Hugo Manuel knows a little something about suspense. Despite every opportunity to ride the (sorry) "buzz wave" following the 2010 and 2011 releases of his much-lauded EPs, the man behind bedroom electro-pop project Chad Valley instead chose to linger in the wake, rebelling against the oft-detrimental "indie blog cycle" and taking his sweet time to gracefully craft Young Hunger, his debut full-length. The LP, which is slated for a November 18th release, celebrates an evolution to a more fleshed-out, full-fledged sound—the Charizard of Chad Valley, if you will—with influences and appearances from friends like Glasser, Active Child, El Perro Del Mar, and—oh yeah—Paula Abdul. I phoned up Hugo to chat about his upcoming release and what the hell took so long.
Chad Valley - "I Owe You This" (Feat. Twin Shadow)
Noisey: It seems like a lot of your music and videos are heavily influenced by 80s sensibilities. Where does that come from?
Hugo: I’m just constantly trying to find new sounds and go back to music history. In the run-up to writing this record, I got really sick of listening to new stuff—what I was hearing wasn’t really interesting to me. I haven’t been excited by any new bands in a really long time. So I decided quite consciously to look back on different eras of music that I never really paid attention to before. Growing up, I was always into a lot of 70s music; I was always a big into Television, Patti Smith, things like that. I kind of always thought of the 80s as being a bit of a black hole, so I went back and discovered all these bands—especially from the late 80s, stuff really started to get good then, and then grunge came and killed it all. I just wanted to find something new at first, and I thought the optimism of using this new technology—this sort of synthesis, this sort of recording—were all new and exciting things. Using that in a positive "Let’s see what we can do with technology and put it to good musical use" way.
I know you recorded your first two EPs, Chad Valley (2010) and Equatorial Ultravox (2011), in your bedroom. Do you think the 80's attitude towards making music is back, what with all this new technology and the ease of home recording?
Yeah, with the dawn of this kind of synthesis in the 80s, it had a huge effect on making more stuff available, as well as thicker synth sounds because you could have five synths on top of each other. So I guess it is sort of similar to what’s going on now, where people can make anything they want in their bedroom on a cheap laptop. The thing that I really liked about music in the 80s was the fact that people kind of weren’t looking back, they were just looking forward. They weren’t trying to recreate sounds they heard before, they were trying to create sounds no one has heard before. I think it’s just really hard to get that in music now; that’s something that’s very complicated in my head. I can’t get my head around it.
Speaking of the 80s, I heard you spent a week with Paula Abdul?
Yeah, it was pretty insane. She was going out with this guy at my label and I was in LA. It was the last stop on the tour. so I stayed for a week. Jeff at my label said he could help me find a place to stay, and it was Paula Abdul’s place. So I spent a week hanging out, doing my own thing, and seeing her at lunch and dinner and stuff, and it was really surreal. She was really into the music; she came to my show—that was reported in People Magazine! Like, "Paula Abdul goes to random indie show." Yeah, it was surreal. She was a lovely person, really talented, and not at all what I expected.
Did she have any "nuggets of wisdom" for making Young Hunger?
She was just very, like, "Follow your dreams! You're a strong, powerful individual. You have talent!" and all of this kind of stuff. Straight off that tour, I came home and started working on the record, so that was quite an influential time.
Chad Valley - "Fall 4 U" (Feat. Glasser)
Speaking of the new album, how do you think your album would have sounded if you had recorded it a year ago on the tail of the EPs you released?
I often think about that, because at the time I wrote Equatorial Ultravox, it was seven tracks—a rather long EP—so I could have just waited a few months, written three or four songs, and that could have been my debut album. At the time, I think I was kind of up for that, but people around me were saying they thought it should be an EP and that I was still progressing. In my head, I was thinking, "This is it, I’m ready, I’m ready," but I’m so glad I did wait, because I think it would have been something that was maybe good for a few months and that I would have been happy with for a few months, but I think I would have quickly gotten bored with it. I’m constantly wanting to move on and sort reinvent what I’m doing. I think it would have been really different in a not-so-good way. Just having that extra time to really concentrate and write a lot of songs [made a big difference]. I wrote, like, 20 songs and used half of them for the album. I wouldn’t have had that if I was rushed into doing an album, which happens to so many bands. I’ve seen so many bands who came about the same time as me and were written about at the same time as me, already release full-length albums, and I think they suffered by signing to the major labels that make you put out an album right away.
You brought so many guest vocalists on Young Hunger. How did you go about picking them?
A few have been friends of mine. I was just on tour with Active Child in the States, so I was sharing a bus with them for three weeks and we naturally got quite close. Likewise, with Twin Shadow, I toured with him in the UK like two years ago. I have some friends from Oxford, so there were friends I knew and some I was just asking for favors. It was just the kind of case where I made a big list of people I like and people I thought were obtainable goals, and we just tried to find a way to get in touch with them, trying to find some mutual friends. It was surreal for me to get El Perro Del Mar, who I’m a huge fan of; there's not many people I really, really like—I’m sort of picky on things—but with El Perro Del Mar, I feel like everything she’s released has been amazing. When I first heard her debut album, it was a turning point for me and put me in more of a songwriting direction, so that was important. I was quite pleased we got that one. Likewise, Glasser—I really loved her debut album and never thought I’d hear myself singing with her.
I remember last time we caught up with you, you were involved with the artist collective Blessing Force Are you still involved with them?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s an Oxford-based collective of artists and musicians. We’ve done a lot of shows out and about in Oxford and a few in London just showcasing us as musicians and artists. We’d take over warehouse spaces and art galleries and attempt to make some sort of music and arts experience. We haven’t had many of those recently because all the various artists are busy writing and recording like me. We are planning on doing some more stuff; it’s kind of evolved and serves as a record label now, so a lot of our friends are having releases on Blessing Force Records. We’re doing a showcase in Paris next month! For me, the thing about Blessing Force was to get us all noticed, and I wanted people to take note that there was a great scene happening in Oxford and there still is. Now that we’re to the stages to the extent of where we want to be at, we are taking advantage of it. It’s all going strongly.