By Jonathon Besanko
After breaking away from Eluveitie, the trio of Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter and Ivo Henzi went on to establish Cellar Darling; a brand new musical venture for the three multi-instrumentalists and vocalists. With the band’s name rooted in the earlier solo work of Anna Murphy (being the title for her 2013 debut solo album) and two singles now under their belt (“Challenge” and “Fire, Wind & Earth”, respectively), an impending debut full-length album is set for release in the near future. We here at Lucifer’s Catacombs were fortunate enough to catch up with the triumvirate that forms Cellar Darling to discuss the emotional roots of the band, challenges faced and recent triumphs, and what inspires their writing process.
Opening the pleasantries, we dove straight into Cellar Darling’s two singles. Both “Challenge” and “Fire, Wind & Earth” continue to earn views and praise on YouTube. It’s been noted before that “Challenge”, in particular, came about as an idea of Anna’s. Aiming to dive a bit more into the lyrical meanings behind these tracks, we asked whether there is a personal connection there with that song?
“There is a personal connection behind every song,” Anna begins, “especially when writing lyrics, as well. But Cellar Darling isn’t planning to deal with everyday life and emotions in a conventional or blatant way, we want to make up stories and dig for ideas in the depths of our world of ideas. When I write music I instantly connect it to colours and symbols and sometimes it’s even like a short movie is playing in my head. I want to work with those almost infantile, spontaneous impulses and connotations.
“‘Challenge’ is actually quite a bit more ‘blatant’ than the current material we’re working on,” Anna goes on to note. “The title already suggests that it was written during a period of transition and uncertainty. We had just quit Eluveitie to pursue something new and we basically stood there with nothing except our ever-so-driving force to create music. When I started writing the music I saw images of a woman, struggling to fight against something that isn’t there. It’s a metaphor for fighting against yourself, I believe a lot of us are our own worst enemy and that’s what the song is basically about. That and getting back up again after the fall.”
As a concept, the one utilised on the track “Fire, Wind & Earth” is very intriguing, indeed. The lyrics take an interesting narrative turn by being told from the perspective of the elemental spirit of water itself. Facing hostility as the other elements come to turn against it, the entity Water finds herself stranded and alone. We asked what inspired the lyrical approach to this track?
“Listening to the music triggered what the song would be about,” Anna states. “I saw a storm and a wild meld of the elements and then just randomly started singing ‘Fire, Wind & Earth’ when we were jamming together. My feeling during that moment told me that I was water for some reason and then more and more pictures and colours evolved out of the initial spark. The only challenging part was putting it into prose.”
We then asked Cellar Darling to explain how they feel these two songs best connect with the image they’re establishing with the band; and further, what sort of music should people look forward to with the new album?
Anna: “They are both tracks that work with strong imagery, symbolism, and metaphorical language. That is pretty much exactly what you can expect from the rest of the album. That, and some metaphysical poetry & tales. The same goes for the music, which will definitely be quite an eclectic mix.”
Ivo: “It’s impossible to show with two songs the full range of our music. You can expect both harder and softer songs on the album, we’re also working on an entirely acoustic one. It will surely be diverse, but one-hundred percent us.”
The name ‘Cellar Darling’ is quite evocative on its own, being able to be interpreted in a number of different ways, whether you already know its origins or not. As it is the title for Anna Murphy’s solo debut effort in 2013 (as previously stated), given the dark content of the title track for that record, we mused over what made the band decide that it was the right name for them?
Cellar Darling explain, “We had quite a few options and none of them seemed to stick. We always came back to ‘Cellar Darling’ and it developed quite a deep meaning for us. All of us are highly creative and have been ‘holding back’ during the past ten years. It’s impossible to have a platform for all your ideas if you play in a band that has a fixed concept and eight people on top of that (which is what we were doing). So now, in this next chapter, the time has come for us to explore the depths of our cellar and bring all the ideas to light that were kept hidden away the past few years. Apart from that, we like the play of words and think it visualizes our music well. The dark and heavy combined with the light and dreamy.”
In early December of 2016, it saw Cellar Darling perform their first show in their hometown of Zürich, Switzerland, where they opened for Amorphis and Long Distance Calling. Cellar Darling’s second show would come on December 17th in Amsterdam where the band would perform to a sold-out audience before Dutch singer-songwriter, Anneke van Giersbergen; presenting live her musical project created by her and Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon), The Gentle Storm. Having arranged our interview questions prior to Cellar Darling’s performance with Anneke, we asked what Cellar Darling’s thoughts were leading up to this performance and how excited they were taking the band out on the road once more? They had some great words to share!
Ivo: “By the time we answer this interview, the show is already behind us. It felt absolutely great to be back on stage again! This is kind of a fresh start. Sure, we were very nervous, but we also felt back ‘home’ again.”
Merlin: “We sure were excited to finally get back on the road! We had an awesome time and an amazing audience, and can’t wait to return to the stages in 2017. The show came about right after we formed the band – without even a single song written! We knew Anneke and her husband and manager Rob [Snijders] from back in 2013, when Anna supported her with her solo project – they’re just fantastic people. When the whole thing with Eluveitie happened, we reached out and Rob pretty much immediately invited us to open for The Gentle Storm.”
