So, after watching them blow the crowd away at London’s Electric a few weeks ago, I was very happy to interview Merlin from Cellar Darling:
- What inspired the formation of the band, and what inspired the name of the band?
Merlin: As you might know, all three of us were members of a band called Eluveitie before. We split from that band in 2016, which was unfortunate – and we all knew that we weren’t done making music. In fact, we had been talking amongst ourselves about creating some sort of side project, to realise some of our artistic output that didn’t fit the very defined concept of our previous band. So we decided to make the best out of a sad situation and formed a new band. That actually happened while we were still on a world tour, traveling around Asia at the time. The name was inspired by Anna’s solo album, which was also called Cellar Darling. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a decent band name these days – everything has been taken. So we were making long lists of mostly ridiculous ideas, until someone brought up Cellar Darling. We had always liked the ring of it, and it seemed to fit: we were about to let our creativity out of the cellar, so to speak.
- What are your influences, and do they play a prominent role in how your music is formed?
Merlin: that question comes up often, but it is a good question and surprisingly hard to answer, actually. I always say that we all have so many diverse inspirations, as individuals, that it is impossible to nail it down, especially as a band. Personally, I listen to everything from Metal to Rock to Pop. As it turns out, though, since our first record we developed very naturally and organically towards a more proggier sound, as you can hear on our new single Insomnia. For me personally, this is kind of like coming full circle: I started playing the drums as a young teenager after hearing Dream Theater’s ‘Metropolis 2000: Scenes From A Memory’. I knew then and there I’d want to become a drummer, and I never stopped until I did. I then joined Eluveitie and played a very different kind of metal for about 12 years, and along the way I listened to all kinds of different music, with Prog taking a back seat for a long time. And now I found myself in the studio, recognising elements that had inspired me as a teenager, without ever having had any intention to go down that path.
- Could you talk us through the process of writing songs for Cellar Darling?
Merlin: mostly, our songs start out as an idea from either Anna or Ivo. This can be just a melody or a part, or a full demo of a rough song. We’ll then work on it together, and we deliberately did so in a rather old-fashioned way this time: when we entered the studio last June, only about half of the songs were written, and in very different stages of completion. We worked on them together, in the studio, sometimes with our co-producer Tommy Vetterli (who worked alongside Anna), so the songs grew very organically and very dynamically. This resulted in some great moments; we finished Insomnia very late one night, after a very, very long session, and after a few drinks. The song felt magical, we knew we had something great, and as if something wanted to give us a sign, we received a visit from a bat in the control room. We knew then and there that this song would be the first one to be released.
- How was performing in London?
Merlin: London was amazing, as it always is! The UK in general has been treating us amazingly well ever since we started out; we’ve always had great shows here and we’ve decided early on to start our tour for the new album here, as well. So we’re coming over in March and I have no doubt that it’s going to be even better than last time around! For this particular London show we’re also very thankful to Kamelot, who invited us to join them and gave us the great opportunity to play such an amazing crowd. I also have a lot of personal admiration for London, which is actually my current home.
- What led you to cover “The Prophet’s Song?”
Merlin: when we were recording our debut album, ‘This Is The Sound’, in 2017 we were thinking about ideas for some bonus material. We decided to each pick one cover song, and I didn’t have to think long: Queen is one of my all-time favourite bands, I grew up listening to them in my dad’s vinyl collection, starting at the record sleeves for hours while soaking up the music. I spent the most time with A Night At The Opera, and The Prophet’s Song was always one of my favourites. I think it was an interesting challenge for Anna as well, but I knew that if anyone could pull off that vocal solo and make it their own, it would be her…
- What plans do you have for the future?
Merlin: we’re currently finishing up the production of our second album. It has taken nearly 5 months in the studio, it’s a significant development in our sound, and we absolutely cannot wait to get it out there and start playing the new material live. So that’s our plan: get on as many stages as we can, in as many places as possible, and rock out with the best fans in the world. We’ll start in the UK in March, and it’s definitely going to be a show you won’t want to miss.