(L-R: Ivy and Mabel Windred-Wornes - Charm Of Finches)
SOMETIMES LIFE REMINDS YOU OF YOUR STATUS, and you just have to suck it up.
Picture this: it’s mid-summer in Norway this year, a music festival called OverOslo headlined by local lads made good, A-ha, and veteran Scottish Europhiles, Simple Minds, and filled with local/near local acts big and small (Skaar, The Cardigans, Daði Freyr, Datarock) and a few foreign types you or your parents have heard of (Pet Shop Boys, Sister Sledge). Not bad.
And you’re feeling pretty chuffed that you, a wholly independent Melbourne folk-meets-art pop duo (two sisters, two voices, violin/guitar/keyboard, two large bags you’re lugging around the UK, Denmark and Sweden), have been invited to the 10th anniversary of this Nordic not-noir-at-all shindig.
Hei og velkommen Charm Of Finches!
OverOslo, which will pull in nearly 38,000 people across six days, is bus-supplied and bicycle-friendly (of course), vegetarian and gluten-free-accommodating (of course – though if you’re not so enlightened there’s seafood from Kvarøy Salmon and grilled fare from Strøm-Larsen) and if you can afford to drink in Norway (that is, if you’re a millionaire and/or not Australian) there are 11 bars and a beer hall.
Quite egalitarian you might suggest. And everyone is so friendly, with better English than you, and tall. So bloody tall. Still, friendly.
But right now it’s raining. Bucketing down even. And while you are from Melbourne and not afraid of some precipitation, you’d rather be dry. However, your shared artists tent is at the far end of the backstage area, and you know you’ll be drenched by the time you get there. How about ducking into the big and close A-ha tent, those security people will be Scandi-friendly won’t they? Nei, gå vekk. The Simple Minds tent? Awa’ n bile ye rheid.
Today, sitting by the water in Balmain, a flock of ferries moored nearby bobbing under brilliant blue skies, the now-dry Finches, Mabel and Ivy Windred-Wornes, can laugh about being put in their place. After all, as songwriters who tend to absorb their environments, particularly natural ones – check out last year’s third Finches album, Wonderful Oblivion, for further evidence, or dig into their 2016 debut, Staring At The Starry Ceiling – Scandinavia had plenty of other rewards.
“I think we’re taking a lot from all the other artists that we’ve been meeting,” says Ivy. “Listening to all the supports on the tour, liking certain piano sounds that they used and incorporating that into one of our new songs. And we went to a town right at the top of Sweden, about 200 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, and it had one hour of darkness when we were there – that wasn’t even peak summer.”
Mabel remembers that it’s mentioned in one of Ivy’s new songs, singing the line “here in summer with a winter view”, but points out that not every natural element was positive.
“The weather affects your mood and that comes into our songs as well,” she says. “I love the UK but the weather is … not great, and I wonder whether I’d perpetually write sad songs.”
Ivy lifts a metaphorical eyebrow. “I mean, we already do that.” And both of them fall into laughter.
Clearly, spending four months of mostly one-night stands, usually of 2×45-minute sets that saw them pull out almost everything they had, including, by request, songs released on their first EP in 2014 – when Mabel was 14 and Ivy 11 – didn’t put a dent in this relationship or their ability to entwine their voices. Maybe it even strengthened it.
“It was such a different experience, constantly moving and not having a home,” says Mabel. “We learned how much of it we could take.” To which Ivy adds: “And whether we want to do that for the rest of our lives.”
(Spoiler: they do, and they will.)
“We played the songs so many times we were ready to write new stuff, and we were writing,” says Mabel, also citing a tougher self-examination of their performance and sound.
“Did we play differently? Ivy asks her, remembering how at times they found their bodies locked into performance even if their minds occasionally wandered. “Possibly towards the end the songs got faster and faster,” her sister replies with a laugh. “We were a well-oiled machine.”
A well-oiled machine running on some alternative fuels. The fan who requested songs from that first EP and attended at least eight of their UK shows, regularly brought them gifts to sustain them. “Chocolate eclairs. Every single time,” says Ivy.
“I don’t not like eclairs,” says Mabel, though she does hesitate at my suggestion that it immediately go on their tour riders. “Though it’s a good change from pizza. You get pizza a lot.”
Dietary adjustments aside, another outcome of the tour, which saw them regularly take the stage with new friends like the Norwegian duo, Darling West (introduced to the Finches online during Covid for some online collaboration) and another sibling duo, the Dimpker Brothers, for thicker-bodied arrangements, is that the Melbourne sisters are more likely to play with a band in the future, with shows planned with additional string players.
But as the intimate Australian tour they are currently on suggests, the smaller lineup has not lost its appeal.
“We love playing just the two of us,” says Ivy. “Working out how much we can get from just the one instrument, or each instrument. It’s fun experimenting with the different things a violin can do, or what the piano can do.”
Or, what two voices can do. Which so far seems to be a lot. Maybe even endless. Except, of course, if you’re trying to gatecrash the big tent. But hey, maybe next time they’re in Oslo, those nei-saying guards will be theirs.
Våg å drømme Finches, våg å drømme!
Charm Of Finches play:
September 23 - Black Box Theatre, Nambour
September 24 - Dust Temple, Gold Coast
September 25 – It’s Still A Secret, Brisbane
September 28 – The Vanguard, Newtown
September 29 – Smith’s Alternative, Canberra
October 2 – Gippsland Acoustic Music Club, Tyers
October 14 – Portland Arts Centre
October 15 – Auburn Courthouse, Clare Valley
October 16 – Cooee Arthouse, Aldinga
November 5 – Minerva Ballarat
December 2 – Chapel Off Chapel, Prahran