With Prat and myself residing in India and Australia respectively, we couldn’t resist asking the question of whether both countries could see Cellar Darling tour there sometime soon?
“We can’t say just when yet,” Cellar Darling notes, “but both Australia and India are on our must-visit-again list, and if we get invited, we certainly won’t say no! Both are beautiful countries and we have only the fondest memories of our last visits.”
It’s clear with Cellar Darling that a lot of the influences in the music come from the individual careers and interests of each member, and that those elements are being poured into the band. We asked whether they are allowing themselves free creative expression to explore whatever comes to them and if there still any set parameters?
Merlin: “This describes what we’re doing pretty well. A sense of what Cellar Darling should sound like is developing during the songwriting process of course, but there are no set parameters – this band is one-hundred percent Anna, Ivo and Merlin.”
Anna: “The way we’re writing songs is what I always imagined it should be like, but never was before. Of course, sometimes someone writes a whole song at home and then all that’s left is for the band to arrange it, but most of the time we spend day after day in the rehearsal room just jamming and trying out all kinds of stuff. I love the authenticity of our way of working and I’m so glad to finally have this in a band. A few days ago I started writing songs again incorporating the flute and a lot of classical elements, the possibilities seem endless and I love it.”
It was then mused in what ways Cellar Darling would say they feel most connected with Swiss culture and its folklore, and how that has affected music in their lives?
Anna answers in kind, “Either when I go hiking or when I spend time with my friends from my Swiss folk band, Fräkmündt. Our lyricist, singer and mastermind Res probably knows more about Swiss folklore than anybody else and I have the best time listening to his stories and singing his lyrics. Just recently, he gave me a heavy load of books on Swiss sagas to get inspired for our new album, which we’ll start working on this year. Switzerland for me is essentially the mountains and lakes, this may sound simple but this is why I’m not moving away from here. That, and because it’s clean and safe. For now,” Anna slots in, cheekily.
Asking the question as to whether there have been any significant challenges any of them have faced since starting Cellar Darling, each of their answers was honest and eye-opening.
Anna: “Oh yeah, the full pallet! I lost a lot of things by walking out on Eluveitie, starting with my beloved e-hurdy-gurdy. I was quite a mess in the beginning and my psyche probably ruined me more than any of the materialistic things. Friends, family and our music are what has kept me going and I’m looking forward to whatever happens.”
Ivo: “The biggest challenge in the beginning for me has been the adjusting to a new life. Losing your steady income, trying to survive with shitty jobs, dealing with existential questions, and so on. But things are getting a bit better and my current focus (or challenge) is to work hard on our music.”
Merlin: “Absolutely – the whole thing is one giant challenge! We didn’t get rich with Eluveitie, so starting from scratch but still giving it one-hundred percent commitment and time can be tough. But it’s an enormous privilege as well, and we can’t believe just how supportive fans have been right from the start, so that puts a positive spin on just about everything.”
With Cellar Darling, we sought to uncover where the band derives their influences from when creating their unique brand of music. It is already clear there is still a strong connection to the Swiss folk tradition when it comes to their music, but was there anything else? Did such things as nature or whatever else may have come about in their personal lives aid in the creation of new material and the musical identity of Cellar Darling?
Ivo: “Besides music, of course, everything influences us as artists and as musicians. Our daily lives, movies, mountains, friends, art, books, culture, mythology, and stories. Everything. We are in constant motion, learning and growing with every day that passes by – and so is our music. It’s evolving with and by us.”
Anna: “Whatever we write about just comes to us somehow, there’s not really a methodical process to the whole thing.”
When it comes to everything that’s happening now in the band members lives, one of the neater aspects of it all is how Anna and Ivo are reviving old projects of theirs which haven’t seen much activity in a while. Ivo Henzi has new material for Forest Of Fog out (check out the single for “Awake” here) and new material is also being created for one of Anna Murphy’s many side projects, Fräkmündt. It was noted how it must be freeing for them knowing they now have the ability to return to these older passion projects. We asked if they could possibly even see a type of mega performance happening sometime in the future — featuring material from each of their current bands?
Ivo: “Yes, it feels great to have Forest Of Fog alive again. I don’t think, however, that we’ll ever play songs from these bands under the name of ‘Cellar Darling’ (with the exception of the Anna Murphy song called “Cellar Darling”, which we played in Amsterdam). However, all those bands performing at the same show and night? Maybe. At least nothing like that is planned yet.”
Anna: “That would be quite a chaotic event! But why not?”
Before wrapping up, we asked if Cellar Darling had any final words they’d like to offer their fans?
Cellar Darling graciously add, “We’re grateful for all the amazing support we’re getting worldwide! You guys are absolutely the best.”
To keep up to date with all things Cellar Darling, be sure to follow the band through their official website and on social media!
Cellar Darling Official Site: http://www.cellardarling.com