Interview with Anna Murphy, Merlin Sutter and Ivo Henzi
April 5, 2018 – Boston Music Room, London
Interview by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Graham Hilling
Is it possible to paint while being interviewed? For Cellar Darling it is! We sat down with the Swiss folk rock trio ahead of their London show on their first ever headline tour.
How’s the UK tour been for you guys?
Merlin: Amazing. We absolutely love it, it’s been great.
Merlin: Many [laughs].
Anna: Basically, every show has been amazing. The first day we were in Dublin, and my whole family was there and took up maybe one quarter of the venue [laughs]. We stayed with them the night before and went out to an Irish pub, so that was very nice. Every day has been really cool so far.
Merlin: All the shows are amazing, the fans here are great. We love the country; the countryside, the food, everything. We’ve been taking in as much as we could. We made a stop at the Lake District actually.
Supporting you on this tour is Diamond Black, a local London band. How did you come across these guys and why did you bring them along for the tour?
Merlin: Our booking agent brought it up, she knows the band, and we thought right away “it’s a great idea”. I was a perfect match I think. Within five minutes it was clear that we’d be going out with them.
You did a cover of Queen’s “The Prophet’s Song”; can you tell me a little bit about the creation of that – Who came up with the idea, why Queen and that song?
Anna: Well, you [Merlin] came up with the idea.
Merlin: Yeah, we had rented a house at the lake for some songwriting, and we came up with the idea of each of us choosing one cover song as a bonus track; a personal song or something with a personal meaning. That Queen album, A Night At The Opera, is one of my all-time favorites, I listened to it as a kid and never got tired of it. “The Prophet’s Song” is my favorite song on it, and it fits us; the spirit and the sound of it is a great match. It’s a bit daring, the vocal solo in particular, but I knew Anna would do something fantastic with it and she did. I think it’s an interesting song to cover.
Anna: I had the flu when we recorded it [laughs]. It was done under the worst circumstances, we didn’t have time to record it when we were recording our album.
Merlin: We didn’t have enough studio time, so we did the drums at night, after another session for someone else because we had some time left and the mics were set up.
Anna: He [Ivo] recorded his parts at home. We had such a time pressure. I had the flu, we did the vocals and then I mixed the song on headphones at home. I had no time to go to the studio.
Is it a bonus track for the new album?
Merlin: No, it’s for the digipak edition of This Is The Sound, but we really loved it so that’s why we put it out as a digital song I think a week or two ago.
What are your top three Queen songs?
Anna: We just did a thing on that, actually. I chose “Death on Two Legs”, “Under Pressure” and now it’s “The Prophet’s Song”, I mean it has to be [laughs].
Merlin: I’d pick “The Prophet’s Song” obviously, “I Want It All” is another favorite, one of the more modern ones. I have trouble picking from the whole album A Night At The Opera, but I think it has to be “I’m In Love With My Car”, the drummer [Roger Taylor] sings it.
I’m assuming you’ve been playing “The Prophet’s Song” on this tour, how has the audience reacted to it?
Anna: Yeah, it’s been going well. I messed it up only once or twice.
Merlin: It’s not an easy one.
You made quite an interesting music video for the song as well, can you tell me about the creation of that?
Anna: Well, we didn’t have any money [laughs]. It’s made with an app.
Merlin: We get asked for video messages a lot – for a show or a festival, you sometimes have to deliver a message. We tried to come up with something creative, and I have the new iPhone, and it has this app with AR, which can change the background of a video. So we were messing around with it and though “this is fun, let’s do like a selfie video”.
When I spoke to you [Merlin] last autumn, you told me there was some work being done on a new album. What’s the status now on the second Cellar Darling album?
Merlin: Almost done.
Anna: We have a couple of songs.
Merlin: Yeah, we’re hoping to go to the studio in June. Well, actually we’re committed to it.
Anna: Yeah, we kind of have to because we booked it [laughs].
Perhaps a bit too early to say, but could you say sort of how its gonna sound musically, will it carry on the sound from This Is The Sound or will it be something new?
Anna. We’re kind of taking it even further. With This Is The Sound, we decided what we wanted to do. Before that it wasn’t very clear, especially since we didn’t really decide on a genre. We’re really comfortable with what we came up with, so we are going to be taking it a little further. The songs we’ve come up with so far are more complex and a bit longer…
Merlin: More proggy.
Anna: More progressive. More is more, that’s the mindset for the next album [laughs].
You started as a band with almost a blank canvas in front of you, that must have been pretty cool?
Merlin: Yeah, it was quite conscious to go that route.
Merlin, you mentioned the financial difficulties you experienced after the split from Eluveitie last time we spoke. The rest of you, how did that impact you and how did you cope with that?
Anna: Well, we didn’t [laughs]. He [Merlin] still doesn’t have a home, he lives in the rehearsal room. I had to go live with my parents, which is shit when you’re almost 30.
Merlin: You’ve got amazing parents though.
Anna: Yeah, they’re the best but still, you know. You [Ivo] just moved it with your brother. The thing is, if we had decided to get regular jobs, then we definitely wouldn’t be working on our second album now. And Switzerland; it’s really not easy being a musician there. There were some houses held by the government meant to be rented by artists, for really cheap.
Merlin: Before they get torn down.
This summer it will be two years since Cellar Darling was formed after the Eluveitie-split. Looking back at what you’ve accomplished so far since then, how would you say the ride has been?
Merlin: Hard to say, it feels like five minutes really [laughs]. It doesn’t feel like two years. But it’s been a great ride, amazing, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
Anna: Definitely. We’re still growing and working hard. For me it still feels like the first show, every time, because it’s just so new and all.
Do you have a highlight so far of your whole Cellar Darling career?
Ivo: I would say there’s several highlights.
Anna: There’s several once, yeah.
Ivo: First one was when we released our first song, “Challenge”. When we got all the positive feedback for that was when we realized we were on the right path.
Merlin: Yeah, I can get on board with that.
Anna: A recent one was a day before yesterday, when we played Manchester. It was such a magical night, there were at least ten people who sang along to every single song, and I’ve never seen that, not even in Switzerland. They we’re so excited and really knew all the words, and I couldn’t believe it, in Manchester, we’re just a small Swiss band [laughs].
You’re coming back to the UK to play Download in June, what will you be doing in the meantime?
Merlin: We’re going to Brazil. We’re in need of some sun [laughs]. We’ve been many times with Eluveitie, so we have some really good fans over there who’ve been bugging us, and we were able to jump on the Therion tour. We’re squeezing in some song writing for sure, because come June it’s studio time already. Then we have a few other shows, but I think songwriting will be the main focus.
Anything you would like to add in the end?
Anna: Just thanks a lot.
Merlin: yes, thank you for coming out again. Always a pleasure.
Thank you very much and good luck with the show!