Noah And The Whale’s Charlie Fink
More Gotta Start Somewhere
No matter how successful entertainers become, they’ll inevitably always remember the first gig—whether it was disastrous, wonderful, or absurdly strange. Gotta Start Somewhere embraces these nostalgic moments by asking established entertainers to retell the story of the first time they ever graced a stage. In this edition, The A.V. Club caught up with Noah And The Whale’s Charlie Fink before the band’s show Nov. 13 at Turner Hall.
Charlie Fink: This question is funny, because we just made a video a few days ago for this song called “Give It All Back.” The story of that song is being in this teenage band and playing your first ever show, so the premise of the video was that we cast a young version of the band, people who look 10 to 12, and that was them playing their first show.
My first show—the thing is, when I was in my youth, I was quite organized. I always wanted to do things, and I felt like no one else would make them happen, so I had to do them for myself. When I was about 11, I formed a football team with my friends, which I managed. We were called the City Strikers, and I charged them one pound to come to practices.
My first band was called The Ostrich Project, which is one of the worst names of all time. I organized our first show at this cricket club near my house. In the clubhouse there was this large hall, and we hired it out for an evening, then borrowed friends’ P.A.s and things. It must have sounded awful, but we charged people five pounds to come in. I was 13, I suppose.
The A.V. Club: Did you guys play originals or covers?
CF: Mostly it was songs we wrote, but we did a few covers. We were very influenced by Rage Against The Machine.
AVC: I’ve had other artists say their first band was very Rage Against The Machine. What do you think it was about that band that so inspired 13-year-old boys?
CF: At the time, they were a sensation. They were incredible. They made such great music, and in 1999, when this was, there was real space for a band like that.
AVC: What were your original songs about?
CF: Essentially, where I was going to school, there were two bands: my band and this other band that I can’t remember the name of. It might have been Bad Weekend or something like that. We both wrote songs about how shitty the other band was and how crap they were and how stupid they were.
AVC: So, they probably didn’t come to your show.
CF: No, they did. We were really good friends.
AVC: How did you get this first band together?
CF: Throughout my life, I’ve basically forced people I know to get involved in the things I love. The band I’m in now, my brother played drums and Tom [Hobden] was a classical violin player who I said, “No, screw that. Come play in a rock band” to. I’ve twisted people’s arms into learning how to play an instrument, and that’s how I became the singer, because really, I never wanted to be the singer. I wanted to write and play songs, but not sing, but I eventually ran out of people who I could make sing for us.
AVC: Do you remember what that first show was like? Did people enjoy it?
CF: I don’t remember too much about it. We had 50 or 60 people there, but they didn’t come to hear the music. They came to kiss the opposite sex.
I do remember it wasn’t a particularly professional affair. I answered a phone call in the middle of the set. There was this girl I liked who wasn’t at the show and she rang while we were playing, so I just answered it. Actually, I don’t remember now… she might have been in the audience.
AVC: What happened to the Ostrich Project?
CF: We changed our name and became Oasis. We had some success.
No, not really. We disbanded over musical differences after a few months.
AVC: What was the first Noah And The Whale show like?
CF: That was at a venue called the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon. It’s a room below a pub, and it was me, my brother, and Tom playing violin. There were three of us in the band and even fewer in the audience, plus the sound guy.
AVC: So how’d you get the gig then?
CF: I’d been making music for a little while under this name Johnny Hatracket for no reason, and I was sending out demos. The Betsey Trotwood people had heard a demo and liked us enough to give us a show. The early shows were that kind of thing. “You bring 10 people and we’ll give you 10 pounds.”