Cellar Darling – Dancing Beneath a Black Moon

Tuesday, 20th June 2017

A world of endless possibilities. Not restricted by any of their previous work in Eluveitie, the trio of musicians that make up Cellar Darling are just about to take off with their upcoming debut, This is the Sound. An eclectic mix of familiar sounds and new elements rolled into an hour-long journey that spans a number of genres, it may appeal to those familiar with their former stomping grounds…but that’s just the beginning.

This is the Sound casts a wide net – using a storytelling vibe and elegant symbols to take the music one step further. Indeed there is a lot of depth to be found with each of the fourteen tracks that make up the album. With this in mind, we were able to have a chat with vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Anna Murphy, who filled in some of the backstory in transitioning from Eluveitie, Cellar Darling’s vision, cover art, and her own solo work.

Dead Rhetoric: Now that the dust has settled from the Eluveitie break-up, are you happier now that you are doing more of your own thing with Cellar Darling?

Anna Murphy: It was a really hard time for all of us I think. The split was not easy, and I think many of us felt really bad. It was a huge part of our lives. But now, it think it’s the best for both sides. There’s some fresh wind blowing in their band, and I’ve never felt so free…and fulfilled, creatively. I think it’s really good.

Dead Rhetoric: Cellar Darling was the name of your solo album that came out a few years ago as well – what’s the meaning behind the title?

Murphy: We had quite a list of band names, and Cellar Darling was the first impulse that we had. We all really liked the name, so we went with it, because it has a deeper meaning to us. This is our “darling,” meaning all of our creative ideas and things that were kept hidden away, because we didn’t have any place to use them. This darling sees the light, basically. I think it describes the music very well – cellar being the darkness and darling being the light – those two combined describes our music very well.

Dead Rhetoric: Are you afraid of the obvious tagline “featuring ex-members of Eluveitie” overshadowing the concept of the band?

Murphy: Not really. I think it’s natural that it happens in the beginning, and it’s also good that we have a history with a big band. It’s a kickstart for us. I think our music is unique enough to lose that at some point. For now, it’s perfectly natural that people are going to use that.

Dead Rhetoric: Going from an 8-member band to a 3-member band, does it make you all feel closer?

Murphy: Yeah, we are three very close friends. We have been for over 10 years now. The band is really a symbiosis of the three of us. We spend hours in the rehearsal room, working together. So there’s a lot of teamwork involved.

Dead Rhetoric: Does it make it a little easier to manage as well, for touring and things like that?

Murphy: Definitely – we are all completely on the same page when it comes to music and our lives.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released the first part of what seems to be an extensive documentary. What was the goal in giving such a big look behind the scenes? I’m imagining there’s another part or two that will be released…

Murphy: It’s a nice thing for people to get to know us. I know that some people are really interested in what happens behind the scenes. I think a video is the best way to get that kind of insight.

Dead Rhetoric: In the documentary, you all noted that Cellar Darling was inevitable, even if it was initially a side project…

Murphy: We always wanted to play music together, just the three of us. Like you said, the initial intention was for it to be a side project. That side project turned into a main project very fast and unexpectedly.

Dead Rhetoric: This is the Sound feels like metal album, but with a ‘grown-up’ or mature vibe. Would you agree with that statement?

Murphy: Cool – I don’t really know actually. When I write music, I’m kind of living in the moment and going with my impulses. It’s not really planned, so it’s weird but I don’t really have an opinion on that. I get it out, and that’s it. What happens after, I think it’s really interesting to hear people’s opinions, but as far as my work goes…it just happens.

Dead Rhetoric: Well, you are so attached to it by that point, it’s probably challenging to really pass judgement on it…

Murphy: Exactly. Our music…we didn’t calculate things. We didn’t say, “We are going to sound like Eluveitie, or we are not going to sound like Eluveitie, or we are just going to sound like this.” We just met up at the rehearsal room and started writing songs and that was it. It happened very organically. There was no masterplan or anything [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: Did it make it really easy, since the three of you have known each other for so long, to just jump right in and do something new like that?

Murphy: We have a really good symbiosis. We have similar taste, and the good thing about being friends for so long is that you know how the person works. You can be completely honest with each other. That results in saying things like, “dude, this is shit…or something else” [laughs] or just drinking beer and thinking that it’s awesome. So that’s definitely a big plus.

Dead Rhetoric: Could you go into the symbols that are on the cover of the album?

