The concept of nostalgia within music couldn’t be any more popluar at the moment. With many new bands like Summer Camp, Cults and Guards using the sounds that were curated many yesteryears ago as a basis for their own music, normally to a reverb-laced euphonious effect. However, Oxford resident Hugo Manuel aka Chad Valley does things abit differently. His recently released eponymous EP showcases his talents for taking the already infectious balearic pop of the eighties and cutting and adding luscious hazy samples in addition to incorporating a strong R&B edge. The result is a danceable and lush sound that evokes pleasant childhood memories of bygone summers spent by the seaside yet still mantains a somewhat experimental edge.
We managed to catch up with the man behind Chad Valley, Hugo Manuel for a chat that covered a variety of topics from the creative process of his songs to his love for Swedish music.
Hey Hugo how are you?
I’m good, just returned from work and I’m very hungry.
I’ll try and make this chat as quick as possble so you can get something to eat! So why did you choose to name your solo project Chad Valley – why not use your birthname – Hugo Manuel?
Well I’ve never been comfortable with my own name too much, and the name Chad Valley came up for various reasons and it also seemed like a great fit. It’s actually a place in Birmingham that I knew from my childhood and also it seemed like the kind of name for someone who spends a lot of time on the beach. I like the beach.
When was the exact moment you knew that music was the thing you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
Good question… I didn’t really know it would be possible until I was about 18 / 19. Getting paid for making music seemed like something entirely unachiveable and unrealistic. It was only recently that it happened at all actually. But I have been making music since I was about 14/15 and since then I always wanted to make music all the time, but making a living from it is a very different thing.
So if things hadn’t quite worked out as well as they have where do you think you’d be?
I’d be working in my family’s business. We make paint.
Quite a big difference! You’re still very much a part of Jonquil, and you’re currently touring around the UK, why did you decide that you needed a solo outlet?
I’ve been making music by myself before Jonquil happened, and it was always more dancey stuff, so when I first had the idea of doing a solo project, it was in my mind a more dance music thing. It’s evolved naturally as my tastes have evolved, and now Jonquil and Chad Valley aren’t exactly hugely different, but I don’t see that as a bad thing at all.
I completely agree with you there not that different at all, both are quite dance-orientated. Talking about your music, to me it’s essentially balearic pop but with a slight vintage R&B twang that’s overlapped and intejected with luscious hazy samples, would you agree?
That sounds like a good description, yes. I am really into the idea of expanding on the R&B influence actually. A lot of what I’m listening to at the moment is The Dream, R Kelly, Alicia Keys… I think in the new stuff you will hear more of that in there.
Sounds exciting, what have you got planned?
Another EP, can’t really say more than that at the moment, but its almost finished…
Whilst we’re on topic, how do you go about piecing a song together?
Hmmm, I usually start with some kind of rhythm, be it a sample or a drum loop I’ve created and then pull out my synth (Kawaii K1 mkII) and riff all over it, so to speak. Things usually start very quickly with writing the melodies and chords etc, and then I’ll spend weeks on the details and the production.
I also think there’s quite a strong sense of nostalgia in your music, is this purposefully created or merely coincidental?
Yeah that’s very intentional, the whole project is wrapped up in childhood memories. Just the times that you are really content and happy as a child that I think a lot of people would share. I mean like holidays on the beach, discovering certain types of music for the first time, meeting girls, that kind of thing.
Yeah I can completely see that, and to go back to an earlier point of yours… Your music is for want of a better word very beach-like…
Yeah, that too was a conscious effort to a degree, but I think it’s just something that people start to think of when they hear bongos, major chords, and a 4/4 house rhythm.
So your signed to experimental pop label Cascine how did that come about?
Ha, they’ll be very glad that you called them ‘experimental pop label’. Well they just got in touch, explained what they were all about and it seemed like the perfect fit. The fact that they are related to Service records helps too, that’s a label that’s influenced me alot.
In what way has Service Records influenced you?
The design is outstanding, there is a real detail there which is very important to me. Also, and I might be wrong here, but I get the impression with a lot of that Swedish music centered around Service that there is a different approach to what’s the ‘norm’ over here. They seem to be a lot more artistic. I mean, they treat the music more as an art than I think we tend to do over here. In UK there is this terrible industry which seems to be designed to suck the fun out of any music making. Everyone is trying to outcool or outdo each other in loads of ways, and I love it when I find music that just is what it is, doesn’t make excuses, and defies any trends or fashion.
I agree, Sweeden does seem to be a great source for music that is incredibly accessible but like you said it still mantains some sort of artistic control and mystery.
Yeah, the mystery is the key thing i suppose. It allows people like us to make up whatever we want!
Exactly! Anyway, you’re part of a Oxford music ‘movement’ called Blessing Force, for those that aren’t in the know could you tell them abit about it?
Certainly, we are a group of about 25 musicians and artists living in Oxford. We throw parties and exhibitons and a mixture of the two things on a regular basis. It’s only been going on for a short time (about 6 months or so) but people latched on pretty quick and so far we’ve had a lot of media coverage. This was one of the main purposes in setting this all up; to help each other out and give each other exposure. We’re like a support group… Someone described us as the indie Samaritans.
From what I’ve read and heard, you appear to be some sort of incredibly efficient self promotion team.
Not at all. We just all talk about BF in interviews and eventually people have cottoned on to it, sorry to say this, but journalists can be inherantly lazy and when there is something like this to write about, people jump at it.
I agree some of us can be incredibly lazy, but I meant self-promtion more in the sense that when being in the situation like you are now, you’re willing to give your fellow contemporaries support. Not in the capitalism sense of “hey my friend’s bands new EP is coming out you should go out and buy it”. If that makes my intentions any clearer?
Yeah, giving each other support is what we’re all about. It’s just annoying when people have been scathing towards us just because NME wrote about us.
Again that brings us back to an earlier point of yours about the fact that the music industry isn’t that fun anymore. And it appears to be very much about hyperbole and bandwagons – how everyone jumps on a trend not out of general interest but with the intention of being ‘current’ or ‘bang-on-trend’, so to speak.
Yeah, I guess thats probably a result of the internet, and blog culture. Everything moves so quickly in music these days. Being ‘current’ can seem important, and it is to a certain extent, but people forget to listen to the music really at all in some cases! I find it incredibly sad when i read about bands in the past like Queen, or Pulp who had a few albums before they had any success. They were allowed to grow and develop before the labels gave up on them. That categorically wouldn’t happen now. You have to play this game, like going through hoops, to get signed to a major label and when you do you only have one chance to make it work.
Let’s talk about a less heated topic, what was the first album you ever bought?
David Bowie’s Greatest Hits.
A credible choice…
Well it was actually a Christmas present. I remember buying the Outhere Brothers ‘Boom Boom Boom on cassette single when I was very young from Our Price.
Which song do you find the most inspirational?
At the moment it would be ‘A New Chance’ by the Tough Alliance, if you don’t know it, then you have to listen to it - it’s absolutely incredible.
Chad Valley’s self-titled EP is out now on Cascine