STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And let's hear next from a talented singer trying to work out his next act. His name is Charlie Fink. He's got a following fronting for the band Noah and the Whale, which inspired an intensely devoted following and influenced other groups after their first album appeared in 2008. Since then the band has changed, again and again.

He explains why in a talk with NPR's Stephen Thompson.

STEPHEN THOMPSON: This is Noah and the Whale.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "5 DAYS TIME")

NOAH AND THE WHALE: (Singing) Oh, I'll look at you and say it's the happiest that I've ever been. And I'll say I no longer feel I have to be James Dean. And she'll say, yeah, well, I feel all pretty happy too. And I'm always pretty happy when I'm just kicking back with you. And it'll be love, love, love all through...

THOMPSON: This is Noah and the Whale.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE FIRST DAYS OF SPRING")

AND THE WHALE: (Singing) It's the first day of spring and my life is starting over again...

THOMPSON: And this is Noah and the Whale.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIFE IS LIFE")

AND THE WHALE: (Singing) Well, he used to be somebody and now he's someone else. Took apart his old life, left me on the shelf.

THOMPSON: One band, three albums, and three very different sounds in a span of just three years.

CHARLIE FINK: You need to be sort of brave, I guess, when you make a record.

THOMPSON: Five years ago, Charlie Fink had a solid band behind him, and he was becoming a big part of London's folk music scene. But since then, Noah and the Whale has been, well, volatile. Band members have left, the sound has changed drastically. But Charlie Fink says upheaval isn't all bad.

FINK: What I find exciting is, because we've made three kind of varied records, I like people are guessing about, you know, what the next stuff will be. So it's exciting to find out for myself what it's going to be. And I think it's totally acceptable to come to our shows and not love everything we do.

THOMPSON: What audiences heard between Noah and the Whale's first two albums was a striking shift, from sweet folk-rock to a slow, sad meditation on Charlie Fink's breakup with singer Laura Marling. She'd been in the band on and off but left for good in 2008, the same time she left him. Their breakup became fodder for gossip and for songs by both of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE FIRST DAYS OF SPRING")

AND THE WHALE: (Singing) Like a cut down tree, I will rise again, bigger, stronger than ever, for I'm still here hoping that one day you may come back...

THOMPSON: The chaos didn't end there. Noah and the Whale's new record follows another departure. Drummer and co-founder Doug Fink, Charlie's brother, left in late 2009 to pursue a career in medicine. That led to another change in sound. For the new record, the band found a replacement fans never could have imagined: a drum machine.

(Soundbite of song, "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.")

AND THE WHALE: (Singing) L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. What you don't have now will come back again. You've got heart and you go in your own way...

THOMPSON: Replacing Doug Fink with a machine, in a folk band known for acoustic guitars and violins, follows a familiar pattern for Noah and the Whale. After Laura Marling left, the band made its second record with no female vocals at all.

FINK: Being in Noah and the Whale is kind of like taking a tour of Willy Wonka's factory, where there's people dropping off at each step. So I don't know. I guess, yeah, we're probably at the chocolate river now. If there's a chocolate river, then our bass player's probably going in. In which case I don't know what kind of record we'll make.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

FINK: Yeah, synth-heavy.

THOMPSON: It's a good thing Charlie Fink knows how to write songs about being alone.

For NPR News, I'm Stephen Thompson.

INSKEEP: Noah and the Whale took out the everlasting gobstoppers long enough to play what we call a tiny desk concert here at NPR offices. And you can see it for yourself NPRMusic.org.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

(Soundbite of song, "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.")

AND THE WHALE: (Singing) L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. You've got more than money and sense, my friend. You've got heart and you go in your own way. L.I.F.E.G. ...

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