Chad Valley Finds Peace And Understanding

Hugo Manuel is the kind of artist who can turn restlessness into a prolific body of work. He first won listeners over with his warm voice as he fronted the indie rock band Jonquil, then with synth-heavy, R&B-tinged solo project Chad Valley. Manuel’s music always sounds intimate, but he’s undoubtedly a people person. He’s a cornerstone member of the Oxford, UK-based art collective Blessing Force, and Chad Valley’s debut album Young Hunger boasted collaborations with acts like Twin Shadow, Glasser, and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Manuel is currently going it alone on the road, but he’s armed with a number of new songs that he premiered via his Peace & Understandingmixtape. It’s a fitting title; the British crooner has an innately calming presence that’s transferred to everything he works on.

I caught up with Manuel to talk touring America, new influences, and Joni Mitchell.

Welcome back. Does it seems surreal to be coming to the US so many times in one year? 
Yeah, it is pretty surreal. It’s cool, I think at the end of this year I’ll have spent like three or four months in America. I’d love to stay longer, actually. Maybe later on.

Had you thought about trying to record here? 
Yeah, it’s all about money, that kind of stuff. I can just record at home and not spend any money on studios or anything like that. So I’m pretty lucky in the respect that I’m not sure if I need to spend money on recording, but maybe one day I’ll have a huge record label advance or something that I’ll blow on living in America for a while and making the album.

You also have Blessing Force to tap into. Do you all have a studio? 
Not really, all of the crew has a studio, but it’s not necessarily a Blessing Force thing. But actually on this next album I’m writing at the moment, I think I’m going to make a lot of use of those guys, use more musicians and stuff for instruments I can’t play like drums and bass guitar.

There’s the whole UK R&B revival thing going on, though your sound isn’t quite like the main acts that are getting attention for that.
I don’t know, it’s like Jessie Ware? I don’t mind being associated with anything, as long as it’s not anything horribly wrong. That kind of music’s cool, I listen to Jessie Ware a lot, and AlunaGeorge. It’s good stuff, and to be associated with any musician you respect is always a nice thing. It doesn’t bother me, I’d kind of just like to let people say what they like and not get too involved in discussions about genre or tags. It just doesn’t quite seem necessary. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s an evil thing.

It does matter less and less now.
Yeah, I suppose so. It’s always going to matter, though, it’s always going to be a way to write about music. You can always just listen to music, but for the times when you can’t listen, you’ve got to read about it. It’s basically why genre terms exist.




Speaking of which, there was the mixtape you released. What kind of vibe did you want to put out with that? 
I had a lot of tracks that I wanted to get out in some way, that I was building up over the last year or so, since I did my last album. I just wanted to get it all out in one go, because I’m about to go deep into recording my next album and I wanted to get rid of all of these bits and pieces that had been building up. I say get rid of, I mean unleash onto the world. So it seemed like a good way of doing it. I’d not done anything like a mixtape before, it’s kind of a new idea to me. The idea was suggested to me and I really took to it. A lot of it is quite dancey, it’s a lot of house kind of stuff and a lot of very sample-based stuff I couldn’t really release conventionally anyways. So it just seemed like the perfect platform to put the songs out.

“Understand Me” is a new song, yeah? 
Yeah, that’s kind of the intro to a bigger song, so you’ll probably hear another version of that one on the album. Probably, I can’t say for sure, but that’s just the beginning. So that’s why I wanted to put it on the end, because it’s leading into the next album. It’s going to sort of tie it together.

So you’ve started thinking about what kind of shape this next album’s going to take? 
I’ve written a lot of stuff for it already, and it’s sounding different. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s going be a little bit of a change I’m trying to make. I’m trying to rein it in and make it not too much of a change, but it’s going to have a lot of new influences on it. I’ve been expanding my musical tastes and exploring new sounds I’ve never used before. There’s a lot more organic sounds on it, more real drums, guitar, things like that.

What have you been into lately? 
I’m into a lot of old German krautrock. Can, La Düsseldorf, that kind of late krautrock period stuff towards the early 80s, Tangerine Dream and that kind of thing. I’ve been listening to loads of really weird world music things, just been getting really deep into Bollywood soundtracks and samba and weirder things. I’m making a real effort to listen to new shit I’ve never heard before.

