Q&A by Anieszka and Erandhi // Photography by Jeff Andersen Jnr
In the universe of blood harmonies and haunting melodies, sister duo Charm of Finches have carved out a throne that rightfully belongs to them. Their latest release ‘Clean Cut’ whisks us into an alluring yet wistful space, where strings, drums and vocals interweave to create an enchanting tune about love, loss and self-empowerment. Premiering the song and visual with Ramona Mag, Mabel and Ivy chat to us about the inspiration behind their writing, why they chose haunted dolls as the theme behind the visual and what making a ‘clean cut’ means to them. Have a read and scroll down to be one of the first to watch the video!
RAMONA: Hi Ivy and Mabel!! Super excited to have you premiering your new video with Ramona. Diving straight into the heavy stuff…what is your advice for someone who feels like they are struggling with making a clean cut?
CHARM OF FINCHES: Hey! Yes, let’s jump in! We think it’s always good to find a good friend (or sibling) to talk to whose judgment and overall outlook on life you trust. It’s important to surround yourself with the people who love and support you when making a clean cut whether it be in a relationship, friendship or job that isn’t serving you. Change is such a hard thing for lots of people and the thought of it can be so daunting but once the hard part is over there’s so much to discover with new beginnings! We wrote ‘Clean Cut’ while on a four-month tour in the UK/Europe which ended up being the catalyst for Ivy’s breakup. Being in different exciting countries definitely served as a romantic backdrop for the bittersweet feeling of a necessary goodbye with new possibilities.
The video is self-directed and particularly haunting. Did you have a clear vision going into the creative process or did you spend a lot of time brainstorming on ways to tell this particular story?
The video doesn’t really have a direct link to the lyrical meaning of the song – it’s more the overall sound and mood that we were guided by when coming up with the vision.
Listening to it, it just felt like it needed to be a surreal mystery with a dark edge. We had this idea of ‘Night at the Museum’ meets ‘Frankenstein’. We decided to make it a doll museum so we could involve our friends (and little brother!) and brainstormed different types of dolls that might be in a museum. We both have vivid memories of the child-catcher scene in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ (probably because we were so freaked out by it!) so we sort of channeled that a bit too haha! We have a love for all things eerie yet beautiful and otherworldly and there’s also a trend of someone meeting their demise in one way or another in our videos! This is no exception…
At this point, we’re like our own production company, from concept development, stylising and direction through to editing by Ivy. We work-shopped this one with our incredible videographer Manav Lakhiani who has worked on some of our previous videos. And we feel so lucky to work with him!
An early congrats on your upcoming (fourth!) album – it’s called Marlinchen in the Snow, where did that name come from?
Thank you! The album title comes from the last song we wrote while in the studio, inspired by a Grimm’s tale ‘The Juniper Tree’. We both remember hearing it when we were about seven years old with not a small amount of fascinated horror.
The album was recorded in February 2023, when we spent a month in the studio with our amazing producer Daniel Ledwell in Nova Scotia, Canada. We were surrounded by woods, snow and a frozen lake at our doorstep. Being holed up in the studio within this fairytale landscape unlocked the memories of the Grimm’s Tale where a little girl Marlinchen buries her dead brother before he transforms into a bird singing the truth of his death at the hands of his stepmother. It’s like the original horror movie! There’s a lot more to the story metaphorically though. We feel it’s a story of female strength, battling oppressive obstacles and rising above them to pave a path led by your inner voice. These themes inhabit a lot of the songs on the album and in a sense, encapsulate what it’s been like for us as artists. Go check out the story and read it to your seven-year-old if you want them to have haunted memories that they then unpack later in life haha.
Writing and making art about personal experiences is a big, vulnerable creative journey – what advice would you give to other artists embarking on this?
Take time to explore creatively without an idea of the end product in mind – whether this is writing, drawing, or just sitting with your instrument improvising. Let it take you on a weird and wonderful journey and try not to listen to any critical voices that might be hanging around in your head. It’s when you pay less attention to that critical voice that you start to express some truths that are bubbling underneath and your artistic voice starts to emerge in all it’s beautiful, raw glory! People can hear the truth of it and they gravitate towards it. That’s when the magical shared empathy between artist and audience happens!
Clean Cut was filmed in a local warehouse with a bunch of your friends, what was it like having your friends and family volunteer in the clip and what were some of your favourite moments of the shooting process?
Oh, so much fun! Ever since we were kids we’ve loved dressing up in elaborate costumes with our friends and this is just an excuse to keep doing that and create a magical imaginary world! One of the best things about being a musician is the collaborative part where we can include our artistic friends – actors, makeup artists, dancers, choreographers, other musicians, film enthusiasts, etc! Our little brother acts in it and we were lucky to have our parents and uncle catering and helping set up everything, we’re hugely grateful!
It ended up being a mammoth 22-hour shoot for us and our amazing crew and everyone involved put so much effort into it to make it all come to life. Finn McBurney who was the watchman is so amazing to watch – especially with his facial expressions as reality starts to crumble away for him! Everyone inhabited their creepy doll roles so perfectly!
We remember towards the end of the shoot at about 11pm when we were getting tired, our friend George Wilson (also musician Pollyman) started reading one of the books that was part of the set switching to every accent imaginable! We were all just laughing and yelling accents at him and he would switch to it so seamlessly and perfectly!
One of my favourite parts of this visual are the costumes – they are gorgeous! And you both designed and sewed them which is incredible. Did you have any visual inspirations and how long did it take you to find all the costumes?
We’ve been collecting vintage frocks for years so we have a large collection to choose from. The clown outfits were thrifted and then we made pom poms and sewed them onto the white smocks. We also managed to collect three black berets. These were all sourced pretty last minute, but as often happens, the right things tend to show up just in time for the shoot!
Our incredibly talented friend Ursula Bucek (@thesearesomethingsimake) made two elegant corsets with frilled sleeves worn by two of the ‘dolls’. George Carrol Wilson wore a suit by Melbourne’s legendary designer Anna Cordell and the awesome playsuits we wore are by Melbourne label Suk Workwear.
Your harmonies truly are a euphoric blend. What’s your songwriting process like and how do you both agree on where you both want the song to go?
Songwriting is pretty collaborative these days. We sometimes sit down to write together but more often than not, we bring the start of an idea, maybe a verse and a chorus, to the other and then we’ll continue to expand on it to create the whole song.
For this album, we were lucky to go on two songwriting retreats – one to the Peninsula Hot Springs in Rye where we bathed in the baths and soaked in the beauty of that natural environment and wildlife and another also on the Mornington Peninsula in Red Hill on a beautiful property kindly lent to us for a week.
We have a dynamic where we can be brutally honest with each other. We also recognise each other’s strengths which helps. We have very similar tastes in music which means our musical ideas mostly align with each other.
Dance plays a beautiful role in the new clip for Clean Cut, what was the most challenging part about including a choreographed routine in the video?
We were so stoked to have our amazing friend Chiharu Valentino choreograph the dance routine and help us find the perfect dancers. Honestly, she made it so easy! We brainstormed how dolls might move and used references like the Coppelia ballet and the Aurora music video for Cure For Me. We remember going along to a dance rehearsal before the shoot and being so blown away!
As you approach the album release, what can we expect from this era of Charm of Finches? Are haunted dolls and clowns a sign of visuals and music to come?
We think ‘Clean Cut’ brings with it a new bold energy which runs through a lot of the other tracks on the album. We embraced experimentation and making what felt like bold confident decisions in this album so we hope that comes across. This work feels fresh and passionate! The dolls and clowns are part of our exploration of unnerving other-worldliness, beauty with underlying darkness and mystery which will be continued…