After splitting from Eluveitie, Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter, and Ivo Henzi formed Cellar Darling, and have recently released ‘This Is The Sound’, their stunning debut album. I chatted with Anna about the album, getting used to life as a trio, and paying homage to a certain Mr Freddie Mercury.
Hi there, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, it’s much appreciated!
Debut album, ‘This Is The Sound’ is rightly gaining plaudits from everyone, fans and critics alike. It must have given you great satisfaction when you saw how well it was received?
“Yeah definitely! I honestly didn’t know what to expect. We’re very impulsive musicians and we follow our gut feeling and impulses when creating music. This resulted in a really organic and creative album. We just did what we felt like doing, and that can often result in people not understanding, or even not appreciating, your art. In our case, the reactions have been wonderful and very elaborate. I love it when the listener just gets it. There is no better feeling!”
Starting out from scratch again must have brought some sleepless nights? Or maybe the exact opposite even?
“Oh definitely, but that’s a good thing. The album was written in just a year, but it was an extremely emotional and chaotic year. I guess that was fuelling our creative energy.”
With the release of ‘This Is The Sound’, the last few months must have been a whirlwind. How are you finding life as a trio? There’s really nowhere to hide if there is only three of you!
“Haha! Yes you are right, and all of us love hiding from time to time! Honestly, I find it much easier though. We have been friends for over ten years and share a lot of similar visions, otherwise a band like ours would not work. It’s based on friendship and creativity, and the music is created as a symbiosis of us three. On stage however, I find it a bit harder than when you’re a bunch of people. You feel more exposed. But I guess that also just needs some getting used to.”
One of the most enjoyable aspects about the album is how eclectic it is, the fact that one didn’t know what to expect next. Was it as organic a process as it seems?
“Yeah absolutely. The first couple of songs were written together in the rehearsal room. We jammed and experimented a lot before finding our sound, and even once we found our sound, we still didn’t see a reason to limit our horizon. We just took all the ideas as they came and created something out of them that sounds like Cellar Darling.”
The pacing on the album seems quite important. It opens at pace with ‘Avalanche’ and ‘Black Moon’, before settling down mid album on ‘Water’ (the signal that side one is ending?) and then straight back into ‘Fire Wind & Earth’ and ‘Rebels’, before slowing down on ‘High Above These Crowns’, was this the way it was always intended? The album is truly best enjoyed in one sitting, from start to finish!
“Thank you. That’s really cool to hear! We took our time with the track list, and as you can hear, it was very important to us. There are quite a few factors to take into account when searching for a good order, like the key and tempo of the songs, but our main focus was the feeling. We had a couple of options and just went with what felt right. Although it’s not a concept album, and the stories are about as eclectic as the music, we still want to convey a general feeling with the entire album.”
The album has some massive moments, ‘High Above These Crowns’, for instance, has the word ‘epic’ written all over it. Will it be hard to replicate these moments live?
“I’ve never been of the opinion that songs live should sound like they do on the album. That’s why I’m also against using computers on stage, which we now are finally living by. Merlin has a sample pad which he can play himself whenever we feel something like strings or a piano here and there is really missing. This allows us to still play freely though, which is a really cool solution. And yeah, ‘High Above These Crowns’ would require a string quartet and backing vocalists to replicate the album feeling live, but I see it as our job to perform this song with the same intensity live, even if it not all the elements are there. Let’s see if we succeed!”
The artwork and package for the album is incredible. The limited edition digibook and the vinyl version are simply stunning. Who produced the cover art? Was it important that you had something so visual to show the world?
“The artwork was done as a collaboration by Manuel Vargas Lépiz (photography) and Christopher Ruf @Saros Collective (symbols and layout). It was very important to us that the songs have visual representatives, as we want to paint pictures and tell stories with our music.”
The videos produced so far have also been very visual too. ‘Black Moon’, in particular, is very striking. It’s quite apocalyptic, and ties in nicely with the cover version of ‘Mad World’. Are we really in such a mess at the moment, or will someone soon yell “Cut!”, and it turns out the last few years have been some twisted, messed up reality show?
“It always depends on how you look at it. Basically, we’ve been in a mess since inventing agriculture, haven’t we? It sounds a bit cheesy, but in the end, the world looks like you want it to. You can think it’s terrible when you’re watching the news, but you can also feel peace and see the beauty in it when you meditate in the mountains. Your call.”
We of course have to talk about the incredible cover version of ‘The Prophet’s Song’. Taking on Queen is risky enough, but you gained extra credit by going with a lesser known classic. Lyrically, the song fits in well with the rest of ‘This Is The Sound’. Was it always going to be this one to cover?
“The Prophet’s Song’ was Merlin’s personal choice. Each of us picked a cover song. I think the choice was a fantastic one, musically as well as lyrically, and as you said, quite risky and a lot to take on, but it was so inspiring to work on, I absolutely don’t regret the choice!”
You recently played at the Montreux Jazz Festival and also visited Freddie Mercury’s statue. That must have been inspiring?
“Yes, definitely! I’m glad we didn’t mess up our Queen cover at that show. Haha!”
You will be hitting the road with Delain for some special shows later this year. Can we expect any headline dates around these shows, and will you make it over to the UK?
“So far, we’ve got two headlining shows confirmed in Switzerland in September, and we’re working on booking as many gigs as possible! There’s a good chance that will happen! We will play in London on the 1st of November.”
Well, there’s something to look forward to! Thanks for your time, Anna. Good luck with the album, and I hope to catch you in concert soon!
For more information on Cellar Darling check out their Facebook
Interview: Dave Stott