What’s your perspective like on Young Hunger now that it’s been out for a year?
I don’t know, it’s weird. It’s something I know so intimately well and I can look now and I can’t remember making the songs or recording it. I was living in a different place, in a very different world in a lot of ways. So it’s kind of foreign to me, kind of like a different person altogether. It was made in such a short time, so it’s very weird when I go back and listen to it. I’m still playing songs from it every day, so it’s not that far away, I guess.

Do you see yourself continuing with that spirit of collaboration, too? 
Yeah, as I’ve said, I’m going to collaborate more with my friends and musicians that I know. Rather than singers, it’ll be other instruments. Percussion, mostly, drums, guitar, bass. I’d love to do some more vocal collaborations, there were a few people I was talking to about doing something on Young Hunger, but it didn’t work out. So there’s a few people who I’d love to do something with, and I know they want to do something with me. So maybe at some point, but I’m not into that at the moment, really.

Who would your ultimate dream collaborator be? 
I’d love to have Joni Mitchell sing on a track, that’s definitely the biggest. But I’m 99.9% sure that won’t happen, so I’m not holding any hopes up.

What is it about Joni Mitchell that particularly appeals to you?
I’ve listened to her so regularly, and there’s so much material, and it’s all good. It’s incredible how I listen to every album, because everything is incredible. Her way with melody is so original, you can’t imitate that. When you try to, it’s pointless. The way that she uses other musicians, she did a lot of stuff with jazz fusion musicians in the late 70s, then she moved on to Thomas Dolby and English 80s electronic musicians. She did all the synth records in the mid 80s. She’s just a bit of a chameleon, and I love her. She can take influence from every form of music.

Is that what’s inspired you to branch out? 
Yeah, exactly. I want every album of mine to have a very different atmosphere and sound and effect. That’s worked out well so far.

You’ve also been doing more in the way of remixes. 
I’m kind of always doing them now. I’ve just done quite a few more high profile ones. That’s my bread and butter, I live off that in a way. It’s quite cool, someone made a Soundcloud playlist of the remixes I’ve done, and it wasn’t complete, but it was around two hours long. I’ve done probably at least three hours’ work of remixes in the past three years, which really surprised me. That’s a constant thing. I’ve got one on the go at the moment, I’ve got one I’ve got to start next week, while I’m on the road touring at the same time.

It’s not like you’re doing 12 minute long remixes, either. 
Oh, no. I like doing remixes that just reimagine the song, so I’m always going to use pretty much all the vocal and put a very different song underneath it, write a song around the vocal. People don’t ask me to do a dance remix that’s going to be played in clubs, that’s not my job.

Though there are people pushing back against how club music has become more mainstream and lifestyle-based, though maybe it’s become more of a thing here in America. 
Well, dance culture between America and England and Europe is very different. It’s been a thing in England for the past 25 years and I’ve noticed that in America, it’s quite a new thing. I’ve got a good friend of mine from back home who just moved to New York about six months ago, and he’s really amazed there’s no clubs. The whole culture is so different. In England, the pub shuts at 11 and then you go to a club til 4 or something, and the club is where you can dance. That’s what everyone does, that’s the only option. Here, you have these bars where you can sit until 4. It’s just a cultural thing, and the cultural phenomenon has affected the music itself that comes out in this country.

What’s next for you? 
After this tour, I’ve got some time off, and I want to finish my album. I’ve got a couple of shows here and there, but over Christmas, I’m going to knuckle down and just sit in my room for eight hours a day writing. So come spring next year, I’ll be back touring with a new album.

BlackBook Tracks #40: In Real Time

Now that it’s October, you can finally make everything pumpkin spice and the Halloween candy displays finally make sense. Things are also ramping up in the entertainment world, with some of the year’s most anticipated releases still yet to come. Here are some of the best things to happen in music this week, besides Lil Bub meeting Steve Albini.

Chad Valley – “Real Time”
Sebastien Grainger is another multitasker. This year, he’s been working on the long awaited follow-up to Death From Above 1979’s 2004 debut You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine alongside prepping a solo album, Yours To Discover. First single “Going With You” shows a surprising fondness for sun-kissed synth-pop, miles away from DFA1979’s relentless dance punk and a departure from his more rock-oriented project Sebastien Grainger and the Mountains. Yours To Discover is out next month.

Cults – “High Road”
Cults’ Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin may broken up as a couple, but they’ve stayed together to make wistful pop songs. The New York duo is gearing up to release its second album Static on October 15, and the anticipation builds with this new video for “High Road.” Directed by Hiro Murai, the clip is a minimalist monochrome journey that embraces the hypnotic effects of looking into fire.

