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Cellar Darling

In 2016 Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter and Ivo Henzi left the Swiss band Eluveitie to start up their own project Cellar Darling. About a year later the first album ‘This Is The Sound’ has seen the light of day and that was more than enough reason to get in touch with female singer Anna Murphy, who was very willing to provide us with more information concerning her departure from Eluveitie and het new band Cellar Darling.

By: Sjak | Archive under pagan / folk metal

Hi Anna, when did you start singing and when did you discover that you had a certain talent for it?
Well, that’s kind of weird as I never actually planned to become a singer, even though both my parents are opera singers. When I joined the band Eluveitie I replaced a girl that had been singing in the band and they asked me if I wanted to take over her parts, but at that time I didn’t really know if I was able to do it. But I just started more or less by accident and that’s how my “singing career” developed further. I’m not really a trained singer, I just became better along the way by the years of experience.

Which male and/or female singers have influenced you, especially in the early days?
I’ve always been a big fan of Björk, she’s one of my absolute favorite singers. I also like Mari Boine very much, she’s a Sami singer and I really love Anneke van Giersbergen, one of the most amazing people on this planet.

Have you been active in any other bands before joining Eluveitie? If so, which one(s) and did you do any recording with these?
I was only sixteen when I joined Eluveitie and before that the only thing I did was something in a school band with which we played System Of A Down covers, but it wasn’t very good to be honest.

With Eluveitie you recorded five studio albums if I’m not mistaken. Which one do you see as the absolute highlight in your career with that band and why?
I think I have to go for ‘Slania’, because I was still very young then and it was just an amazing experience for me. I didn’t know anything about studio work and how everything worked in a band. It was a special album for me though as it kind of paved the path of what was to come. I also really like our acoustic album ‘Evocation I’ as I then discovered that I actually like writing music as well.

You also recorded a solo album in 2013 called…Cellar Darling. Why did you feel the urge to do a solo album in the first place and what do you think about the actual end result?
I just had a lot of ideas in me that didn’t fit anywhere else, especially not in Eluveitie, and I never really had the intention to do a solo album, but it just kind of happened. At one point I had so many songs and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with them. It just made sense to release them in some form, but I did this more for myself then for somebody else. I didn’t really have a vision, but it was just a collection of very personal songs and looking back on that now, I’m actually a bit shocked how personal the album is and how much I show of myself by means of those songs. But I still think it’s a cool album and I absolutely don’t regret making it.

In 2016 the collaboration with Eluveitie stopped and Ivo, Merlin and you left or had to leave. Was it immediately clear for you that the three of you would continue in a new band and if so, what was the game plan that you had back then?
Yeah, from the start it was very clear that we would continue together, we didn’t even have to discuss that because we’re all musicians from the heart and it’s the only thing we want and can do. The process was actually a very natural one as we never had to brainstorm what genre we wanted to play. It just kind of happened on its own accord, we immediately started writing songs and we discovered that it was very eclectic music.

Why did you decide to call the band Cellar Darling, indeed the album title of your solo album?
We were assuming that it was going to be a bit confusing for people, but Cellar Darling is just what kind of stuck with us. We had some other ideas as well, but Cellar Darling just felt right and it also developed a deeper meaning for us as over the years we all had a lot of ideas that were kept in a kind of mental cellar, because it didn’t have space or time to go anywhere. So now all of these ideas are being led out now to see the light.

band imageCellar Darling consists of the three of you and Ivo plays the bass parts on the debut album. Is this a conscious choice of are you actively looking for a fourth member?
No, this is a conscious choice and we want to stay with three people. In a live situation we will use a session bass player to fill in that spot.

How did the song writing process look like for this the debut album ‘This Is The Sound’? Did it differ in any way with what you were used to in Eluveitie?
Yeah, I thought it was pretty different as we write songs in a way that I actually missed a bit in Eluveitie. We just meet up in the rehearsal room and we write together and jam a lot. We spend hours trying to create a symbiosis between the three of us and with Eluveitie it was more a process that happened in each person’s home. In Cellar Darling it’s a lot more teamwork than in Eluveitie, which I really enjoy.

Your music combines a lot of elements from different genres. Is that something that comes natural to you or is it a deliberate thing to create variety in the song material?
I think it comes natural because we are inspired by many things and we listen to many different genres of music. If we would have decided to play in a certain genre, I think it would have been a very unnatural process.

