Interview by Ed MacLaren
OK. Time to go over the standard metal band check list: Throat tearing vocalist? Check. Guitars? Check. Bass? Check. Drums? Check? Hurdy gurdy? Well, maybe not for most metal bands but for Switzerland folk metalists, Eluveitie, hurdy gurdist Anna Murphy gets a big checkmark all her own. On the eve of Eluveitie’s April North American tour with Amon Amarth and Holy Grail, Femme Metal got a chance to chat with Anna about their outstanding new album, “Everything Remains (As It Never Was)”.
Congratulations on your excellent new album, “Everything Remains (As It Never Was)”! The fan response must be fantastic.
Thanks! Yes, so far the responses from both fans and press have been really good… It’s good to know they like the album as much as we do.
Celtic folk music and death metal seem diametrically opposed to each other musically and lyrically. What is it about these two genres that work well together?
To be honest, I have no idea – it just seems to work! I mean, it’s mainly the minor tunes we use with our music… so I guess this Celtic “melancholy” goes well with the rather rough metal around it. As for the lyrics, I wouldn’t say they’re opposed. As far as I know you can sing about anything you want in metal music…
Your music ties the traditional and the modern together in a unique manner. How did the idea evolve to combine folk and metal music?
That was Chrigel‘s idea. Eluveitie actually started out as a mere studio project of his where he wanted to combine the two styles of music he likes best; Celtic folk music and melodic death metal.
Folk music is very acoustic and metal focuses on brute power. How do you balance the rhythms and melodies between the two?
That’s a business secret. 😉
Lyrically, your music has a heavy historical influence – it draws heavily from ancient battles and early civilizations. This comes from the folk tradition of preserving the past. What traditions or stories are Eluveitie trying to preserve?
We’re not really trying to preserve anything, what we do is mere story-telling, you could say. We do sing about Gaulish wars and tribes but we either just do that from a neutral standpoint (how the legend/myth/occurrence has been passed down through time) or we look at these topics with a critical eye because in the end you never really know how it was back then.
Eluveitie has had a long history of members but now seems to have settled into a cohesive line-up. What were the reasons for the line-up changes and what is it about this line-up that is so unique?
Yes, there have been but now I guess and hope this line-up will continue for a few years. The reasons for those changes were always of personal nature. The people who left the band either didn’t want to continue or couldn’t fit the band in with their other plans in life. What’s unique about the line-up we have now? You tell me! 🙂
When you learned to play the hurdy gurdy did you ever think you’d be playing in a death metal band? With that said, how did you get involved with the band?
Actually, I would have never thought that! I was actually listening to metal at the time which made it even weirder for me to join a metal band with such an instrument. I had been playing the hurdy-gurdy for three months when a friend of mine told me about Eluveitie and that they’re searching for a new hurdy-gurdist. I of course sent Chrigel an e-mail right away… so you could also say I learned to play the instrument with the band.
Your vocals bring an engaging contrast to Chrigel’s screams. You also provide some beautiful solo performances. How do you balance the vocals within the band? Do you ever try to push Chrigel for more microphone time? 😉
No, I don’t do that. Whenever I sing it just happens because it fits. Sometimes it’s my idea; sometimes it’s Chrigel’s idea… I always try out new stuff with my vocals, especially since I don’t really have a technique or sing professionally, I’m still trying to find the right style a bit.
The reviews of “Everything Remains (As It Never Was)” are overwhelmingly excellent. Musically, where do you go from here?
Wherever we want to. We’re not planning what to do next… we’ll just write songs and release albums. There’s definitely going to be one more acoustic album, “Evocation II”. But even when and how we’re going to do that is not planned yet.
Judging from the increasing number of bands playing folk metal these days, the scene is getting a little crowded. How does Eluveitie try to differentiate itself from other bands in the genre?
We play better music! 😉 No, I guess the fact that we use so many traditional instruments instead of keyboards is one thing. The other is that we balance our music – neither the metal nor the folk takes over. And I guess that’s why so many people like our music but we don’t differentiate ourselves by trying really hard to and having that in mind, we just somehow do that automatically with our music.
What is it about the folk metal genre that makes it so popular?
I have no idea. I’m actually not a big fan of folk metal… I don’t listen to anything except for our music (of course). I guess there are many people who search for “softer” metal and find a lot of bands they like in that scene. And it may be possible that people like the traditional aspects of it… singing about your heritage and using old folkloristic elements in the music can have a “homely” effect one can connect with.
You returned from a tour of the United States in 2009 with Heathenfest. How did you find the American response to your music? How do the American fans compare to their European counterparts?
The response was really good! I like American audiences – they’re very enthusiastic and sympathetic crowds. There’s not a huge difference to European crowds though… The only thing I noticed was that Americans are more into taking pictures with band members and having things signed.
With eight band members it must get pretty crowded on that stage… How would you describe Eluveitie’s live performances?
Yes, small stages are always a challenge for us. I think our live performances are getting better and better. We feel more confident on stage and the sound is getting much better due to having a crew that is familiar with us. We like to interact with the audience a lot and have a blast on stage.
What are your tour plans for 2010? Will you be performing internationally as well as returning to the United States?
Yes, we’ll be touring the States soon again with Amon Amarth actually! Apart from that we want to tour as much as possible and promote the new album. I really hope we get to go to places we’ve never been before, like South America for instance.