In 2010, seemingly out of nowhere, an enigmatic Canadian trio by the intriguing name of Finnr’s Cane released a record called ‘Wanderlust’. It was an album redolent with the hues of late autumn, cold, melancholic and reflective yet shot through with a real sense of stirring melody. Newcomers to the burgeoning ‘post’ black metal/ambient black metal movement they may have been but this record nevertheless managed to capture the attentions of many fans of this style of black metal.
Fast-forward three years and their follow-up opus ‘A Portrait Painted by the Sun’ has finally seen the light of day courtesy of the prolific German label Prophecy Productions. Taking its cues from where its predecessor left off yet simultaneously enriching their sonic palette, Finnr’s Cane have once again conjured a captivating journey into a hazy, autumnal landscape. Frank Allain spoke to The Bard (guitars/vocals) to find out more.
AN: Many thanks for agreeing to the interview and congratulations on the new album. How do you feel about it now that it has seen the light of day? Is it a weight off the mind when a record is finally released? Are you able to take a bit of a ‘step back’ and view it from a fresh perspective?
The Bard: Thank you. It is always a weight off the mind when an album is finally released. This one turned out to be a bit of a longer process, so to finally be able to step back and view it from a fresh perspective is a really good feeling. In the end, we are very happy with how it turned out.
AN: People talk of the concept of the ‘difficult’ second album – do you feel any affinity with this? Was there any sense of pressure/expectation bearing down on you given how well the first record was received?
The Bard: The band never expected to sign with a label in the first place, and to have so many people waiting to hear what we would do next, so there was some pressure there but I don’t think it bothered us too much. We’ve always been about making music for ourselves. For Finnr’s Cane, the second album was more difficult than the first, but I’m not sure if it was due to of pressure so much as it was pushing ourselves as musicians and striving to attain a specific musical vision.
AN: It has been three years since ‘Wanderlust’ landed – how do you feel the band has developed and grown during this period?
The Bard: I think we’ve grown a lot as musicians and even more so since recording “A Portait Painted By The Sun.” We’ve developed our styles and abilities and expanded our knowledge to other instruments and talents. We’ve grown a lot as people as well. Because of this, we’re all very excited for what we can do on our next album.
AN: For me, the three of you forged a very distinctive sound on your debut and it was refreshing to note that ‘A Portrait Painted by the Sun’ continues in a similar vein. Put simply, it was recognisable as a Finnr’s Cane record within the first thirty seconds! Was it a conscious decision to maintain this ‘signature’ sound and not become distracted by the wild experimentation that can sometimes occur within the black metal genre?
The Bard: It really wasn’t a conscious decision to retain any type of sound from Wanderlust. We ended up using the same guitar amp so I think that contributed to a similar guitar sound. Despite using a lot more cello, we didn’t change the instrumentation very much. We tried to write very different songs from a melodic point of view than we did on Wanderlust, but I suppose the core ideas of the members will always shine through, and perhaps, no matter how hard we try to make each album different, they will always be instantly recognizable as a Finnr`s Cane record! (laughs)
AN:Speaking of which, do you align yourselves with the notion of ‘post’ black metal? It seems very much that this is a genre tag that is here to stay – does it have any relevance for Finnr’s Cane?
The Bard: We are often grouped into this sort of genre, and black metal is definitely a big influence for us, but we like to think that we don`t really fit in all that well to any genre tag.
AN: ‘A Portrait Painted by the Sun’ presents a very rich tapestry of sound, delivered by only three people. The line-up has been maintained from the first record which is good to see – were you not tempted to expand at all with the addition of a bass player and/or a second guitarist? Does this not put a lot of pressure on yourself individually to maintain the melodic ‘bedrock’ of the songs or do you find the challenge invigorating?
The Bard: It is true that the challenge of maintaining a full sound with minimal instrumentation is an invigorating one. We also like that having only 3 members forces us to keep things minimalistic, which can often be a good thing when you really do it right. However, despite this, we actually did quite a bit of layering on this album. We felt that because the album sounded so warm and spring-like, it would be fitting to have some additional layers to liven up the sound.
AN: The Slave’s contributions on this record were another notable highlight – what inspired you to fully embrace the cello as an instrument within the context of a black metal band? Personally speaking, I love the sound of the cello and think it an inspired decision but I’d be interested to hear the thinking behind this.
The Bard: It was always one of our quirky ideas to have cello instead of bass guitar in the band. On Wanderlust, we didn’t use as much cello because we were still becoming familiar with the instrument (a lot of the “bass” sound was actually filled in with low-frequency synths). Now that we’ve developed our skills some more, we felt that we could fully embrace the cello as a main instrument the way we didn’t on Wanderlust. Having now have explored this idea to its fullest, we want to experiment with acoustic and standup bass on our next album and maybe give the cello a lesser role again.
AN: As for your vocals, they are much more prominent this time around which I assume is a conscious decision. Were you feeling more confident this time around? The black metal rasps are a welcome addition also, adding some welcome ‘bite’ at times – will there be more experimentation with vocals further down the line?
The Bard: I have never treated vocals as the centrepiece of my music, so most of the time, what I choose to do with the vocals will be what fits the music best. It’s always hard to say whats coming further down the line, but I have been really working on my vocals a lot since “A Portrait Painted By the Sun,” so I expect that I will be able to use them a bit more prominently and interestingly on upcoming albums.
