Interview: Cellar Darling

What's important to us is that there's no limits, nothing that restricts our horizon. I guess that's why you can find various influences on the album: classical, folk, rock, metal, prog...

Since parting ways with Eluveitie, Anna Murphy, Ivo Henzi and Merlin Sutter have been working on a brand new project, Cellar Darling. Earlier this year they released their debut album This Is The Sound to widespread acclaim and are getting ready to tour with Delain later in the year. Nathan Lagden caught up with iconic singer Anna Murphy to discuss the album and the band’s future plans.

(((o))): For those who are new to Cellar Darling, what can people expect from you and your music?

Anna: I guess you can expect a lot. We’re very eclectic and impulsive musicians and as long as something is authentic and we feel it’s “us” we’re up for it. Our albums will definitely vary a lot and not only follow one style and I can’t imagine us ever being easy to assign to a specific genre. The same goes with live shows, the few ones we’ve had so far were always a bit different, also depending on our mood. And that’s what I like about our band, it’s all very organic… we’re just us and you can take it or leave it. As for specific plans, this band is our number one priority. We’re working our asses off and all that is on our mind at the moment is touring, touring, touring and simultaneously working on the next album. 

(((o))): How did the band come about?

Anna: Although Cellar Darling as it is now is the result of the split with our previous band Eluveitie, it’s not the reason the band exists. Merlin, Ivo and I have always been very good friends apart from working together in that band for over ten years and we’ve always wanted to start a project together. Initially this was going to be a side project at some point and as you can see “at some point” suddenly became “now” and the side project suddenly became our main occupation in life. 

So now the band has existed since only one year and already a shitload of amazing things happened. We got a deal with Nuclear Blast, wrote and released a one-hour debut album, played some amazing shows (for instance at Montreux Jazz Festival) and already have our first tour coming up with Delain in October. 

(((o))): What were the main musical influences for Cellar Darling?

Anna: That’s always quite a hard question to answer as I believe that musical inspiration mainly happens subconsciously. We all listen to various types of music, from black metal to 90s pop music. What’s important to us is that there’s no limits, nothing that restricts our horizon. I guess that’s why you can find various influences on the album: classical, folk, rock, metal, prog… 

Personally I’m extremely inspired by classical music, I grew up in a family of opera singers. And I love bands that incorporate classical elements into rock music, something that for instance Queen has mastered.

(((o))): Did you go in with a preconception of what you wanted to sound like, or was it more of a natural process?

Anna: It was a completely natural process. We had no clue what we were doing basically, we just let it all flow and happen. And we were also surprised by the result and how so many different ideas can still fit together so well. 

(((o))): Is there a main creative source for the band, or do you all contribute equally to the creative process?

Anna: A lot of songs are written together at the rehearsal room based on ideas that come from Ivo or myself. We experiment, we jam, we basically behave like what people imagine a rock band to be like (including sometimes only drinking beer when we don’t come up with anything). There are also songs that are written in a more personal environment, by Ivo or myself. We make demos, send them around and then further arrange them together. 

(((o))): What were the main challenges in forming this band and recording your first album together?

Anna: I guess the only challenges that faced us were “administrative” ones. When we left Eluveitie we basically left our main and only job and thus had no money whatsoever, I couldn’t even bring my instrument along since it had been a band expense. Merlin and I both don’t have apartments anymore and are kind of “winging” life at the moment. And it was difficult to get the money together to record our first two singles which we released prior to signing with Nuclear Blast. 

During the studio sessions in January and March, when we recorded our album with Tommy Vetterli at the New Sound Studio, we lived at his studio (thank you, Tommy!) on the sofa because we couldn’t afford getting the train there and back every day. So I mainly showered in a bathroom sink or in the swim park next door. 

But as “challenging” as these things sound, they’re also the fuel of our creative drive. We had so many ideas and we’ve never been so creative before and that’s what actually matters. Everything else is just life and we all know that we can wing it somehow.

 

(((o))): The first single that you released from the album was called ‘Challenge’. Was this related to these challenges that you faced?

Anna: Yeah definitely. That song was written right after the split with our band. We were still depressed and had a flood of emotions and circumstances we had to deal with. Although the lyrics are more directed towards the self and how it can bring you down even more (and is the only thing that can pick you back up), the outside world definitely inspired the song. 

(((o))): What are your other sources of inspiration for the lyrics throughout the album?

Anna: The lyrics on our album mostly came to me as impulses and I created stories out of them. When I hear or write music I mostly see pictures or colours and let my mind do the work before actually figuring out what the song should be about. When I heard Ivo’s demo of ‘The Hermit’ for instance I saw an old man that was dying and then I went from there, asked myself who he could be and created lyrics out of that very first impulse. It’s not a strained process at all, it all just flows like the music does. A lot of songs and lyrics are also inspired by personal feelings or experiences (as it is normal with musicians…), but I took the initial feeling and turned it into a story or a poem. 

(((o))): What were your main expectations in forming the band, and how has the actual experience been different from these expectations?

Anna: Honestly, I never really have expectations. Life is full of surprises and there’s no way you can properly plan the future. And that’s a good thing. I live in the here and now, thinking about the past or the future would be a waste of time for me and I love not knowing what’s going to happen. For instance, we’ve charted in Switzerland, Germany and the UK which is quite phenomenal for a newcomer band that doesn’t write pop songs. I wasn’t expecting it and it was an extremely nice surprise to wake up to in the morning. So let the surprises come, universe! We’re ready! 

(((o))): Have you had any new experiences in forming Cellar Darling?

Anna: Yeah I guess the most new thing for us is the way we work together and write songs. It’s all a very rewarding team effort. And here I must say it’s also amazing as it is challenging to be a three-piece band. We can work together on everything, but we also have a lot of responsibility and apart from that we feel more “naked” on stage. But that can also be good, it gives us quite an adrenaline kick. 

(((o))): How does this band differ from any of your previous projects?

Anna: I think it would be easier to answer to what things don’t differ from the previous projects, because it simply is something completely different and it doesn’t make much sense to compare the projects. Our previous band was an eight-piece Celtic folk metal band and apart from that Ivo and I had our solo projects (which we still have and work on on the side). So our experiences are either working alone or being in a huge band. What doesn’t differ is the passion we have for being creative and writing music, that’s always been within us in whichever project we were in. Oh and the record label is the same, hehe. But apart from that? It feels absolutely new. 

(((o))): What has the reaction to your music been like so far?

Anna: Extremely positive! What I’ve noticed is that a lot of people write very elaborate comments or messages to us about the album. It’s not just “this is nice” or a thumbs up smiley, they really go into detail about what they love and what the songs mean to them. And a lot of them really seem to understand our music and that is for me the best thing that can happen to a musician. 

(((o))): What will the future hold for you and for Cellar Darling?

Anna: No clue. If nothing terrible happens to us or the world really does end: Lots and lots of touring and a new album for sure. We’ll see about everything else! 

Next up is lots of rehearsing for the Summer Breeze festival and then we’re joining Delain on tour in October. 

(((o))): What do you think the future will hold for the folk metal scene in general?

Anna: The scene has had a very solid following for years. I remember when it all started some people were assuming it will just be another one of those phases, but I think you can tell by now that it’s more than that. It shows how people have a connection to folk tales and music and it’s great that both were incorporated into modern music. Speaking of which: we don’t really see us as a folk metal band as such, rather as the new wave of folk rock which is more fitting. 

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