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Chela’s Creative to the Core

The Australian pop powerhouse is back with a brilliant new self-directed video.

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Chela’s approach to music is multi-layered and futuristic. Since breaking out in 2014 with the sparkling earworm ‘Romanticise’, the WA-born, LA-based musician has written with Seth Bogart (of Hunx and His Punx) and won over fans worldwide with a string of infectious singles and world-class dance moves.

Her October 2018 single ‘Shut You Up’ came as a welcome end-of-year gift to eager listeners,  who’d been waiting on new music since the tail end of 2017. In the delightful, poppy track Chela urges listeners to put down their phones and cherish the present. As with her previous music videos, Chela sat in the director’s chair (for more of her work behind the camera, check out the super-fun ‘Handful of Gold’ video). During a recent trip back home, she told us “I love being a one-woman machine and continuously learning how to create everything I need on my own.” All that said, she’s not averse to a little help. “I still think collaboration is key to evolving and sometimes unleashing your greatest ideas.” Fittingly, ‘Shut You Up’ features vocals from Banoffee, a fellow Aussie songwriter and dear friend.

Here, we catch up with Chela and learn a little more about her dystopian directorial turn, accompanied by a similarly apocalyptic shoot from Mia Rankin and Kirsty Barros.

Hey Chela. Let’s start by talking a little about the single ‘Shut You Up’. Who, or perhaps what, you would like to shut up?
I wrote Shut You Up at a time when I was very frustrated with the almost incessant use of technology in my life, and I thought the idea of wanting to take a break from it and connect back to nature would be a shared universal feeling.

And how do you like to stay connected to nature? How do you make sure you’re using technology, when you simply have to, in a way that feels healthy?
I spend a lot of time outdoors and keep a journal which is a dying art form. I think socialising with your friends face to face more than online is very important too. As for tech, it’s mostly a platform for sharing ideas. I love researching topics I’m interested in, acquiring the information at my own pace and being able to instantly share them with whomever I please (except my grandparents because they don’t have the internet).

You also directed the dystopian dream land clip. Can you tell us a bit about the visual heartbeat of the video?
Actually, if you looked at my treatment for the video – you’d see that it didn’t eventuate as planned! There were many logistical and technical hurdles we faced, however we winged it, and thank goodness we had enough in the end to piece something consistent together. The original notion comes through still, which is simply a journey from metropolis to nature.

If you could create a utopian paradise, what would it look like? I get the sense you really appreciate nature.
If I could create a universe that blended the feels of Fern Tree Gully, Fifth Element and Avatar, I think it’d be my kind of paradise.

Amazing. What else has been inspiring you lately? Any other artists you would like to collaborate with?
I watched David Byrne perform for the first time recently and it was game changing. I was in awe the whole time. The conceptual genius behind that performance made me feel that I have been doing music wrong for a long time. I now want to ditch the notion of having a conventional band, and do something more performative. In terms of collaboration, I’d love to write/produce a song with Max Martin and Quincy Jones, make a video for it art-directed by Matthew Barney and directed by Spike Jonze, with costume design by Vivienne Westwood and Claire Barrow. With please, thanks and love.

It’s perfect that you brought up Vivienne—I was wondering who, or what, inspired your wonderful style. Any future plans in fashion?
I spend a lot of time vintage shopping, and surfing on Etsy, because I prefer what is unique, one-off and not mass-manufactured. That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t enjoy keeping up to date with designer collections. I usually draw inspiration from high fashion and then have fun creating my own look from recycled or handmade clothing. I’m currently creating designs for my own boutique merchandise line which will be made ethically, and in small runs. The aesthetic is very much a concoction of textures, colours and concepts that ring true to my character.

Can’t wait to see!

Chela will perform January 17th at Golden Age Cinema in Sydney; January 18th at FBi Club Nights, Kings Cross Hotel in Sydney; February 1st at NGV Summer Nights; and February 3rd at the Midsumma Carnival in Melbourne; and March 1st at Melbourne Museum. 

Photography Mia Rankin, Styling Kirsty Barros, Beauty Joel Babicci, Hair Laura Spinney.

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