In The Middle with Chelou

Last week, in a cosy corner of Hyde Park Book Club, music editor Hollie Griss sat down with talented alternative musician Chelou to chat about life on the road, Leeds venues, and album plans.

Since the beginning of October, Chelou has been touring all over Europe and the UK, “playing shows to crowds we just didn’t really know we had out there”, including in Budapest, Istanbul and Cologne. “We’ve done more shows in this small chunk of about two months than we have all year”, he reflects, yet despite his Leeds appearance being the second to last spot on the tour, he shows no sign of tiredness during the gig: performing with as much passion as if it were his debut performance.

Although he described the tour as being one of his “best experiences of music so far”, when talking about how he spent his down-time across Europe, Chelou expressed how he often became restless with having so little to do: “there’s only so much TV you can watch in another language before you get really, really bored”. I think we can all relate to that, thinking back on holidays abroad when it was rainy outside and the main form of entertainment was the interesting, but largely incomprehensible European television. Yet, the endless driving and waiting about doesn’t all sound that bad – “we got to drive through the Alps which was just about 4 or 5 hours of being surrounded by amazing scenery and mountains, so while it was a long drive it was a gorgeous drive”.

We can both agree that the scenery on this leg of the tour – i.e. that of Hyde Park – is not so aesthetically pleasing. Although I hadn’t realised this pre-interview, Chelou and his manager also studied at the University of Leeds, and spent the afternoon having a “nostalgic moment” walking around. They managed to find their old house, the front garden of which is now furnished with broken, disused furniture, in typical Hyde Park style. Not only were Chelou and his manager fellow students here just four years ago, but they also played in our beloved Old Bar – and were delighted to hear that it’s still up and running. “We’ve played Old Bar and then we actually put on a night ourselves at ‘Mine’”, they recall – Mine was apparently another venue in the union, but was clearly either re-named (Pyramid, perhaps?) or redeveloped. It was so lovely to picture them here half a decade ago, playing tiny sets in the Union, and to think how far they’ve come from then to be returning and playing at Hyde Park Book Club. When asked about his dream venues to play in the future, Chelou responded with how he could say “Brixton Academy, or this or that”, but for him “the smaller, more intimate ones (can be better) than a big grand venue”.

“This is great”, he says, gesturing to our cosy surroundings of the Book Club, “and this actually wasn’t here when we were up here! I’ve just seen that downstairs they’ve got an even bigger venue, so maybe next time I come back we’ll be playing that. Brudenell Social would be on there because it’s round the corner from ours (their old house). Hopefully the next time we’re back here we can play in that place for sure.”

There’s no doubt Chelou’s music career is on the up, so let’s hope indeed he’ll be back in the musical haunts of Hyde Park before long. Whilst influenced by bigger artists like Cat Power, Neil Young, Mount Kimbie, Bon Iver and Lana Del Rey, Chelou also takes inspiration from underground artists, some of whom he’s even been able to work with recently. “I think new music has a lot to offer at the moment. There’s certain artists that I’ve managed to work with who are a bit underground and not on the scene, like Bastien Keb, and Grace Lightman. Bastien Keb’s incredible, we had a little studio session recently, so it’s amazing to like his album so much and then get to work with him.” As someone who loves both Bastien Keb and Chelou’s music, this is sounding like a pretty good collab.

Chatting to an artist who is so passionate about upcoming bands and new music, and who is truly grateful for the opportunities his upward climb in the music industry is offering him, was wonderful: “there’s all these artists that are totally underrated, and discovering them and then actually being able to work with them has been an absolute treat.”

After releasing a string of singles over the past couple of years, Chelou’s debut album is finally something that’s on the cards for the near future. “I’m really excited to have a full body of music out”, he says, and after a lovely chat with him and a brilliant performance at the Hyde Park Book Club, I have to say I’m just as excited to hear it. I have no doubts that 2018 is going to be an even bigger year for Chelou.

Hollie Griss


Image Credit: Dazed