Murphy: My vision of the artwork was to represent the songs visually, because that’s also what I’m trying to do with the lyrics. I want to paint pictures and I want people to just dream and dive into a different world. So what we wanted to do was to combine photography and symbolism. To have a picture for every song and a symbol to go with it. The symbols were designed by Christopher Ruf, he’s a graphical designer but he also sings in the band Schammasch – a Swiss black metal band. So basically, I sent him all of the lyrics and songs and told him to do his thing. I didn’t tell him that I wanted the symbols to look like this or that. The great thing is that he came up with the perfect stuff. You didn’t need to tell him what to do, he just had his own artistic vision of the material, so it was really great. Then we just had a picture to go with the symbols and the songs.

The images on the cover are every symbol to every song, combined with two pictures that are representative of our two singles, “Black Moon,” even though it’s a red moon on the cover [laughs]. The figure that you see that lures you into our world, that’s representative for the song “Avalanche,” which will be released as a second single soon.

Dead Rhetoric: One of the things that I thought was cool with the “Black Moon” video was how it kind of shifts from day into night towards the end. Was that something that was fully intentional?

Murphy: Yeah, it was actually really hard to manage. I wanted to have daylight, and that you can see it’s getting darker, because the whole song is about an eclipse. We actually filmed both videos, the one for “Avalanche” and “Black Moon” in one day. In the morning, we did “Avalanche,” then we drove up on a mountain and did the daylight shots for “Black Moon” and then we had to drive down to the beach to do the dark shots…it was all really hectic but it worked out really great in the end.

Dead Rhetoric: There still seems to be a connection to the Earth and the elements with Cellar Darling. Are there other topics that you branch out from throughout the album, lyrically?

Murphy: The lyrics are a completely different dimension I would say. It’s basically the weird stuff that happens in my head. I never plan on writing about a certain thing. I just kind of go with what the music tells me and I start seeing pictures and colors. Then I create stories out of that. The stories are pretty eclectic, like our music basically. There’s stuff about fairies, a hermit, the apocalypse…basically I just want to convey feelings and experiences that I have, but with a storytelling kind of setting, so that it doesn’t necessarily portray what is actually going on, but an abstract portrayal of emotions.

Dead Rhetoric: Does it make it easier then, when you are doing things like the “Black Moon” video, to come up with a starting point for what to do with the video…or are there more budget-constraint types of things involved?

Murphy: We do have budget constraints, and for the original concept of “Black Moon,” it would have been more elaborate but it just wasn’t possible. The plan was to get the message of the song across with just good imagery and good acting.

Dead Rhetoric: To go back in reverse for a minute – did it seem a logical choice to sign with Nuclear Blast given your previous relationship with them?

Murphy: Yeah, we were really lucky that they wanted to sign us after only hearing two songs. It just gave us a good feeling. And we know the people there, we know the label, we know how they work. It’s a really great place! For us, it was an obvious choice.

Dead Rhetoric: Were those two songs the ones that you had released last year on YouTube?

Murphy: Exactly…”Challenge” and “Fire, Wind, & Earth” were the two songs they heard when we got the offer.

Dead Rhetoric: Are you going to continue your solo efforts in addition to Cellar Darling?

Murphy: Definitely, I actually already started working on my second solo album. I’m going to take my time. It’s not my priority, it just happens when it happens.

Dead Rhetoric: Having heard the debut, do you feel that it gives you a different type of fulfillment knowing that you can really go outside the box, and wherever you want to go with it, in terms of your sound?

Murphy: Yes, and I’m probably going to change the sound even more to make it very distinct from Cellar Darling so that people don’t get confused. It’s really just going to be me, and I’m already planning to do things a bit differently than the last album. It’s going to be weird [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: You stay pretty active on social media. Is this the way of the world at this point for musicians?

Murphy: It has become increasingly important over the past few years. I probably have a harder time adjusting to it than younger bands. When I was a teenager, I just bought cds and listened to them. There was no YouTube or all of that stuff. It’s kind of amazing how important it is becoming. You don’t have to adjust, but it’s good if you do. I’m still not an expert at it…sometimes I forget to post stuff for like two weeks because I’m busy in my own world. So I’m probably not the most active person but I try to stay on top of things and just use it in a sensible way as well. I don’t want to get too addicted to it.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that Cellar Darling has a wide potential for crossover with the number of different elements in your sound?

Murphy: I think so. So far, actually a lot of our old fan base with Eluveitie likes the new sound that we have, which is really cool. But I do see other people liking it as well – it’s just a matter of spreading it and getting people to listen to it. That’s still kind of written in the stars…what our audience will be like in one or two years, but it’s exciting! I’m looking forward to seeing that.

Dead Rhetoric: The album comes out at the end of the month and I believe I saw you are doing some touring with Delain at one point – anything else happening?

Murphy: We are playing some summer festivals, like Summer Breeze. We are already in touch with other promoters, and I really hope the ball gets rolling once the album is actually out. I think it’s pretty hard to find tours before people know what you actually sound like. We are kind of rehearsing and seeing where this takes us.

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