Bittersweet Whistling

Years of classical training and a life-long devotion to honing his craft have left Andrew Bird well equipped for his eighth studio album Noble Beast, and the creation of a truly unique sound.

Bird’s ubiquitous whistling, “probably the most honest way I can make a sound,” is interspersed by moments on the violin, flute and glockenspiel. This latest album continues to consolidate years of hard work on the touring and recording circuit. “I’ve been touring since I was 22 years old. I’m so used to struggling that I don’t know how not to. Now, it’s a different kind of struggling, just trying to keep it together. You’ve been working really hard for years and you don’t want to blow it. I got here from working my ass off, so it is very gratifying.”

Through his use of an eclectic array of instruments, and the solo creation of a huge sound, Bird has carefully carved a niche for himself over the years, and talking through the process of musical creation, he is very much a one-man band. “Through the looping of different instruments, I’ll do a skeleton of the song and then I’ll layer on top of that strings. Then I’ll put the guitar in, and then I’ll manipulate the violin to sound more percussive and loop handclaps and whistles to create very different sounds by myself.” As such, Bird’s earlier releases have showcased a variety that few artists can match and in November, Bird wowed domestic audiences with an ethereal gig at St Giles Church, London, a venue, which had a significant effect on the singer-songwriter — “it is the perfect venue, because I’m creating layers and tapestries, and it’s cool to come into a space that’s unique and old like that, and think about how you’re going to fill every corner of that with sound.”

Noble Beast marks a return to form for Bird with his naturalistic recording style coming to the fore: “This last record is pretty loose and on the fly the way it was put together, we started with the vocals first, which is the opposite of how most bands record, but we just went for a big country vocal sound and worried about drums and everything later.” The album’s stand-out track is the opening, Oh No, not least for its referencing to the in-flight wailing of a young child, an unusual snippet of inspiration, which alerted Bird to the dishonesty of our adult restraint in difficult situations: “I was struck by the mournful, musical descending line of this child, and I was pondering that it’d be nice to let your emotions fly like that. We’re all feeling that way.”

In this manner, Bird carefully balances the more sinister aspects of his personality with a superficial uplifting nature. “The lyrics are true to a certain self-consciousness. When I’m thinking something and it’s a bit darker, I’ll take it a couple of steps further to the point where I’m making fun of myself. I’m always playing with melancholy, it’s happy sad; I think the best music has a mix of that. Even if I’m talking about the impending apocalypse, it’s going to be great, we’re going to have snacks.”

Noble Beast is out now. For further details please visit:

Pauline Bache