Chad Valley is the solo project from Hugo Manuel, lead singer of the band Jonquil, and part of Oxford's Blessing Force collective. The music is evocative of memories of soul and pop songs from different eras. This is the work of an incredibly talented artist, the songwriting, vocals, and production are perfectly balanced, and the result is a vivid, exciting, passionate listen in 2012's full length 'Young Hunger'. Chad Valley performed 2 shows at NXNE in Toronto, we had the chance to talk with him prior to his show at BLK BOX for the Neon showcase.
Fingers On Blast: You're the lead vocalist for the band Jonquil. Where did the idea for the side project come from? They sound pretty different.
Chad Valley: Yeah, that was the idea. To do something different. I'm very restless in terms of what I want to make and I felt like Jonquil is doing what we did well but I wanted to explore different things. I wanted to get into electronic music, I wanted to start sampling and all these things that didn't really fit in with Jonquil. So it just seemed like a natural thing to write music by myself. I never planned for it to be a big thing, it just kind of happened.
F.O.B.: You just made something you liked and it caught on?
C.V.: Yeah, a lot of people liked it and it seems to have gotten as big, if not bigger than Jonquil.
F.O.B.: Do you think that working as part of a collective contributing to Chad Valley being pervasive?
C.V.: Yeah, what happens when I first started to really get noticed in the press and so on was that people were writing about Blessing Force (the collective) and that was the real idea. What we wanted to do when we first started Blessing Force was just spread the word so that once somebody started writing about Chad Valley they'd write about Jonquil, they'd write about Solid Gold Dragons. We just wanted to help each other out. It was as simple as that, really and it's expanded to this whole, sort of empire now.
F.O.B.: We're curious about the name Chad Valley. When you search for it online you can find a few different things, a toy company, a certain area near birmingham, what inspired that name? Did any of those things specifically relate to the music?
C.V.: The name Chad Valley to me, just sounded like someone's name, and that's what I liked about it. I could use it as a pseudonym and be this different person while I did the music. That was quite important, I was working on a lot of Jonquil stuff at the time and I wanted it to be a very separate thing. I wanted to pretend to be someone else, not to be anonymous but to sort of take on the personality of someone else and to me the name Chad Valley sounded like the kind of guy that would make that kind of music.
F.O.B.: I initially associated it with California.
C.V.: I like to sort of look towards that kind of atmosphere when I'm writing music.
F.O.B.: One thing that you mentioned along with the collective, that we found with your label Cascine is that alongside your name are about a dozen other amazing artists.
C.V.: I love it, I love being part of a label that has such a solid sound you can just dig into the whole roster.
F.O.B.: Do you think that for listeners who are into one artist that the chances are pretty good they'll enjoy the others?
F.O.B.: Our favourite song so far is 'Fall 4 U'. It vaguely reminds us of some music we grew up with, were you aiming to include elements, or the feeling of a certain era? A certain sound you wanted to explore?
C.V.: Yes, for that album I was very much looking towards the late 80's. Just because I associate a kind of high point for that jazz influence, coming from funk and disco and then filtering through pop songwriting and the kind of stuff like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Guy, New Edition, early Boyz II Men, all that kind of stuff. The stuff they did with Human League, and the British and kind of arty pop music like ABC, and Prefab Sprout. That's what I was trying to reference, I was very aware of it being referential and almost quoting sounds and melodic ideas from the past.
F.O.B.: It might sound a bit corny, but it reminds us of the phrase 'standing on the shoulders of giants' because you think about groups like that and then think of where you have taken that sound and how excited people are about that.
C.V.: Cool. It's a blend of 80's influence, with modern things that you wouldn't necessarily associate at all. Use of more modern production techniques. Production wise I'm influenced by a lot of hip hop, so that kind of filters through as well. Music that they didn't really have back then.
F.O.B.: We've noticed several remixes, ones that you've done. How we missed 'Spanish Sahara', your Foals remix is beyond us.
C.V.: The 'Spanish Sahara' remix was the first thing I ever put out as Chad Valley. Maybe that's why, at the time I was completely unknown. I grew up with those guys, they'd heard some of the tunes I'd been doing as Chad Valley. I did the remix, they liked it and put it on the single.
F.O.B.: How do you feel when you're handing over your own music to someone to remix it?
C.V.: Not that great.
F.O.B.: We imagine you have some say in who remixes your music?
C.V.: Yes, I do, but it's tough. I'm kind of standing on shakey ground, remixing is something I do a lot of but I'm often a bit unsure as to where I stand with remixes. I've seen a lot of really bad remixes done of my stuff, and it's quite upsetting sometimes bevause you just think someone's not putting the effort in, like they just put my vocal over a tune they've already had. As a remixer myself I always write it as if I'm writing a new song, and I'll put as much effort into remixing as I do Chad Valley songs.
I understand it's kind of a necessity, especially if you're working in electronic music. It's just a given that you're gonna have remixes and it's part of the campaign and stuff. Some of them are amazing, dont' get me wrong. I've had some great remixes.
F.O.B.: There was one we heard pretty early on after discovering 'Fall 4 U'.
C.V.: Probably the Lissvik. That is the best thing. I mean, that's the perfect remix. He must have spent a long time on that, it's so perfectly mixed and written.
F.O.B.: We're curious about how the music was recorded? The first 2 EPs were done bedroom style?
C.V.: Yes, very much so bedroom style. Very limited equipment, just software, not really much hardware actually. The first two EPs versus my album, I went into a proper studio. I'd started out in my bedroom writing demos, and then took the album to a proper studio and did the whole sort of serious thing. Producing and mixing.
F.O.B.: Any new projects on the way you can let us know about?
C.V.: Well, not really. There are things on the horizon. There's a sort of mixtape idea that I'm developing that's going to come out I think later this year.
Thanks to Chad Valley for talking with us. Watch his tour updates here!