Earlier this year, chamber-indie gang Noah and the Whale announced their plans to split, much to the sadness of kindly cardigan wearers the world over. Frontman Charlie Fink however didn’t wait long until releasing his first solo song – ‘My Heartbeat Lost Its Rhythm’ – this summer, but since then he’s been holed up working on a new project; writing the songs for stage production of Dr Seuss’s 1971 children’s book The Lorax. Open now at The Old Vic in London and running until January 16, the family-friendly show is the only place you can hear brand new Charlie Fink songs before the impending solo album, which – fingers crossed – will come out in 2016. We spoke to him ahead of the show’s opening night.
How did the Lorax project come about?
Charlie: “The Old Vic, which is a theatre in Waterloo, decided they wanted to do the show – which is kind of like a play with songs – and were putting together the creative team and looking for a songwriter, and really liked the music I had done in the past. So they wrote to me and asked if I would do it. I was really excited when I got the email, so I said yes straight away!”
So it’s not a score you wrote, but distinct tracks?
“It’s going to be a very unique show – I’m really excited about it. Because it’s Dr Seuss, a lot of it’s going to be written in verse and it just feels very natural to have songs in the text, because the way he writes is very lyrical. I think it makes sense. There are narrators within the cast – it’s told as a story as well as acted out. Some of the songs are sung by the narrators, some by the cast.”
In terms of lyrics, are they lifted from the original text?
“Some of it’s taken from the text, but the story’s been very broadened out for the play, because it’s a very short book! It’s going to be really fun. The characters have been developed in the songs. When I was with the band I was doing films with the albums and this feels like a very similar process, trying to match up the narrative and images with the songs. It’s also a very pure form of songwriting, as you have a very clear idea of what you’re trying to express. One of the challenges I enjoy in songwriting is trying to find clarity so people understand what the song is, and I think that’s one of the challenges in writing songs for this – the audience really needs to understand what’s happening!”
Sonically, what does it sound like – can we hear your distinct songwriter’s voice?
“I’m not sure! It’s very varied – some of the songs have things in common with ‘First Days Of Spring’ our second album, they’re very emotional and sweeping and grand. Then one of them is a punk number and one has things in common with ‘Graceland’ [1986 Paul Simon album].”
Were you a big Dr Seuss fan as a kid?
“I liked Dr Seuss, but I was more into Asterix – that was my go-to! But I obviously knew the story of The Lorax and really liked it and then reread it when I was asked to take part. It has a very valuable deep down message to it, and that’s really good.”