Meet the man behind modern music’s most enigmatic alias, Chelou.
The music scene’s most mysterious new addition, Chelou, has cordoned quite the cult following since dropping his debut last year – a DIY affair drafted in the bedroom of his London home. Considering the committed calling, it’s astonishing to think that for many of his fans, this may be the first time they’ve clapped eyes on the artist, for Chelou’s presence is a relatively faceless one, eluding orthodox public presence with EPs and profile pictures assuming abstract artwork as opposed to portrait. Allow us to put a face to the name as we talk to Chelou about his ambient self-made sound, musical memories and that arcane existence of his…
When did you find your musical talent?
Truth is, I wanted to be an actor as a kid. I actually didn’t get serious about music until much later in life, but picked up my first guitar at age eleven and just started learning from a chord book.
When did you stop thinking of it as a hobby and start seeing it as your profession?
I never stop thinking of it as a hobby. I play guitar every day, that would be the same regardless of if I was working in the music industry or not, and to call me professional would be an overstatement.
What other career paths might you have followed if not for music?
In French, ‘Chelou’ means ‘shady’ or ‘suspicious’, and you have a very elusive media presence – we seem to know very little about you as a person, despite having the time to become very familiar with your music. Do you deliberately try and keep off the radar?
I want people to listen to the music and engage with the art first and foremost. I’m not pretending to be some phantom mystical thing, I just don’t want my face to become more important than my music. People are fallible, but music is concrete and can last far longer
Has remaining relatively faceless garnered you quite a cult fan-base?
You tell me. I like the fact people have found my music without it being thrown in their faces. I don’t think success is based on the quantity of listeners or having you face on the side of a bus. I find it very complementary that people have taken the time and resources to get involved with my music.
How does that mean fans react to your live shows? What can they expect?
Again, the show is just one form of the music, and that’s what’s important. To be honest, a lot of people expect me to be French!
You’re currently based in London which is famed for its creative freedom. Did you grow up around such a rich music scene?
Growing up in Camden was great. I was able to play gigs in bars like the Dublin Castle before I was legally allowed to drink there. My dad used to work in a record shop around the corner, so I could always go and listen to music there. These days, Camden isn’t what it used to be, but what’s great about London is that there’s music to offer all over.
How would you describe the music you make?
The moody blues. I like anything in the A minor key and a love a good melody.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
I have many. The beauty of music is that it’s forever changing. The people I was listening to when I first started playing music isn’t necessarily who I listen to now. I remember watching Michel Jackson’s Moonwalker film on VHS. Every guitarist goes through their Nirvana or Jimi Hendrix phase, but right now I’m enjoying stuff like Nicolas Jaar and PJ Harvey.
What’s your first memory of music?
Driving to France with my family listening to my Dad’s selection of tape – classics like Van Morrison, Neil Young and Bob Marley.
It was last year that you decided to self-produce your tracks in your bedroom using Logic laptop software. How has your music developed under this independent approach? How did the more traditional approach inhibit you?
Creating music is a very personal thing. If I were forced to abide by someone else’s time frame or have some stranger leering over me during that process, I would choke. I used my bedroom because I had nowhere else to record – it’s as simple as that. As my sound develops and gets bigger I’m sure I’ll need a bigger place to record, but right now a guitar, microphone and computer does the trick, so I’m happy.
You were just granted funding from the Momentum Music Fund. How do you see your music developing now you have some backing behind you?
It’s really nice just to have control and freedom to direct the music as I see fit. Unfortunately in this world, money has priority, and up until this point I didn’t have much of it. The funding really helped me to break some of the financial constraints that had been holding back the true progression of this project.
What do you like to write about?
Everything and nothing at all. Most of my song writing is metaphorical!
You’re fresh from touring with Thurston Moore and All We Are, and also featured on Maya Jane Coles’ recent Nocturnal Sunshine album, releasing the incredible Believe EP last May. Is there a particular artist you’d love to collaborate with in the future?
Although I’m unsure of any particular artist, working with Maya was a prime example of how collaborating with other artists from difference fields can develop your musical sound in greats ways. I’m open minded and am excited to collaborate with any one like-minded and into making good music.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
I always remember walking out in front of my biggest audience at the Thurston show. I got a little shout out just before I played The Quiet and never really realised people were that appreciative. Doing shots of JD out of Richard’s chest (the drummer from All We Are) was a sweaty and memorable experience…
Words: Rebekka Ayres