Charm of Finches is made up of sisters Mabel (16) and Ivy (13).
Mabel tells Jena all about their journey together so far.
J: So, firstly, can you please introduce yourself?
M: “Well, my name is Mabel and I’m 16. I’m a singer/songwriter living in Northcote, Melbourne. I play guitar mainly, and sometime ukelele in our live shows. I also play cello, but only on recordings. My sister Ivy is 13, and she sings amazing harmonies and co-writes songs with me. She also plays violin and banjo.”
J: What was it like singing with each other in the house as sisters growing up? Have you always performed together?
M: “We’ve grown up in a musical household. Our mum is a musician and we’ve also listened to a lot of music, especially folky stuff, and old time music with lots of harmonies. Our mum has led choirs while we’ve been growing up, so harmonies has been a hot topic of conversation throughout our lives. My sister and I used to make up songs about our guinea pigs and try and think up crazy harmonies singing in the bathtub! Also, we have gone to Steiner school which means singing in the classroom everyday!”
J: When did you start songwriting? How did it come about?
M: “I wrote a song when I was about 8 years old about birds and wanting to fly and I performed it to my toys! In Grade 6 my teacher encouraged us to write a song for our end of year CD that reflected on our journey through primary school. My song was called In Another Life. I can’t even remember what it was about! I quickly became addicted to writing songs after that.”
J: When did you decide to become Charm of Finches and head out into the Melbourne live scene?
M: “Ivy and I started busking with our friend Bel when we were about 8 and 11 as ‘The Highway Sisters’ doing bluegrass and gospel three-part harmony stuff. We were inspired by the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. We occasionally were asked to perform. Then in 2014, I decided to record my original songs and make a CD for my Year 8 major project. That’s when Ivy and I became a sister duo Charm of Finches.”
J: Where have you performed around Melbourne?
M: “Most of our shows have been at festivals, actually. We have performed at lots of local venues: our locals in Northcote, Open Studio and The Wesley Ann, Gasometer in Collingwood, The Corner and The Flying Saucer Club, both with Clare Bowditch and The Spotted Mallard, which is such a lovely room.
J: What it is like performing to big crowds at such a young age? Do you feel nervous?
M: “No, we don’t get nervous. We were a bit starstruck and nervous before opening for Kasey Chambers at The Murwuillumbah Country Roots Festival last October. We had just met her and knew she was at the side of the stage watching. We don’t really get nervous though.”
J: Do you write the songs together or does one write both music and lyrics? How do you write your music?
M: “I usually have written both lyrics and music, while Ivy has composed harmonies which I feel is an intrinsic part of our sound, and therefore an important part of the songwriting. Recently, Ivy has started writing songs and bringing them to me partially formed. So there a lot more co-writing both of lyrics and music now.”
J: Can you tell us about one of your originals and how you came about writing it?
M: “I like to write songs about what it’s like being a teenager and draw inspiration from what I observe in the people I go to school with as well as myself. The song, Lost Girl, has a very melancholic feel. It’s about someone’s insecurity in themselves and how they try to prove themselves and find their identity. The song is written from the perspective of a boy in a relationship with a girl. In the end he makes the realisation that she has flaws like anyone else. In terms of composition, there are only three chords in the songs.
It’s very simple, bit it serves the song well. More chords don’t necessarily make a song better. When I decided to put it on the new album, I still wasn’t sure whether it was finished, because it’s so simple with only three verses and a middle bit which is like a chorus, but only happens once. After a while I realised there was nothing more to add to it and felt complete. It’s a perfect last song for the album, as it sounds like an ‘after thought’. We just finished shooting the video up in country NSW in sand dunes.”
J: Have you released any EP’s or are currently making one?
M: “We released our debut EP in 2014. It has 6 original songs on it, and is fairly representative of the live sound. We are currently recording our second album with an amazing producer, Nick Huggins. It’s looking like ten songs, with piano, lush strings (Ivy and I playing violin and cello) and even a touch of banjo along with our signature harmonies and guitar sound.”
Check out their current video clip for original, Home.
J: Have you got anything coming up that you would like to promote?
M: “Yes! Well, firstly we have a Pozible campaign running right now to help us complete our album project. We had a bit of fun making the Pozible video, with cameos from our little brother and mum. This is our second Pozible campaign. We thought the first one was such a great move. We were discovered by many people and it helped us pay for CD pressing. We also have already set the date for our Album Launch. It’s on Saturday 6th August at the Wonderland Spiegeltent at Docklands. It’s such a beautiful space inside, underneath that surreal massive wheel!
J: What is the one piece of advice you have to a young songwriter like yourselves who wants to start performing and get their name out there?
M: “Firstly: be yourself. Develop your own sound and don’t try to copy other people you think are popular. Be dedicated to your art and keep making it regardless of what others say. Find out what is special about what you do. Practice a lot! To get gigs, try and play as much as you can to develop your live show and allow your songs to develop. We found busking helped us develop a strong performance and going our and seeing local music you love.
Being part of songwriting events, like ‘Songwriters in the Round’ is also a great way to connect with other songwriters and getting known. I know this was supposed to be one piece of advice…woops. But entering competitions is worthwhile. You just never know! We enter songwriters competitions a lot. To our utter surprise, our song Paper and Ink ended up winning the Darebin Songwriters Award last year.”
“Our music is what interests people , so seeing us perform live is ultimately the best insight into ourselves as artists.”