There's a telling lyric in the chorus of the second single ("Tonight's The Kind of Night") from Brit-rock outfit Noah and the Whale's latest record, Last Night on Earth: "Tonight's the kind of night/ that anything could change." It's easy to underestimate the weight of the line (particularly when it's buried under the absurd catchiness of it's hook), but it's probably the best mission statement for the album as a whole. Last Night on Earth is an intentional shift in subject and sound for a band that's been quietly gathering acclaim stateside (and not as quietly doing so in their native land). As they head into Atlanta, Tom Hobden talks about the new record, his band's love for film and exactly what's so creatively romantic about the night time.
Talk a little bit about “Last Night On Earth” — you’ve had a couple months to sort of digest the record now. What’s the reception been like?
Tom Hobden: The reception has been genuinely thrilling. We’ve been on US, European and UK tours and the shows have been incredible.
Why was this record a logical step in your discography?
TH: Last Night On Earth came about as a response to many things. We had previously been touring The First Days of Spring and wanted to make a record that was more outward-looking. It felt very natural to be crafting a record that was also out of our comfort zone because we were going through a transitory stage. We picked up synthesizers and drum machines and, coupled with musical influences such as Petty, Springsteen and Prince, set about making something musically and lyrically different to anything we had done before.
Did your recording process differ this time around to reflect the shift in sound at all?
TH: The recording process was longer this time, but only because the challenge was to make the group of songs we had as concise as possible in both structure and arrangement. Many tracks, such as “Wild Thing,” began as 10-minute epics. But we wanted to make a sharp, punchy pop album. We followed the Tom Petty saying — “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus!”
There’s this juxtaposition to me in the records title (which almost seems cryptic when you first read it) and the message in the songs, which is very positive. Do you agree, and why is that?
TH: It’s interesting how people have different perceptions of what the album title is meant to mean. Some see doom and gloom but I see only excitement! I think once people have listened to the record, as you say, they might just go back and revise that initial sentiment.
The other theme is, obviously, night....what fascinates you guys from a songwriting perspective about the nighttime?
TH: There is nothing more romantic than the nighttime. It is a chance for escapism, it’s a time when thoughts can be at their most lucid, free from an almost destructive analysis that the daytime can have. When there’s no light, sound is king. Nothing moves us more than music. Romance and the nighttime are one and the same.
Where do you see some of the biggest growth in this record as compared to your last?
TH: We “grow up” every time we release an album. We are inspired by new things every day and we mature as musicians. I feel we have a confidence now in letting ourselves loose whenever we enter a studio to record.
Talk about songwriting in general among the band for a moment. Is it a very collaborative process?
TH: Charlie is the principal songwriter. He writes the entirety of the lyrics, which in my opinion is the only way it can be, and then we are all on hand to flesh out the song.
Your band name is obviously heavily rooted in what I know is a collective love for film as a band...how closely do the art of songwriting and that of cinema relate? Is a song essentially a condensed movie script, if you will?
TH: I think there are very strong parallels, yes. Our previous albums have often been described as “filmic” but I think that Last Night On Earth is lyrically the most similarly related. Each song is a window into someone’s life, like a short movie clip if you will. Just as you have to construct a movie set in order to give the onlooker a sense of time and space, the same applies to songs.
Do you guys take great pride in your videos?
TH: We take tremendous pride in our videos! Charlie has directed a few in the past and we’ve very recently finished our video for our next single.
You’ve had a good many people come and go from this band over the first few years...how hard is it to watch someone leave from the band, for whatever reason, and how do you deal with that as you move forward?
TH: It’s always hard parting ways from people, especially when they are such a huge part of your daily life, as in a band situation. We have been really blessed with the people who have come through our doors.
As you continue to grow your fan base here stateside, take the mindset of a fan who’s never seen you before but may on this tour run. What do you hope every fan takes away from a live NATW show?
TH: We aim high; we go on stage each and every night with a desire to give everyone a night they’ll never forget. Through the way we perform the songs live, we want our fans to be able to immerse themselves in our songs and maybe find new meanings through our live interpretations.
What do you look forward to over the next six months to a year?
TH: We have another year of touring ahead of us, which is amazing. I am humbled by the fact that I’m able to tour the world at such a young age doing what I love. In these immediate months we travel to Australia and Japan for the first time and are back in the U.S. come November for a big big tour, which will be a real highlight for me.
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