AN: Agalloch – you are probably tired of hearing the comparison but I can definitely hear a lot of the Portland outfit within Finnr’s Cane. Are you fans? Are they an inspiration to you at all?
The Bard: To be honest, we are not tired of this comparison (laughs). Agalloch is a really great band and we are definitely fans. I think that our second album in particular may have been inspired a bit by their music.
AN: There’s a palpable sense of autumn running through ‘A Portrait Painted by the Sun’ but to me, it feels like earlier autumn – almost like the last gasp of summer bleeding into September. ‘Wanderlust’ felt autumnal but much colder, again almost like the transition to winder. Would you agree with this? Is this an ambience you are trying to convey?
The Bard: Wow that`s great that you get that kind of sense from these albums! I do feel the same way. It’s really exciting and interesting to me how music can convey nature and the seasons without necessarily using words. It’s one of the aspects of this band that I love.
AN: Atmosphere, landscape and nature seem to me to be very important sources of inspiration for Finnr’s Cane – would you agree with this? As alluded to in the previous question, there feels to be a very evocative sense of time and place with both the albums so far. Are you inspired by the cyclical nature of the seasons?
The Bard: I am definitely inspired by the cyclical nature of the seasons. I feel like my life would be bland without them. There’s so much feeling and emotion within each season. Anything with a cyclical nature is inspiring really, because I feel like it connects us with something eternal, and much larger than the world we know.
AN: As a Canadian band, Canadian landscape must play a huge part in sculpting sources of inspiration – are you based in rural areas of the country? If not, do you occasionally seek solace or time away in rural areas in order to feel a closer connection with the land?
The Bard: The Slave and I live in a rural area of the country, while the Peasant lives in a more urban area. All of us love to seek solace in the silent serenity of the beautiful Canadian woods. I think as much as it brings you closer to the land, it also brings you closer to yourself in a way that our busy “urban” lives often can`t.
AN: ‘Tao’ is an interesting title for the closing track, embracing concepts from Chinese mysticism and Eastern philosophy. Is this also a source of inspiration for Finnr’s Cane? Or is it that Taoism shares fundamental tenets of the outlook of the members of Finnr’s Cane.
The Bard: Taoism is definitely a source of inspiration to me. I can’t even view it as a religion moreso than a collection of wisdom. I have never been able to identify or believe in any religion, so life can seem dark and nihilistic at times. When I am in my most negative mental states, the teachings of Taoism make me feel balanced. Even when I am in positive mental states, I use the wisdom of these teachings to better my life. I wouldn’t call myself a “taoist” or anything like that, but it’s certainly been a great inspiration for me over the last few years and that’s why I really wanted to include the concept on this album.
AN: What does ‘A Portrait Painted by the Sun’ refer to specifically?
The Bard: I don’t think it refers to anything specifically. For me, I picture the warmest, most beautiful day in the Spring. This was one of the main feelings we wanted to convey musically on this album, so that’s why I think it’s such a fitting title.
AN: Does Finnr’s Cane play live at all? If so, is there anything specific in terms of performance that takes place at a Finnr’s Cane live show to help bring the atmosphere of the records to life?
The Bard: At this time, there are no plans to play live, however, should circumstance allow it, we would not be opposed to the idea. I think if we played live, we would try to incorporate some subtle theatrical elements to help create the right atmosphere for the music.
AN: Returning to sources of influence, what are the key musical acts which have helped shape the distinctive sound of Finnr’s Cane? I’m referring not just to those artists from the metal spectrum but also from folk & classical backgrounds also (both of which I sense have an important role within the influences of the band).
The Bard: We really have a wide variety of musical influences, and I think the black metal bands’ influences probably shine through noticeably to any fan of the genre. We are big fans of classical & European folk music, indie rock, classic rock, prog, jazz, alternative – you name it. We’re inspired by bands in any genre, because I don’t think it’s the genre that attracts us, I think there’s an extra element which defies categorization that speaks to us in an unusual way, and I think it’s the sense of this other element which connects us all as band mates.
AN: (Assuming you guys play live) – Have Finnr’s Cane every played live within Europe? If not, are there any plans in the pipeline to tour or play over here? If so, would the UK be considered as a destination at all?
The Bard: We would love to visit Europe! Ultimately if that ever worked out, we would be extremely happy. However, as mentioned, there are no plans to play live at this time and even the logistics of doing so would be a very big challenge for us.
AN:Have any of you visited England at all? If so, what did you make of it? For me, there’s definitely something that resounds of misty English woodlands within the sound of your records, though it could just be a coincidence!
The Bard: I can’t speak for the others, but I have personally not been there unfortunately. I think that in essence, the misty English woodlands and the misty Canadian woodlands are not all that much different, and maybe there`s a primal sense inside of us when we visit these places that is somehow universal and can sometimes be conveyed subliminally through art and emotion.
AN: And finally (forgive the trite question, you’ve probably heard this hundreds of times!) – what is ‘Finnr’s Cane’? It’s an intriguing name for a band for sure.
The Bard: It is intriguing isn’t it? Perhaps that’s why we felt we had to name the band after it. It doesn’t actually have any specific meaning, it’s more of a mysterious abstract image that we find compliments our music quite well.
AN: Those are all of my questions – the last words are yours.
The Bard: Thank you so much for the interview, and thanks to all the readers who are interested in our music!
(Interviewer Frank Allain)