NOAHFINNCE is a superstar in waiting. And he’s not waiting for anyone.
Words: Steven Loftin.
Photos: Patrick Gunning.
Noah Adams has always wanted to be a musician, even if he doesn’t like saying so. The truth is, if it wasn’t for his early cover versions winding their way onto YouTube, NOAHFINNCE wouldn’t exist. “The only reason I’m making music now is because I started a band fan account on Instagram when I was 13 or 14,” he recalls. “The account I use on Instagram now used to be a My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy fan account.”
Finding solace in the community he inevitably built up, it was the fizzing fuse leading to the dynamite explosion of Noah and NOAHFINNCE being thrust into the world.
Now, two EPs deep, and after signing to legendary pop-punk label Hopeless Records, 22-year-old Noah’s truly living his best life, even if he is a bit busier these days. “It took a bit of adjusting to it for me to be like, ‘Oh shit, this is a job that I’m doing!’” he laughs. “I’m enjoying it, but it’s also like, you have direction now. It was overwhelming, but it’s always been in a good way.”
The earlier part of his life was overwhelming too, though for different reasons. But before getting into the nitty-gritty of this time and finding out where the essence of NOAHFINNCE was manifested, we need to head back a bit further.
Raised in a household that echoed with the likes of Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Blondie, and Fleetwood Mac, the sound of rotating records played until dawn is still a fond memory.
Eventually finding the scrappy nonsense of pop-punk, Noah started with Busted when he was a child. Then, at school – before he transitioned – he’d find solace in the lyrics of Fall Out Boy, crunching along to the hyper-adrenalised punk guitar lines of ‘Take This To Your Grave’.
“It wasn’t only just something I enjoyed, it was a coping mechanism,” he explains. “I was going through a really tough time when I was younger. I’d spend most of my day playing guitar and then Googling ‘What did Pete Wentz mean when he wrote this’.” Along with finding the answers to such eternal questions, he also discovered something special – a home from home.
Finding a community of like-minded people gave Noah the confidence to continue exploring online. “Without finding the people that I met from those communities, queuing outside shows for like 10 hours and becoming best friends, I’d be a completely different person.”
Who that person would have been is anyone’s guess, but the smiley Noah of today is every part the person they want to be. Remembering that he was “going through a shit time” during this period, it’s finding that solace in others going through similar situations that alternative music has always been about.
“It really did boost my confidence,” he says. “It showed me that there wasn’t just this one set way of living. My school made everybody apply to university, so I applied. I was gonna do psychology, but I didn’t want to. The fact that I met these friends who were all doing creative stuff and enjoying it, and had a completely different worldview, really shaped the person I am today. Without them, I’d probably be a uni student doing psychology and probably not as happy as I am now.”
Playing the guitar he received for his fourteenth birthday in his dorm at school, this solitary comfort was his own form of rebellion. “I would get so many complaints for playing guitar really loud,” he says, laughing at the thought of the distorted rampage of Fall Out Boy ringing through the corridors.
Finding the online alternative community not only helped Noah through his trying school days but also paved the way for a career he didn’t believe was truly an option.. “Even when I was a four year old, I wanted to be in Busted,” he laughs. “There are home videos of me fucking dancing around and my brother being like, ‘She wants to be a Busted man!’ It opened an entirely new world to me that was like, ‘Wow, this is where I should be’.”
Noah’s musical career began as it does for so many people, with that iconic piece of plastic: the recorder. Eventually making his way behind a drumkit and even trombone, it was the guitar that ultimately snagged Noah’s heart. All these brief forays play into Noah being a one-man-band of sorts, playing everything himself with the attitude to go with it.
Describing a spectrum of the pop-punk that stole his heart, he mentions Busted on the left, blink-182 on the right, and All Time Low in the middle as bridging the gap. The main allure for Noah was the “fuck you attitude”, the same one his mum would tote when turning up to his school with “her hair half chopped off with red highlights and Dr. Martens.”
“I always really liked not only the music but the whole idea of being different in a way that’s true to yourself, not just for the sake of being different,” he continues. “I enjoy the fact that half the songs that those bands make are just like, ‘fuck you!’
“I can hear lyrics and be like, ‘Fuck, that’s exactly how I feel’. But then there are also songs where I hear a breakdown, and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s how my brain sounds!’ It wasn’t even just the lyrics. It was the way it’s put across; guitars being too loud and drums being loud and crazy matched how I feel in my head. When I listened to it, I was like, ‘This feels therapeutic’.”
It’s an understatement to say that Noah reaching where he should be was a fraught time. Essentially living two separate lives while in school – term-time and online – the latter was where Noah would thrive. Thanks to his cultivated online sanctity, he describes it as finally having “a place in the world, because when I was in school, my entire school life, I was a girl. I didn’t come out to anybody as trans until I finished.”
His time in the vlogosphere is where Noah figured out how to embrace not just his identity but also his inner monologue. It’s these same tools he tinkers with when writing as NOAHFINNCE. Spending an entire day filming a two-minute video making his voice sound perfect for his covers was one thing. But speaking his truth? “That was a bit different. It’s weird. Being yourself is easy, but when you’re being yourself in front of a camera, and you’re trying to put across a certain message, it’s a bit more difficult. It’s like, am I being fake? Is this something that I would actually say?”
The songs he pens are of the most vibrant strand of pop-punk. The place where positivity collides with humanity, creating an irresistible spark of attitude and sincerity. There’s a carefree aura luminescing around them, leaning into the happy-go-lucky songs he’d listen to growing up. While therapy inarguably helped him unlock the doorway into a clearer mind, especially given his ADHD diagnosis, he’d already been doing his own by writing songs.
