Noah and the Whale Interview

Emma Lee Noah And The Whale play a sold-out show at The Waterfront, Norwich, on Tuesday. EMMA LEE spoke to bassist Urby Whale. You Tube: Noah and the Whale - Five Years Time

Emma Lee

If Noah and the Whale ever fall on hard times, then bassist Urby Whale already has an alternative career lined up - working for the Norfolk tourist board. It seems like he's already pretty well acquainted with our part of the world - and, as we grab a quick chat ahead of the band's show at the Norwich Waterfront on Tuesday - he's more than happy to sing its praises.

“I know some parts of Norfolk quite well - a mate of mine lives there,” he says. “At Holkham you've got that stunning beach.”

Urby (real name Matt Urby) describes the band - whose breakthrough single, the hugely infectious 5 Years Time, was one of this summer's biggest tracks - as “a two-year overnight success”.

Noah and the Whale (the name is an amalgamation of the indie film The Squid and the Whale and its director, Noah Baumbach) was formed by bedroom troubadour Charlie Fink. Preoccupied with the concepts of love, death and time he started putting them to music with storytellers such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Jeffrey Lewis among his points of reference.

Wanting to take his bitter-sweet tales (like Belle and Sebastian, those chirpy tunes often mask melancholy subject matter) out to a wider audience, he set about forming a band, recruiting his brother, Doug, on drums and Tom Hobden on violin.

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They played their first gig at the end of 2006 and didn't stop - when they say they would turn up to play in a cupboard, they're only half joking.

Urby, a childhood friend of the Fink family and a former child actor, was later recruited on the strength of his dance moves and the ability to play bass and glockenspiel simultaneously.

Soon there was a buzz around the band, and Charlie's early bedroom demos started changing hands on the internet. Their first single, a limited release of Five Years Time, appeared in September 2007, and they secured high profile support slots with the likes of Feist, Jeffrey Lewis and Broken Social Scene.

Fellow folkie Laura Marling was recruited to provide backing vocals, and Charlie returned the favour by agreeing to make her album, Alas, I Cannot Swim, which was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.

Their own album, Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down was recorded in little over three weeks and was released to great critical acclaim in August. It was preceded by a re-release of 5 Years Time, which provided some much needed cheer to a grey summer. Although it sounds like the band were on such a high they didn't actually notice the rain.

“This summer has been amazing,” Urby says. “I think we've played 26 festivals. The album came out, the single came out and throughout the summer we saw the crowds getting bigger and bigger.

“We played some amazing places like Glastonbury and Latitude and the Cambridge Folk Festival.”

And it sounds like our 'local' festival was one of the highlights.

“Latitude was great - there was such an amazing vibe going on. We got some time to hang out there and we saw Joanna Newsom.

“It was just a phenomenal performance, a beautiful way to start the day,” he says.

It sounds like the band loves being on the road - they've recently toured the States from coast to coast.

“We've been on tours where the other bands get smashed every night and we've toured with other bands that do yoga before they go on stage. The weird thing about touring is that your whole day is based around an hour and a half.

“I'm definitely going to get a bit healthier for the tour. I just celebrated by birthday a couple of nights ago, so I think I'm taking a vow of abstinence for a bit,” he says.

But in spite of the top 10 hits and upgrading from a Transit to a tourbus it sounds like they're managing to keep their feet on the ground.

“We've started getting invitations to celebrity parties, but it's not something that really appeals to us,” he says.

t The show is sold out, but check for returns on 01603 508050.


You Tube: Noah and the Whale - Five Years Time