We arrive at Rebellion, Manchester and listen to Diamond Black soundchecking. When we are taken to the backstage area to chat to Cellar Darling, we are greeted with warm smiles and offers of whiskey and sweets. What more could you want?
Thank you for giving me your time for this interview. How is your first UK headline tour as Cellar Darling going so far? Are the Britons treating you well?
Yeah, it’s been great. Couldn’t be better!
My first experience of hurdy gurdy was actually seeing you play it and ever since then, I’ve been mesmerised by the instrument. What inspired you to pick up the hurdy gurdy of all instruments?
Anna: When I was a teenager I went to this medieval festival with my mother and we kind of thought it was this cool thing that suddenly everybody’s into the medieval times for some reason. I just came across it there with a band called Faun and yeah I fell in love with that instrument. At first I rented one at a high school for music and got into them.
How does it feel knowing that you may have inspired others to start their musical journey, especially with the hurdy gurdy?
Anna: That’s pretty great yeah, there’s not that many people that play it, it’s pretty awesome to be a pioneer of something. With me, it’s obviously the hurdy gurdy combined in heavy music.
Since the announcement of Cellar Darling’s existence, I remember watching your story unfold — from the release of “Challenge” in 2016 to now; it feels like it’s all happened so fast. How has the journey been for you as a band in that time?
Merlin: As you say it’s gone pretty fast. I was just surprised you said 2016, it feels like it was yesterday really, and yeah we split from Eluveitie and we immediately went to the studio and ever since we’ve tried to stay on the road pretty much. It’s been amazing and it’s amazing to be here so quickly.
Ivo: Yeah we never thought we would be here after such a short time. We are glad to be here.
And Nuclear Blast getting hold of you has helped a lot too
That helped a bit, yeah! [all laughing]
In the process of writing songs, does inspiration strike randomly or do you jam it out as a band throwing around ideas for different musical elements?
Ivo: I think we do both.
Anna: I think we’re all different. The idea has to come first, for me it can happen up there in the toilet, it can happen on stage. It can happen anywhere and then once the idea has formed in the respective brain in the person, it is brought to the band. Either we jam and try to figure something out and sometimes we record songs at home, and yeah, it’s always a bit different.
Even after listening to “This is the sound” about a hundred times, I still find myself getting lost in it and I feel like I’m being taken on an adventure. I know that everyone experiences music differently. Is there a specific concept or a story that YOU were telling lyrically when you wrote them?
Anna: With me, I like see stuff, it already happens in the process of writing. It’s never a process where I’m searching. It’s already there: the pictures, the general theme is already there. So it’s kinda hard to explain, it just happens
Ivo: Same with me. I get the feeling if the song is done, if we have a demo. I have a feeling for the song and this stays. It doesn’t change but it’s very hard to tell how it happens because each song is very individual I think everyone has different feelings of the song. At least for me I make up my own thing.
You appear to have a close connection with your fans, making sure that that they’re part of the adventures. How have fans responded to your new sound and new music?
Merlin: Very positively, it’s been amazing: the support from the start, even before we had the music out. And we were all the more happy to see that they’re sticking around for the music and we’re very happy to be here on the island and see people everywhere, it’s amazing.
What has been your favourite moment of Cellar Darling so far?
Anna: I think we always experience something and then we think that we have to remember this stuff for interviews but then we forget. We experience a lot of cool stuff. But my brain goes blank.
Ivo: I have several moments. I think the first moment was when we released “Challenge” and we got very positive feedback so that was the first moment we knew we were on the right path.
The band have been extremely active in touring in the last year, are there any shows that have stuck with you?
Merlin: All of them as every show is always awesome.
Anna — I had a very personal experience in Bochum one night and it was very magical. And it was so strange because it proved to me that everything is up here [gestures to her head]. I have this vocal condition where my vocals go really hoarse and I damaged my vocals. I was diagnosed just before and I thought ‘how the fuck I am going to get through these shows?’ And I would take care of myself really well, drink tea and go to bed. But before Bochum, I stayed up all night, drinking and smoking, and then I went on stage that day and I have the best show ever and my voice was crystal clear and the show was amazing.
Merlin: And everybody felt it too. It was like electric.
Anna: Of course, I’m not telling people to drink and smoke but I discovered that most of it is in the head.
Are there any places that you haven’t played before that you’d really love to play?
Merlin: All the ones we haven’t played before really. We were very lucky with Eluveitie, we saw so many countries and for a start we would like to go back to those. Which we’re working on.
Anna Exactly. And the ones we haven’t played like Iceland, for instance.
Ivo: Faroe Islands
Anna New Zealand.
Merlin, Everywhere really. And Birmingham of course, it’s nice of you to come over to Manchester. It’s not around the corner is it? I hope it will be worth it.
Where do you draw inspiration from in terms of song writing?
Merlin, well drugs mainly. No, not really! [All laughing]
Anna: Well yeah, that too! [laughs] Like I said before it’s just somehow there, it’s a bit of a weird thing. I think a lot of artists work like that. It’s not methodical which makes it a bit scary though because that can just go away someday and you’re scared that it’s not going to come back. But with me the stuff is just there and you draw inspiration from the things that you experience. A lot of the ideas you get are subconsciously inspired by the stupid shit you do every day. I think if I didn’t go out and do stuff, I wouldn’t have any ideas. There needs to be some chaos and stuff.
Who would you say are your biggest inspirations? What did you grow up listening to that made you who you are today?
Anna: I think it’s different for everybody.
Ivo: Yeah, I think my inspirations constantly change. I think music-wise I never had one big inspiration. It was more spread out, so on one day this one particular song of this band would inspire me and another day, another song.
Merlin: Bands really, I like to listen to records, look at the sleeves and see what all of these people are doing. Queen is one of them, it’s one of the reasons we played that tribute.
Anna: For me it’s a lot of classical music, I grew up with. It’s like with Ivo so much different stuff, I listen to different music than I write. Like the music I write is way more commercial than I actually listen to so that’s a bit weird.
We got the chance to catch you at Summer Breeze last year, you played an incredible set. Had it been a slight change of place from the academy shows and large festival crowds you’re used to, to play these more intimate venues?
Anna: I think it’s awesome because I’ve always preferred small venues.
Merlin: Its fantastic, especially one like this (Rebellion, Manchester), it’s a really nice place, they care. They really make it up nice. It a good vibe, it’s awesome.
Our review of Cellar Darling is here.
Interviewer: Jordan Quinn
Photographer: Chris Bowley