The ‘ganjo’s gone.
So say White Rock twins Alanna and Brianne Finn-Morris – also known as close harmony singing duo Fionn.
Just signed to their first record company contract, they’re due to perform this Saturday as part of the TD Concerts At The Pier lineup (7 p.m. RE/MAX Live Sea Stage, next to White Rock Museum and Archives on Marine Drive).
Brianne’s guitar-tuned, six-stringed banjo – or ‘ganjo’ – has become a thing of the past, now that their focus is on a folk-pop, Ed Sheeran-influenced sound, rather than the country music they started with when they first began busking, at age 12, at Granville Island.
“We’ve deleted the gango,” said Alanna.
“It’s sad,” said Brianne. “But…”
“The mandolin’s a little more like our sound,” Alanna added. “A lot of people think it’s like a ukulele, so we still use it for particular songs. But there’ll be no slide guitars from here on…”
“We’re not feeling the country any more,” said Brianne. “We’re not country girls – although I still like to listen to country music.”
“But our favourite artist right now is (Irish singer) Hozier,” said Alanna, noting that his thoughtful brand of pop – including the popular Take Me To Church – represents the kind of direction they’d like their music to take.
But they can’t see themselves tiring of performing live for a hometown crowd, they said.
“We love it,” said Brianne.
“When we busk down by the pier it’s like we known everyone by name,” said Alanna, adding that people seem to know as much about their upcoming gigs as they do.
Right now, the duo said, local audiences can expect a playlist that’s a blend of covers and some of their newer originals.
When they first appeared in public, their mom, Cheryl Finn, director of South Surrey’s Semiahmoo Academy of Music, counselled them that country repertoire would be an age-appropriate choice.
“It’s easier for kids to sing country songs than some other types of pop material,” Brianne said.
And they did well by it – performing and doing workshops in Nashville (they describe the experience as “going to school” for learning the business of professional songwriting) and placing as finalists and semi finalists in that city’s 2015 Unsigned Only Music Competition.
But now that the Holy Cross Regional High School alumni have turned 18 they’ve graduated in more ways than one.
They’ve just gone public with their developmental contract, inked earlier this year, with new manager Jonathan Simkin and his 604 Records team (Nickleback, Carly-Rae Jepsen, Mariana’s Trench).
And they’ll be making their first overseas trip by themselves when they go to stay with family in dad Eamonn’s hometown, Carlow (near Dublin) in August.
Although they vowed last year to “go full speed ahead” with their music after completing high school, the twins are amazed at the rapidity with which things are going forward.
They had submitted a couple of original songs to Simkin last year, which won them a meeting and a chance to showcase for 604 Records.
“He told us at that time, ‘you sing well and we can tell you’re polished but I think the original songs need to be better’. I thought that was great – he didn’t kick us out of there.”
The girls immediately set to work, writing a half dozen new songs which they sent off to Simkin.
“He said ‘I thought I’d never hear from you again’ – and he was very happy about our work ethic,” Alanna said.
The songs won them another meeting, and, ultimately, a contract, they said – but not, fortunately, the kind of stultifying ‘360-degree’ deal that many have warned against – the kind that would stipulate every detail of what they could and could not do as artists.
“He told us he hates that kind of contract,” Alanna said, adding that the company shows every indication of a reassuring respect for artistic freedom.
Depending on how well things go, a first few singles could be forthcoming as soon as early 2017.
The timing is a little spooky, they admit.
“Our mom always talked about us writing out a list of goals,” Brianne said. “After we decided not to go with country music she had us write out a goal of when we wanted to start working with our first record company.
“We wrote down March 2016, although it didn’t seem realistic – it was so soon.
“But when Jonathan called and said he wanted a meeting with us, it was set for March 4 of this year!”