Lea Lea – “The Wonderer”
Lea Lea comes from the same school of diva-dom as M.I.A. and is well on her way to becoming London’s next leading lady. “The Wonderer” is a mission statement for her upcoming self-titled debut album. Over a punchy beat that’s somehow both minimal and maximal, she paints herself as smart and savvy but never cynical.

Goldn Retriever – “I Feel Great Now”
Chillwave isn’t the buzzword it once was, but the laid-back subgenre has left its mark on indie music. Frenchman-in-London Goldn Retriever takes Washed Out’s dream world and adds a more assertive rhythm section. “I Feel Great Now” will instantly sink into your brain with its warm bass, and it’ll appear alongside other late night tales on the singer/producer’s upcoming The Dawn Within EP.

Chad Valley’s Infectious Debut LP ‘Young Hunger’

The definition of a good song can be measured by how often you find yourself singing it. Whether you think the song is insufferable or not is irrelevant. Some examples are as follows: “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars and every Maroon 5 song ever—the songs penetrate their way into your brain and infect it. Chad Valley’s new album Young Hunger is jam packed with eleven songs that do just that but do it right.

For the past few weeks I have caught the Chad Valley disease. Young Hunger, which hit stores on October 30 on Cascine, has yet to leave my stereo, and by stereo I mean CD player—yup, CD player. Chad Valley aka Hugo Manuel of the UK band Jonquil delivers an album so wrought with emotion you won’t know whether to do an empowering stomp around your bedroom or light some sage and cleanse yourself of past lovers. So far, Manuel has collaborated with all star acts such as Twin Shadow, El Perro Del Mar, and Jack Goldstein. So, needless to say, a star studded debut LP. 

In the stand out gem “Fall 4 U” featuring Glasser, the two powerhouses harmonize in a haze of synth beats,  "I know your wheels are in motion/ Love feels like such a commotion/ Everyone is moving somewhere new." It’s a song which transports me back to that spring night across the river spent enveloped in passion yet wishing it wasn’t the beginning of the end. Alas, the universe inevitably moves in a different direction. 

If they made a Weekend at Bernie’s 3, every song on Young Hunger could score the film. Yes folks, this album has the power to make a dead body dance again! Throw your head phones on and transition your way into the holiday season by giving Chad Valley’s album its well deserved share of spins.  

Chad Valley Young Hunger out now.

BlackBook Tracks #16: I Don’t Want to Think How It’s Already Snowing in Some Places

Hey, so, I had a rainy day mix planned out for you guys because it’s been sort of gross in New York all week, but then I walked outside my apartment (I do that sometimes) this morning and it was sunny! So this is what you get instead.

The Bewitched Hands – “Boss”

Can there ever be enough melodic indie pop loaded with vocal harmonies? The answer is no, and the Bewitched Hands are more than happy to oblige.

Fort Lean – “Sunsick”

Stark, bare bones rock from some guys in Brooklyn. Some days, you just need a little help.

This Many Boyfriends – “Number One”

This Many Boyfriends make the kind of smart, wistful guitar pop that sounds pretty good when you have zero boyfriends.

Chad Valley – “Tell All Your Friends”

Is Chad Valley’s Young Hunger one of your most anticipated albums of the year? It should be, at least if you’re into R&B-inflected electro-pop that wears its heart on its sleeve.

Darkstar – “Timeaway”

The latest act to sign to the ever-reliable Warp Records, Darkstar’s going to be on our radars. “Timeaway” is lush and layered, with reverb-drenched vocals. Take it easy.

Cut Copy – “Saturdays”

Enter the semi-nostalgic part of the playlist. The Australian electro-poppers have been delivering the good stuff for years, and here’s a memory of what first made us fall in love.

The Long Blondes – “Swallow Tattoo”

Is it okay to still be mourning the loss of The Long Blondes? The English indie rock outfit was fairly prolific for the short time that it lasted, and Kate Jackson’s persona as the retro-chic woman wronged is worth revisiting over and over again.

Belle & Sebastian – “Asleep On A Sunbeam”

This is what we all need in our lives all of the time.

Jens Lekman – “You Can Call Me Al” (Paul Simon cover)

This cover could be worthy of Nick from New Girl’s sex mix.

Follow Katie Chow on Twitter.

BlackBook Tracks #10: Just Chill

It’s been a long week, hasn’t it? Maybe you say that every Friday. Sit back, relax, and ease yourself into the weekend with these songs.