What are typical elements that need to be present in a great Cellar Darling song before you decide to release it on an album?
Hmm, that’s a hard one. That’s kind of decided just with our gut feeling, because some songs are very different from others. Some have typical arrangements like Eluveitie, but we like to use different structures and more progressive elements as well. The songs need to tell a story, that’s most important. I want people to listen to a song and to be carried away into a different world. Of course I don’t know if this really happens, but that’s kind of the main goal that we have with our music.

As a band you’re positioning yourself as real storytellers, both from a musical as well as a lyrical perspective. What are typical subjects that you like to write about in the lyrics and who’s responsible for the lyrics?
So far I’ve written all of the lyrics and the lyrical process is very similar to the musical one. I always listen to my gut feeling and to my impulses, so when I hear a melody or a riff I immediately start seeing pictures in my head. I always follow these first impulses, I never sit down and think about writing a song about war or whatever. It always comes to me quite naturally and I really like this type of work because it’s a very creative and exciting process.

In September of 2016 you already released a first single ‘Challenge’. What was the intention that you had with this one and how was the response from both the press as well as the fans?
The reason that we wanted to release something as soon as possible was just to give a sign that we are still around and we’re doing something. Maybe that was even more important for ourselves that for the outside world. ‘Challenge’ and ‘Fire, Wind & Earth’ were the two songs that we wrote first, they were finished very quickly so we thought that we might as well release them. The single was very successful, we got very good responses and it provided us a deal with Nuclear Blast Records, which was of course a huge step for us.

Is the contract that you have with Nuclear Blast a one records deal or a multi-record deal?
We signed a contract for multiple albums.

Why did you decide to call the album ‘This Is the Sound’ as there is no song with that title on the album?
That is actually the reason as I didn’t want to name the album after a song, because that’s a bit uninspired I think. It makes sense to me if it is a concept album, but our album had so many different stories and different songs, that I wanted to find something that represented the whole album as one piece of work. ‘This Is The Sound’ is more of a statement also for us, because we were very happy and excited to have found our sound, because when we started we had no idea how it was going to turn out. At the end we were quite proud of the wide variety of our material, that it just seemed like a good title. Furthermore it’s also a line in the song ‘Challenge’, so it has a kind of reference to that as well.

The album will contain fourteen songs and has a playing time of more than one hour, so I guess you must have had quite some inspiration and motivation to get your music out to the people?
Yeah, definitely! We got some feedback even that it’s too long, but I really like that the album is so long because then we can show people all the different sides that we have to our music.

There will also be a special mediabook, which will feature three (cover) bonus songs and each member has made his/her own choice for one song. How did you get that idea and why did each member pick their particular track?
Actually Merlin had the idea for this. When we signed the contract with Nuclear Blast, we had dinner with them and we were talking about bonus material and what we could do in this respect. We came up with that idea that every band member could pick a song and I really like it because it makes things a bit more personal. It also makes it a kind of a challenge as well, because Merlin picked a Queen song (‘The Propeth’s Song’), Ivo picked a Tears For Fears track (‘Mad World’), while I went for a classical song (‘The Cold Song’ form the ‘King Arthur’ opera) and these are all not obvious choices I must say. The challenge was obviously to not ruin the song, but make them our own and I’m quite curious to see and hear the reactions to our versions.

The mediabook will also have a different cover and an extended booklet explaining the stories behind your songs. Why is this information not included on the regular version as this is quite interesting for the fans in my opinion?
The thing with the different versions of the album is more of a record company thing and I’m not an expert in that. The whole thing with bonus stuff and special editions is apparently what labels do nowadays. The special edition is something for the real die-hard fans I think.

The cover artwork of the album was done by Christopher Ruef. What was the assignment that you gave to him and how do the fourteen symbols relate to the fourteen songs on the album?
The artwork of the album is actually a collaboration between Christopher Ruef and Manual Vargas Lépiz who did the photography. My idea is to have one symbol and one photograph for each song, which kind of represents the song. The great thing about the cooperation with Christopher was that I basically sent him all the songs and all the lyrics and told him to do whatever was necessary. I didn’t give him a lot of instructions, because I knew that the results would be great anyhow. I really love the symbols and I really want to have a tattoo of all of them right now…Christopher is also the one who created our logo by the way. I like painting pictures with music and that’s why I wanted to have a strong symbolism in the artwork as well.

