An Interview With The London-Based Musician, CHELOU!
Chelou has made a name for himself through the creation of otherworldly psych-pop soundscapes, and latest single “Garden” doesn’t at all disappoint on that front. The reverb-heavy new single is a master class in stoner rock interspersed with the gentle strum of an unplugged electric guitar. As uplifting as it is psychedelic, the latest from the London underground scene’s reigning king of lo-fi is a garden of earthly and heavenly delights.
“Garden was written whilst my computer was broken which kinda forced me to go back to basics… moving away from production and just focusing on the core simplicity of a song,” Chelou says about the track. “I felt exposed and really wanted the lyrics and the guitar to be as profound as possible but in their raw form. It’s a metaphorical interpretation of the state of our planet and the transience of life, recognizing an on-going dismissal by oneself to actually look and engage with the reality of things.“
Learn more about Chelou in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day?
Hey! Well I’m pretty set in my routine these days and am an early riser, so got up had a little workout, quick skate, played some music, got a meeting later and not adverse to being by 10pm. Getting old!!
Now that we are into the 10th month of the year, how would you say that 2019 has treated you? What have been some goals you’ve had this year? How close are you to reaching them? What are you already excited about for 2020?
Can’t believe how quickly time is flying. 2019 has been good to me. I put out my first album that is something I’ve been thinking about half my life so definitely achieved that goal.
There have been a lot of challenges and tests though so I’m just trying to take a breath and be present and grateful that I get to make music for a living. I got a little surf trip to Mexico to start 2020 then plan to release more music, see more of the world and meet great people in the process.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could pursue a career in music? Was it hard to come up with the name Chelou?
I can’t recall a specific moment I just know I always felt like it was something I wanted to do and had the support to never feel like it was out of my reach.
Coming up with the name Chelou was a relief, choosing a band name sucks and you come up with a lot of cheese. The uniqueness of the word and its connotations seemed to fit what I was going for perfectly. Happy days!
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourself? How has the music scene there changed over the years?
The reality of growing up in a city like London has definitely influenced how I carry myself, and the tone of my music. Camden was a great place to get gigs and get pissed underage but it lost its authenticity a long time ago. There were more venues for clubbing, warehouse parties, which I spent a hazy part of my formative years in but sadly a lot of these are now new build overpriced sky-risers.
Let’s talk about your debut album, “Out of Sight.” What was the inspiration for these songs? Did anything surprise you about the overall process of putting it all together?
The album is really a reflection of the two scenes I mentioned above. At the core I’m a just guitarist who grew up playing in smelly pubs in confused rock bands. The collaborators on the album, in particular Maya, reflected that Bass heavy sound I’d been raving to for years.
The whole process was a surprise in a way because we were making it up as we went along, there was no intent, we just had to wait for the music to come together and feel natural.
How did you go about choosing “Garden” to be the first song released from an upcoming body of work? What was the inspiration for this song? How would you say this song will prepare people for the rest of the collection?
For me Garden was a return to the original concept of Chelou, just putting out a song in its raw form. No frills. Like the Quiet was. The Welsh countryside is stunning, I was living in a cabin there and had the space and time to think and feel what I was writing. That mixed with time spend recording in LA and working with some incredible producers set the tone for the year.
My next body of works all come from that space. I can only create based on a connection to what’s around me. The tone of my music has certainly changed from when writing the album. There’s calmness to it that I only discovered by listening to the ocean.
Generally, how do you go about writing your music? Do you solo or with others? What is the first step in your music-making process?
The first step is usually a crisis of life that I’m a terrible musician and cant write a decent bloody song. Its hard to always be creative and I sometimes feel pretty unaccomplished, then one day I pick up a guitar and I’ve written my best song to date.
I’d like to write more with others there’s only been a few people over the years I’ve been comfortable writing with but appreciate in hindsight how much it benefits a song having others input. It doesn’t need to be a precious self-indulgent thing. I Just want to put out good music.
How do you feel you’ve grown through the years? What has remained the same?
Everything up to this point has been a learning, growing experience. I’m only at the first step of a long ladder but have great ambition to continue making music and connecting with others through art. I hope I’ve remained the same, its easy to get caught up in the bullshit of music as a product, I went through this a bit and now just want make music I like and hope others share my feeling.
Where do you think you are happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
I’ve had so many happy moments in both scenarios. Music makes people happy and it’s a beautiful experience being at the heart of this crazy energy when performing in countries all over the world. Hearing a finished record is such a rewarding thing you have a lot of pride in the work and people who’ve contributed. The whole reason I’m doing this is in the pursuit of happiness and I feel truly lucky to have this opportunity
What have been some of your favorite shows and venues over the years?
Shoreline festival in Egypt this year was something ill never forget. It was that twilight hour as the sun set over a beach. It took me back a moment when I realized where I was and wondered how’d id got the chance to be in such a beautiful place playing music. I’ve played some incredible shows in Europe too the ‘Meat factory’ in Prague and ‘A38’ in Budapest are personal favourites.
How has social media impacted you? How often are you all on your different sites interacting with fans? How have you been able to utilize it through the years?
I was never a social media guy. I held out as long as possible with a Nokia 3310 but in the new climate of music social media platforms are important tools to reach and connect with new audiences. After a little resistance I’ve now come around to the use of Instagram and I don’t think it’s a bad thing, its just important not to be contrived in your output.
I am nervous about the next generation’s reliance on devices and virtual identities. When I was young we got told to go outside and kick a ball about until its time for dinner!
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how you all think being musicians still give you the most joy in life today? Do you find that your music is an escape to all the current events?
Music is in a way some of the most real connections people have today when governments are and democracy is revealing its transparency and corruption. I’m actually quite fatalistic when it comes to the new globalized capitalist world and will always use music as an escape form that noise and fake media.
What musicians have really been inspiring you all since you first started making music?
That’s a never-ending story. I discover new music ever day that blows my mind and have a collection of artists that I will always love and aspire to be like. Too long a list to write now.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
However melancholy some of my songs are there’s actually always a message of hope and uplift hidden behind the sadness. As I’ve learnt more about my practice and myself I hope people will enjoy me putting out a little taste of my life through the expression of music. This is all for fun but music can tackle a lot of important emotional/political/ whatever issues that people sometimes struggle to identify with so its all a call and response game. I’ll continue making music if people continue to listen so hopefully we don’t have to stop anytime soon.