Django Django – “Firewater”

Kick things off with this hangover anthem from the London psych-rockers’ excellent self-titled debut album, currently available for streaming at Rolling Stone.

Phoenix – “If I Ever Feel Better”

This track from the French band’s 2000 debut album United never fails to hit the spot.

Peter Morén – “Social Competence”

The Peter Bjorn and John frontman gets vulnerable with an acoustic guitar in his solo project. Here’s a sample of his other side from 2008’s The Last Tycoon.

Ra Ra Riot – “Too Dramatic”

Ra Ra Riot have been laying low for a while, but hopefully they’ll be back sooner than later with more lush, string-heavy indie pop.

Johanna and the Dusty Floor – “Fishbones”

“Fishbones” is like the audio equivalent of finally getting sheets with a decent thread count and finding it even more impossible to get out of bed in the morning.

Chairlift – “I Belong In Your Arms”

This slice of jubilant dream-pop from the Brooklyn duo always feels like a breath of fresh air.

Chad Valley – “Fall 4 U” (ft. Glasser)

Synth-pop maestro Chad Valley is gearing up for his debut LP Young Hunger, and “Fall 4 U” is the first tease from the album. It’s nothing short of completely gorgeous and transportive.

Divine Fits – “My Love Is Real”

An indie supergroup featuring members of Wolf Parade and Spoon ended up being a good idea! Here’s the stark, captivating opener to A Thing Called Divine Fits.

The Cast Of Cheers – “Family”

Irish band the Cast of Cheers finally released their album Family on this side of the pond, and it’s a good one. The title track is all angles and jangles, with plenty of energy to spare.

BlackBook Tracks #9: Summertime Sadness

What’s your summertime sadness, fellow member of the first world reading this article? Lana Del Rey? Not drinking enough frozen margaritas outdoors? Your best prospect for a potential summer fling not panning out? Your awkward farmer’s tan? Never working up the confidence to wear a crop top? Ryan Lochte? The Teen Wolf season finale introducing too many new ideas? Never finding the perfect pair of sandals? The new Taylor Swift song? Well, it’s mid-August. We’re in the home stretch, so either go out and get it or make this playlist the soundtrack to your wallowing.

Slow Club – “Giving Up On Love”

Oscillate between optimism and pessimism with one of Britain’s finest folk-pop duos. At this point in the summer 2012 game, it’s time to give up on a lot of things, and love is probably #1 on the list.

Beat Connection – “The Palace Garden, 4am”

Seattle quartet Beat Connection’s debut LP The Palace Garden has already proved to be one of this summer’s most pleasant releases. Loaded with smooth harmonies, the title track is simultaneously soothing and super catchy.

Ladyhawke – “Anxiety”

The title says it all, but the effervescent production lightens up the eponymous track from the Ladyhawke’s recently-released Anxiety. The electro-pop artist doesn’t shy away from getting personal, and she’s all the better for it.

Discovery – “Carby” (ft. Ezra Koenig)

Rejection hurts! Dance the pain away!

Kisses – “Funny Heartbeat”

Hard-to-Google L.A. synth-pop duo Kisses made a splash with their 2010 debut The Heart Of The Nightlife, and they’re back with “Funny Heartbeat.” It’s already setting the bar high for their follow-up album.

Efterklang – “Hollow Mountain”

The Danish band is back with more stunning orchestral sounds. Here’s a glimpse at their bleak and lovely new album Piramida, out next month.

Air – “You Make It Easy”

Legendary French duo Air excels at the atmospherics, and “You Make It Easy” is no exception. Nothing restores sanity like a listen to Moon Safari.

The Antlers – “French Exit”

Get tranquil and let some of Brooklyn’s brighter sons help you deal with that sense of lingering shame and regret.

Timber Timbre – “I Get Low”

Haunting vocals make this 2010 track from the Canadian folk trio totally captivating. Listen to this any time the sun isn’t out.

Chad Valley – “I Want Your Love”

Under the moniker Chad Valley, Hugo Manuel makes immersive, glimmering electronic music. The Oxford, UK-based artist is also gifted with a preternaturally earnest-sounding voice that’s hard to not fall for. This song will go great with your pining for someone who has a water filter and non-leather couch.

Cloud Nothings – “Wasted Days”

There’s something both triumphant and crushingly defeating about this nearly nine-minute track from the Ohio rockers with the raw refrain “I thought I would be more than this.” It’s simple, but effective—who doesn’t?