of her shows. I met her briefly. Her record is cool.

What was it like touring with Phoenix? How did that happen? It’s really great. I’m a big fan of theirs. I think our manager played them the new CD. Then they wanted us to come out with them.

So you guys have been touring non-stop since earlier this year? We’ve been on tour for three months. We’ve done a lot of touring in the UK. We’ve done a few tours in the US. The last couple years we’ve been working in the studio or touring.

Does that ever get exhausting? Right now, it is.

What are few things you dislike about being on the road? It’s hard to write on tour because it gets so fragmented. You never get time. There’s always company. When I get back to London, to the country, I’m going to do some writing.

And a few you love? You become part of it, you turn off parts of yourself. The hardest thing is going back home. You get cabin fever.