You released a video for the new single ‘Black Moon’. Why did you choose this particular song for the second single and what do you want to express in the video?
We chose ‘Black Moon’ because we simply think it’s our best song. It was one of the first songs that we wrote and it was the point where we definitely found our sound. The video is a bit of a special story, because the script that I originally wrote was probably very hard to realize. This may sound negative if I say it became somewhat of a compromise, but I don’t really mean it that way. What I had in my head was too unrealistic to achieve, so therefore the idea was born to play around with imagery and abstract pictures. The song is about the fear that brings certain people of certain religions and cultures together like the Christians and the Mayans for instance who believe that some natural phenomenon means that the world is going to end. It’s about some of the representatives of those people who are collectively going bezerk and they’re all summoned by a female rider of the apocalypse. In the end nothing really happens as we’ve seen a couple of times in real life as well.

band image

How important is a video nowadays for a band like Cellar Darling as there are not too many broadcasting possibilities anymore besides YouTube?
I think it’s very important because YouTube has gotten so important for a band. The whole music industry has changed so drastically in which the visual aspect has become very important. But apart from that I think a video is something very beautiful, especially if you have a message or if you have a story to tell.

Did you write and/or record more material than the fourteen songs that are to be found on this debut album. If so, which ones and what is going to happen with them?
There were two or three other songs that we started working on, but it just didn’t feel right to put them on the album. That is not to say that these songs were bad, well…one of them actually was..haha. We will probably work on them a little bit later and maybe they will end up on the next album.

Of course people have high expectations because of your Eluveitie background. Did that put any extra pressure on you during the writing and recording sessions?
Maybe a little bit. I’m not a very stable personality as I can feel very confident at one time and like a piece of shit the next time. We just want to be natural and authentic and do what feels right. The result of this is something very different than what we did before with Eluveitie, so I think the biggest fear is that people don’t understand and not that they don’t like it. In the end you shouldn’t care too much because if you’re happy with what you did, that’s the most important thing.

What are you own personal expectation from this album? When will it be a success for you?
For me it’s already a success as it is coming out and the most exciting thing about the future is that you have no idea what’s going to happen and I kind of like this uncertainty and this mysterious aspect of it. But what I of course would really love is that we could get a following that allows us to go out on tour, because that’s what being in a band is all about, playing your music in front of an audience.

The market is overflooded nowadays with female fronted metal band. What are the unique selling points of Cellar Darling? Why should people check out your band instead of the numerous others that are around?
Because we’re not a female fronted metal band, we’re just a symbiosis of three people who are together in one band. We don’t want to present ourselves as a female fronted band as it becomes somewhat of a gimmick then. I believe that we have something special, I believe that we created something unique. In the end I can’t control who might believe this as well, so I guess it’s something that we will find out.

You have already done some pre-release shows In Slovenia, Italy and Germany. Why these counties and not Switzerland and how was the response from the audience?
We actually played two shows in Switzerland as well, but these shows in these countries just fell into place. It was of course a bit of a challenge, because it’s not very common that you already play full one-hour shows when the people actually don’t know your material. You could really tell that they had to listen very carefully, but it proved to be a very nice feeling if you’re able to win over an audience with unheard material. We were very nervous as we didn’t really know yet how things would turn out live, but in the end everything was great.

There are also some festivals that you will appear on and you will join Delain for their special Danse Macabre tour. How do you feel about that and what more will do you have in store for us on concerning touring?
There are some things in the making, but nothing is fixed yet. I really hope that with the release some stuff will come rolling in. It’s a bit of a hard period as well because most of the tours are already booked, so it’s really hard to actually get on a package so late. I’m really happy that Delain is having us, I’m very grateful for that and I think it’s going to be a great combination of bands.

Besides touring and promoting the debut album, what more can we expect from Cellar Darling in the next six to twelve months?
I would love to start working on the next album already because now we have finally found our own sound and that’s really an exciting feeling. I would like to release the next album as soon as possible as I don’t want to wait too long because we’re so inspired right now.

What is the ultimate ambition level that you have with Cellar Darling? How big can you grow the band in your opinion
That’s a hard question and I’m really not the type of person that thinks about these things. Like I said the future is something very exciting and mysterious and I love not knowing what’s coming. Of course if for whatever reason things wouldn’t work out, that would make me very sad, but you just can’t know and we can’t control it. We can just write the music that we love, that’s the only guarantee we have.

Okay Anna, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to express to our readers?
Thank you very much for the interest in our band and the support. Also a big thanks to the fans and looking forward to meeting a lot of them during our show in the Netherlands.

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