Charm of Finches on taking inspiration from fairytales

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Charm of Finches on taking inspiration from fairytales

Charm of Finches
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

The new Charm of Finches album Marlinchen in the Snow is out now and borrows from folk, country and pop, with their own brooding sensibility.

Twin sisters Mabel and Ivy make up Charm of Finches, both playing multiple string instruments as well as harmonising with each other in a way that only siblings can. Recorded in a studio in Nova Scotia with Canadian producer Daniel Ledwell, Marlinchen in the Snow is an enchanting offering from the Australian-born duo. Ahead of the release, we had the chance to chat to Mabel about her workflow, songwriting process and working with her twin!

Thanks for taking the time! Congrats on the release of Marlinchen in the Snow, where does a Charm of Finches song usually start?

We tend to have different songwriting habits. Ivy tends to approach a song melody first, while I start with lyrics most of the time. I’m a big fan of stream-of-consciousness writing. We often start a song and then come together to finish it. Most of the songs on this album we co-wrote. We went to the Mornington Peninsula here in Victoria for our own little songwriting week and spent lots of time setting ourselves lyric-writing challenges and recording ideas. We wrote a fair few of the songs on the album in that week.

Charm of Finches

Are you recording demos as you write or is there another workflow?

Yes we sometimes make demos – Atlantis was written by layering overdubs in Logic. We don’t like to spend too long working on the demos though because we’ve been known to get what we like to call ‘demo-itis’ – where we get too attached to the sound of the demo and drive ourselves crazy trying to re-create it in the studio.

A lot of songs were written while we were touring in the UK and Europe in 2022. “Clean Cut” started off as a melancholy piano ballad written on a grand piano in Oslo, Norway and then we made a little demo with a crappy drum sample and then fully developed it in the studio. Lots of songs were missing bridges and musical interludes which we wrote in the studio. We had lots of fun working out how to change time signature in the bridge of “Middle Of Your Mess” without changing the tempo and then switching back!

What is your recording workflow?

For this album, we recorded everything separately. We got the amazing Mat Belyea on drums for the first couple of days and he created the start of such unique worlds for the songs. Then we added the guitar, keys and bass beds and then vocals. After that we arranged the strings – Ivy playing violin and me playing cello and then experimenting with other overdubs to create sonic worlds for each song. “Leave It All Behind” features harp with foam under the strings to give it a cool muted texture and a little bike bell cameo if you listen very closely! “Temporary Home” has a little banjo moment and “Human” has many layers of belty vocals in a pretty epic ending.

Daniel Ledwell

How much are you thinking about the live performance when in the studio?

When we recorded this album we went in without much expectation that it would be able to be replicated live. We really embraced experimentation. We normally let the creativity flow in the studio and then worry about how to play them live later- haha! When we play as a duo, the songs are always a bit more stripped back – slightly different versions to the recording – but it’s been really exciting recreating the album with our band for some of the shows on our AUS tour.

Being in a band is hard as it is, do you think it’s harder or easier being siblings?

Haha! Well, we’ve spent our whole lives together so there’s a pretty solid dynamic. We also live together. On tour it’s a pretty intense lifestyle – we get a lot of each other. When we have an argument everything’s fine within the next half hour though. 

We understand the album was recorded in the depths of winter in Nova Scotia. How do you think this environment ultimately impacted the final result?

Yes! We actually stayed in the little studio for a month! It was in the woods with a frozen lake at our doorstep. We slept in the mixing room on the sofa bed and we cooked on a little electric stove underneath the keyboards and guitars hanging on the walls. We’d make one trip to the shops every week but apart from that, we bunkered down in the studio for the whole month and really immersed ourselves in the creative process.

Charm of Finches Marlinchen

The title track “Marlinchen In The Snow” was actually written in the studio and was inspired by the snowy landscape which to us was like from a fairytale. The landscape reminded us of a Grimm’s fairytale called The Juniper Tree which we were told when we were kids. It’s a haunting tale of how Marlinchen discovers the death of her stepbrother at the hands of her mother. This found its way into one of our songs. There’s lots of symbolism in the story but really, it’s about female strength and intuition – overcoming obstacles led by your inner voice – which is a theme throughout the album. The frozen lake makes an incredibly haunting sound when the ice cracks somewhere and reverberates through the ice – it’s called a ‘frost quake’ – it’s hard to describe. We wanted to put the sound in our song but we couldn’t really capture a recording of it – we tried imitating it with our voices but that didn’t really work either! It remains in our memory – the only sound breaking the silence outside on snowy nights in the studio.

Thanks again for the time! Surely you’d have a story or two to share from the making of Marlinchen in the Snow?

Being in the studio for a month, we had moments of cabin fever as you can imagine! We had a fair few late night sessions where we got pretty wacky with effects – the last track of the album “In The Dark” was a song we found in a bunch of old demos and thought it was pretty vibey so added it to the album. We really embraced the wackiness of the song, especially in the ending – you can hear us laughing in the outro as we muck around with silly synth effects!

Keep up with Charm of Finches here. They’re touring around Australia in April and May, before a tour around the UK in May and June, keep reading for more info, tickets and dates.