Hailz and congratulations with the new album ‘Fiannaíocht’! You surpassed yourself. How are you doing and feeling now that the album is done and out?
Daithi: Hailz for the Emerald and thank you so much. Yes, ‘Fiannaíocht’ has been set lose and is upon you all finally. It is very relieving and satisfying to have finally shared it with people and to hear the responses so far. Reviews have been really positive and we are extremely excited to get out and promote this album. There is always a moment of doubt about this time, you overthink things and in some ways panic a little, but ‘Fiannaíocht’ is perfect and is where Celtachor wishes to continue forward from.
Anais: We are doing well, thank you! We decided to take as long as we need to write and record this album, it was obviously a good decision for the music, but it is true that the final few months before releasing it were tough for our patience. Personally I could not wait for people to hear it, and I was 100% behind every track.
Let us firstly have a brief overview of how the band came into being. What were the intentions of the founder members when kicking off this musical adventure?
Daithi: Well, the band was started by Stephen (vocals, Irish whistle) and myself. We put together a demo of ideas of which we completely recorded ourselves and decided: “ok we want to do more with this”. The intention was to retell the tales from the annals of Irish Mythology and cast ourselves as the warriors and bards of the time. Fast forward a little time later, we got more musicians and recorded our first real demo ‘In The Halls Of Our Ancient Fathers’. On the back of that recording we got offered a few gigs and soon after we were joined by Anais Chareyre on drums. Soon after we added Fionn Stafford on guitar and recorded ‘Nine Waves From The Shore’ which caught the attention of our label Trollzorn. We followed that album up with ‘Nuada Of The Silver Arm’ and finally got joined by Liam (violin) and Robert (bass, harp, bouzouki), and this year, ‘Fiannaíocht’ came out.
What can you say about the reception of the first albums and the possibilities to play live until now?
Daithi: I think, we as Celtachor, stood out differently. We never wanted to go along with the happy go lucky stereotype, as our stories are not like that. The first albums were very evident of that fact. Tragedy, war and sorrow are mainstays of an folklore. We wanted to show the darker, more realistic side of Irish folklore with ‘In The Halls… ‘, its epicness on ‘Nine Waves…’ and the struggle and hardship on ‘Nuada Of The Silver Arm’. These albums opened up a different side of folk for people to experience and since then we have played many countries, which we thought would never happen, and shared the stage with bands we thought we would never ever play alongside.
Anais: We clearly saw our fan-base grow with every album we released and the gig offers become more numerous. We love travelling, discover new countries together and play in front of a new crowd, we are really lucky to live this adventure!
Who are the main composers nowadays in the band and how do you divide the challenge of writing music vs. lyrics?
Daithi: Wow, there is a can of worms haha! Myself and Fionn (guitars) do come up with a lot of ideas and songs, but so does Stephen, Rob, Liam and Anais. I don’t think we have a primary song writer. We bounce ideas off each other and usually the original ideas change over and over until we are happy and feel that the songs are the way they should be. We have left so many ideas on the floor only for them to be revisited and re-tweaked. I don’t think we’ll ever be in danger of losing inspiration.
Anais: Not all bands can work this way, but somehow this is our best way to write music. We are absolutely honest and blunt with everyone, if we do not like a riff/melody/lyric we will say it, and discuss. We are also open minded to each idea and encourage every suggestion. We need each other, we are really a “band” in the writing process.
Your main topic for inspiration lyrically happens to be history and Irish mythology. Are both things still blend into each other in Irish heritage and/or society? How do you see that?
Daithi: Yes I think that since a lot of us grew up learning about folk tales and mythology that Irish society as a whole reveres these heroes and legends.
Anais: However we do not actually talk about Irish history, we focus on Irish mythology as it is a part of Irish tradition that is infinitely beautiful and should not be forgotten. Of course, one can argue that it contains tales of real battles, real heroes and kings, and that is fine. Irish history is a very interesting and rich subject too, but it’s simply not our subject as a band.
’Fiannaíocht’ is a concept album about the mythological hero Finn of the Fianna. Can you tell a bit more about this character and how he is seen by Irish people with interest in the topic?
Daithi: Finn is a very big part of who we are. I think people can relate to his story and struggles, his early life and revere his adult life with a sense of awe and inspiration.
Anais: Finn was the son of Cumhail, King of the Fianna. From a very early age in his life he had to hide to survive, as his father was murdered by the sons of Morna and he would also have been killed if he had been found. He learnt many arts and gathered many skills as he grew up, from poetry to hunting, and he became a great fighter. He avenged his father by killing his murderers and became king as he revealed his identity. A series of adventures happened to him, and this album only covers half of it.
The album deals with his youth. Can you tell a bit more about the story and does it mean there will be sequels?
Anais: More than likely we will tell the second part of his life. If we wanted to tell it in details, it would take five albums really, it is difficult to sum it up lyric wise. The beginning of the story I told in my last answer is only the two first tracks. After this, there is the story of Tuiren, changed into a hound by Uchtdealb. The story of Sadbh, Finn’s lover forever lost as she was changed into a doe by a jealous druid, the deeds of Finn’s finest warrior Caoilte, the battle against the army of Mal… and more stories again.
