Chad Valley’s summer project

by Shaun Curran

Special To The Japan Times

Extra incentive, as if any was needed, to get down to the Friendly Fires shows in Osaka and Tokyo comes in the form of opening act Chad Valley, the moniker of British solo artist Hugo Manuel.

Over the last 12 months, Oxford-born Manuel has via the Cascine label released two E.P.s — “Chad Valley E.P.” and “Equatorial Ultravox,” full of exquisite, sun-kissed dreamy electronica, making good his aim of “recreating the feeling of the beach”.

Plaudits have arrived from all quarters, earning Manuel comparisons with Washed Out and Toro y Moi, the acclaimed leaders of the so-called chillwave movement.

Like those artists, Manuel works in total isolation — “there’s lots of solitude, it’s just me, myself and I” — and indeed when we chat Manuel is in the studio making the most of an unexpected day off working on new tracks for his full-length debut album, due next year.

A founding member of Blessing Force, a collective of Oxford musicians, and leader of the on hiatus Jonquil, the affable Manuel can joke about his obsessive tendencies.

“I do appreciate people’s input, but I just like making decisions for myself. I’m a dictator when it comes to musical direction. I love to get my own way!”

Was it that attitude that drove you to work alone?

“It wasn’t a conscious thing to do; I’ve always made my own music. But once (British band) Foals asked me to remix “Spanish Sahara” I needed a name. I’d not played a show or made a MySpace (account) so I had to put a name to it. And I wanted a pseudonym that people might think was my name.”

The sunshine vibes that beam through Chad Valley’s music can be traced back to a vacation in Ibiza.

“My trip coincided with when I first started writing on my own. It wasn’t the height of the season, but when I was there I heard all the things I was getting into — Balearic, Tropicalia. It was very apt. It seemed like fate.”

Do you also use it as a form of escapism from dreary Oxford?

“That is definitely part of it,” he laughs. “You couldn’t be further away from the Mediterranean than in Oxford, beautiful as it is. But I’ve never been into dark music. I want the sound of a holiday, sitting on the beach — that feeling of complete relaxation.”

And the inevitable chillwave comparisons? “It does slightly irk me. I just don’t really see the point. I think it’s time to move on.”

Behind the scenes, Manuel has already moved on. He laughingly says to expect “something more wintery” from his album, so now is the time to catch Chad Valley while his music is shining brightest.