Interview w/ Chelou


Written by Dan Haze
17 Friday 17th November 2017

North London based singer-songwriter Chelou has followed up his viral track ‘Halfway To Nowhere’ with new single ‘Damned Eye See’ on his own ‘Concrete Dog Records’. The track was recorded in his bedroom using signature lo-fi sounds and a host of cups amongst other kitchen utensils as percussion. Vocal samples were provided from recordings of his 8 year old sister Flic who sent them over from her home in the South of France.

I sat down with the enigmatic artist whose distinctive style has earned him a legion of fans both in the UK and abroad as well as millions of views on Youtube. To talk inspiration collaboration and touring over pizza and IPA with his childhood friend and manager Phil. Although his songs err on the melancholic side, I was immediately met with a friendly, open guy, whose passion for music is obvious. He and Phil have just got back from tour and some shots are dispersed throughout the interview. 


One of your lyrics for Halfway to Nowhere states that you’ve sung for both pleasure and pain, was your latest single made in pleasure or pain?

It's a mixture of both I think, the latest single is about hating a bit on london and the lifestyle that goes with it, like being on the tube everyday surrounded by a feeling of negativity, from the way people act to the front pages of the Metro. I hope that my lyrics aren’t always that negative, because it's a joyous time for me to be making music. I feel more focused, because I’ve been able to leave work and make music my priority. I can't draw any negatives from living so positively, but I’m always going to be a bit melancholy that's just the vibe.


Why do you choose to use your sisters vocals? 

I used my sisters vocals without her knowing for about five or six songs now,  I’m gonna get sued when she grows up! (shes only 11) Everytime she's in the UK I record her. Her vocal samples are the consistent thread that connects all my songs, they make it all feel more organic.  


Is it a conscious decision to have animated music videos?

Yeah massively, for me the animation and the stories we create have this psychedelic element that carries the music so much better. Than I think any film concept wouldn’t be able to reflect that as effectively. My first video was inspired by an old sketch I’d made that we were gonna use for the cover art and some of the characters from that sketch are still used in the animations today. We’re trying to create this immersive world for our music to live in and it's done so wonderfully. The animation, the colour it all comes together really well. I also just don't want my face lipsyncing lyrics.


Your collaboration with Polly Norr is great, how did that come about?

I’ve known her since school, I used to play in a band with some of her friends, we’re like a big family, they’re our elders I guess. Polly was coming to shows when we were doing prog-folk-rap-funk bands, the kind bands that you start as confused 16 year olds.

For a song like Halfway to Nowhere  the kind of characters she creates are really fitting because they deal with ideas of the self and inward looking. Along with the jungle concept that Andy Baker helped create which is a great metaphor for self exploration. I’m so happy to have her as a fan and a friend.


How does it feel owning your own label and why is it called Concrete Dog?

Concrete dog came from when I was travelling with my brother, it summed up this moment when I was travelling with my brother and there was this doorstop that was a ceramic dog, at the time we wrote it down as a band name, and then I made this demo track at my dad's house because he always forces me to record when I’m at home.

And I recorded this kind of nothing song and he asked me what it was called and I was like 'I dunno Concrete Dog?'. It also this acoustic guitar that we’d picked up in the states for 50 dollars and you could barely play it, it would rip up your fingers, I was like ‘This is a fucking dog of a guitar’. So it's kind of this recurring theme throughout life and career, being useless and not having any good stuff, yet all of it coming together and becoming part of something better.


Is the album going to be a departure from your previous work?

The album is gunna draw on everything we’ve been building towards, mainly me developing my skills as a producer and the work that I’ve done with Maya Jane Coles in the past. Me and her and have been hatching out this plan. I want it to be as much my own work as it is a collaborative project with other people I’ve worked with along the way. A development as well as a sum of its parts. I’m just excited to have a fully fledged body of work.


What are your biggest influence? How do you think you’ve evolved as an artist?

Weed?  Life  experience, for better or worse every experience will come back and affect you in some way or another. Whilst at uni I didn't do anything creative or musical for 3 years but out of that was the first time I’ve ever done something creative with my music. There was this paradox where I hated the whole thing but the experience got me here. The experience of life and love and all those things haha heartbreak!


You’ve said in the past that you would choke if you had a stranger encroach on your creative process, but isn't this part of being a successful musician?

It's the right kind of stranger. I’d love someone I’m really comfortable with musically engaging together, the way i record is often in my bedroom in a comfortable environment. So if i were to be placed in an uncomfortable, sterile environment I don't think I'd be able to create something meaningful or emotional. As long as you have the right chemistry and ambition toward the same end result then it's fine, but there's a lot of people out there would be in it for the wrong reasons so you’ve just got to get people you trust, that have the same goals and desires.


How do you think Youtube has influenced the music industry?

I think social media in general has changed the way everyone engages with music forever. People connect with the music through Youtube. Youtube is for everyone and I can't knock it. However, so many people can infiltrate your music that they’re not going to buy a record or come to a show. It’s harder to get organic fans. It's a mixed blessing , but at least people are engaging with the music in some way.


What your favourite thing about touring?

Seeing all the amazing places I wouldn’t normally be able to see. It’s also nice to know that we have a presence outside the UK. One the biggest shows we played was in Hungary. I guess my melancholic style reflects that kind of post-soviet depression that hangs over some of eastern Europe. 

And the hotel breakfasts, you can't beat ham, cheese and bread...


Why did you use kitchen utensils in your latest song?

Mainly because it's what available to me at home, for me I struggled to come to terms with a lot of musical processes because I don't come from a music tech background, I come from mainly a guitar/songwriting background so learning how to produce was something quite new to me and within that I was just trying to make sounds with anything I could.  It means that the sounds i create are original and not online. You put enough effects on anything and it'll sound good, just drench it in reverb!


Will you still use these techniques when you go into the studio?

In a similar way to mys sisters vocals, the sounds are something that no one can emulate or recreate. In my latest song i literally scraping a key against a speaker!


It sounds like although Chelou's career is going from strength to strength, he's still going to retain his same sensibilities. Regardless of how nice the studios will become, I think Phil will still be finding him scratching speakers for a rif, no matter how expenisve the equipment is. 


'Damned Eyes See' is out now and tickets to Chelou's London show on 30/11/17 at the Omeara are available here.

The album should be completed by the end of the year and then plan on releasing it some time in the New Year, stay tuned for more.


Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at and we will respond asap.