Quite some musical development occurred since the previous albums. Can you first shine a light of the addition of new members, the reason for it and the influence on the sound?
Daithi: Our last album dealt with a huge part of our folklore, thus been very dark and atmospheric. A lot of people asked about the typical folk elements: they are here, but not in the usually or common way, and that is how we wished to portray it. With ‘Fiannaíocht’, even before we started, we knew that we wanted more folk elements to our sound. Rob and Liam definitely add to that. Of course finding the right people was hard, but we strongly believe we found the perfect new members, their enthusiasm is a great boost. We asked them to be as creative as they wanted and we didn’t impose barriers, which I think helped all of us to think outside the box more so than usual. We have always pushed ourselves as musicians to progress and I feel we are on the right track.
Secondly we have an upgrade of vocals with addition of clean vocals as well. That gives more dynamics and possibilities, isn’t it? How did you grow into that?
Daithi: With Stephen’s side project, he had already started to experiment with his voice and he was vocalist for Mael Mordha for a while, it really gave him an opportunity to progress as a vocalist. I have to say it was very surprising when we heard his vocals on the album. I think it fits perfectly.
Anais: I am very proud of our front man’s improvements!
Vocalist Stephen was also the new singer in Mael Mordha, but I think they are on hold, or not?
Daithi: As far as I know they are. They recently did a show in the U.K but I think that was their final show ever. Who knows?
Anais: We love the Mael Mordha guys, they are real gentlemen. But I think now they are focusing on their new band Death The Leveller, do check them out!
I guess the recording process must have been different as well, with more members and instruments... what about this experience at Oblivion and Skyhammer Studios this time?
Daithi: We recorded backing vocal and chants at Oblivion, it certainly was an eye opener for us. But Skyhammer was the main studio. We spent longer than ever before in a studio environment. Chris Fielding was brilliant and got the absolute best from us. Also the atmosphere at Skyhammer is great, you really do feel you are creating something really special in that studio.
Anais: We cannot thank Chris enough.
You have shot an impressive video clip for ‘Sons Of Morna’! Can you go deeper into the making of this clip (seemed a huge job to me) and the song itself?
Anais: Thank you! You are right to say so: it was a huge work. I took it upon myself to make it happen, I wrote the story board, found the cast and crew, the locations and paid as much as I could myself. It involved a lot of driving, meetings and organising. I did get a huge amount of help, I cannot hold a camera and I do not have any gear or experience in the matter, and I was very lucky to have Fiona Graham and Alfie Leonard for this job, along with Jess and Tadgh Montague our old friends for costume and props, Dawn Butler and Noeleen Cunningham for make-up, my husband Adrian driving them all around, and an amazing cast, guys who could not only act but also fight with a sword… The result was beyond my expectation, I cannot thank them all enough!
I think bands like Celtachor can be considered as the next generation of Celtic/Irish folk metal bands after the echelons Cruachan, Waylander, Primordial and so on. What is your idea about that and how is the connection/bond with the echelons?
Daithi: We know the guys in these bands and have some for years. There is a lot of respect and honesty between them and I think we have earned some of that, for pushing ourselves out there.
Anais: We’ll see what happens, I don’t believe a band can aim to become a “big” band and do so. You can only aim to do the best music you can, and the fans will follow or not. It would be an immense honour to see our band next to these three of course, but I don’t want to hope for this. I just want to write more and play good gigs everywhere… we are lucky enough already and we should not forget this.
Please tell us about the Dubliner scène these days. Still so lively and intense for (folk) metal?
Daithi: In all honesty there aren’t a lot of folk/pagan metal bands in Ireland. The scene is very healthy and a huge variety of artists that are certainly worth attention. You may even find some at festivals around Europe and beyond. A good place to start is the Irish Metal Archive.
Anais: It is a weird thing alright, folk is not that popular in Ireland. The black metal scene however is huge amazing! If you ever go to visit Dublin, do not miss underground gigs in Voodoo Lounge or On The Rox, you are likely to discover great bands.
What are the plans for the near future and for playing live?
Daithi: We love to play and Celtachor is a live band, so our aim is to play as much as possible and wherever we can. We have a few shows coming up soon and a few more in the works but promoters and booking agents can contact us either through our email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook. If you guys want us to play, let the promoters know.
Anais: We are now looking for festival and gigs abroad, hit us up before we start writing music again!
Who did the artwork? Can you tell a bit more about the artist and about its symbolism?
Anais: I did the artwork, as I did it for the two last albums. ‘Nine Waves…’ was an oil painting, ‘Nuada…’ was a digital painting, ‘Fiannaíocht’ album cover is an ink drawing, which is my favourite technique at the moment. It represents Finn and his two hounds Bran and Sceolan, in the search for Sadbh, which they will never find, as she is forever lost in the forest in the shape of a doe.
If there is anything you’d like to add, please feel free to do it here...
Daithi: We are really looking forward to the future of our band. Once again I’d like to thank you and everyone for listening and supporting us, we hope you enjoy our new album.
Anais: Thank you all for listening and for this interview! Lords Of Metal rocks!