“You have to think about the things that you’re writing about,” he says. “You can’t just write words on the page. It’s like therapy in itself because I’m just like, ‘Oh, I feel this way. Let’s write a song about it’. ‘Why do I feel this way?’ ‘How do I put into words why I feel that way?’ But when it came to therapy, speaking about that kind of stuff for an hour a week really helped with the music as well. There are so many things that I didn’t know about myself until I started. Now that I know them, it’s a lot easier to be like, ‘Oh, this is why I’m like this. Let’s write a song about that’.”
Noah’s breakout single came in 2018 with ‘Asthma Attack’, a ukulele-led track which exposed the mayhem reigning through his head, including the indecision of what Noah wanted to do in life. He then careened swiftly into a pop-punk sound that he’d lean into on his later songs, including his latest EP ‘MY BRAIN AFTER THERAPY’ and the lo-fi, snot-nosed ‘Underachiever’. “In my head… it’s just chaos, really,” he ponders.
A large part of Noah’s journey, particularly over the last few years, has been organising that chaos. It comes through in the analytical way he questions his moves over those shaping years when he was worried about coming out as trans, seeing it as “a trial of being like, is this okay? Is it okay if I look like this? Is it okay if I say this, or I sound like this?”
“I was dealing with being doxxed as a 15-year-old because of it,” he says softly. “So there were obviously terrifying aspects of it. And I was scared that people would confront me about it, but I don’t regret any of it because I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t discover that side of myself.”
Discovering NOAHFINNCE was a serendipitous affair. “Someone said, ‘You look like a Noah’, and I was like, that works,” he beams. “And then my mom wanted to call me Finn when I was born. So I was like, Noah Finn. And then I was like, ‘Oh, it sounds like no offence!’ None of that was on purpose.”
NOAHFINNCE surfaced after Noah left school, where he still went by his dead name. “Sometimes I’m just like, what the fuck did these people think that I was doing? Did they think I was creating a fake person online?” he marvels. “But I guess it felt natural because I came out to everybody in my life when I finished school. So at that point, the NOAHFINNCE thing was like, this is just me. It didn’t feel like a big step in terms of a character or an alter ego.
“It’s so weird because it’s not a normal thing to happen, to have two completely different lives,” Noah ponders. “But, I guess the fact that my YouTube channel was doing well, and I felt happy when I was around the people that I had met online gave me the confidence to be like, ‘Oh, I can do this shit, and people don’t think I’m weird.”
Amassing over a hundred-thousand followers in his last year of school, all bets were off. “As soon as I finished school, I was like, I don’t give a shit what these people think about me because I’m not going to see them again ever,” he asserts.
Noah’s quickly growing in confidence, using both YouTube and his music as soapboxes to portray his truth. On YouTube, he aims to create a dialogue while picking holes in the world and its many awful takes, while with music he’s “very honest and open about stuff. I can say something that’s personal to me.”
“When I first started making YouTube videos, I would set up the camera and film the same video three times because I didn’t like how I said this one thing. It’s not like that anymore.”
Putting himself under such scrutiny, he’s learned things that he didn’t expect – such as, oddly enough, his nostril size when singing and breathing. “There are people that comment, and they bring you new information that you also didn’t know about yourself,” he chuckles. “A lot of it is just learning more about myself. Everything that I posted online was in search of that because I was in a place in my life where I was like, I don’t fucking know who I am. I know who I want to be, but I don’t think that’s possible. It was all just learning about that kind of stuff, and it’s very fucking weird!”
Does he enjoy the spotlight? “I feel like I wouldn’t be at this point in my life if I hated attention,” he giggles. “I’m obviously a massive attention seeker, which most people who do this kind of shit are. I don’t really know what I was expecting when I got into the YouTube thing because I didn’t do it intentionally. I’ve never found it too overwhelming.
“I’ve gotten to the point now where sometimes I’ll be like, ‘Oh, this is a bit much’. But I’ve had an Instagram account since I was 15, and it started doing well when I was like 16, so it’s been like six years or seven years. I’ve gotten used to it.”
He continues, “But now it’s like, I’m on Hopeless, and I love Hopeless, and they’re fucking pushing me in a good way. But then also, my YouTube channel is doing well. So it’s kind of overwhelming to have these two things that aren’t really separate. But it’s fine. I’m not terrified at the moment. I’m sure I will be at some point.”
Imposter syndrome is something most experience now and again. Admitting that he still feels it now, it’s the audience he’s grown organically through his vulnerability and lack of fear when standing up against the world that gives him the confidence to knock any such thoughts on the head.
“This is a community that I’ve always been drawn to,” he says. “I grew up going to the shows, buying the merch and camping outside. But to be signed by Hopeless and having bands I grew up listening to know me is extremely validating. We’re the same; I just came here from a different avenue.”
While he enjoyed the stuff he was writing, the fact it was all being appreciated by those surrounding him gave Noah an extra boost. However, now that Noah’s written a batch of songs direct from his mind (‘STUFF FROM MY BRAIN’) and after going through therapy (‘MY BRAIN AFTER THERAPY’), where does that leave him?
“I have no clue!” he grins, with another bright chuckle. “When I started therapy, we were uncovering a bunch of stuff that I didn’t even realise happened. And a lot of therapy now is going over those things being like, ‘I understand this thing. It still makes me upset. Why the fuck am I still sad about it?’ I’m at that point of therapy where I’ve acknowledged everything, but when is it going to fuck off and go away?”
Getting better and understanding what makes Noah Adams, Noah Adams, is what NOAHFINNCE is about. Noah knew who he wanted to be, and NOAHFINNCE is the manifestation of those childhood years, music radiating around him as he dreamed of being in a pop-punk band.
Maybe being a musician isn’t so wanky after all.
Taken from the July 2022 issue of Upset. NOAHFINNCE’s EP ‘My Brain After Therapy’ is out now.