On Wednesday night, the Australian alt-pop goddess that is Chela performed live with Goldroom at Rough Trade in NYC. Fans of EDM might know Chela for hits such as “Fifteen” and “Romanticise.” Her latest single, “Zero,” released in March, features 80s melodies and soft vocals that are very reminiscent of old school funk.
After her sound check, I sat down with her to discuss her music style, songwriting, and her experiences in NYC.
Me: How would you describe your sound?
Chela: A lot of people have been calling it alt-pop. I think I just call it cool-pop, because it’s not “Top 40s” and not kind of cheesy and I write my own stuff.
Me: Your songs tend to get remixed quite well. Which remixes of “Fifteen”and “Romanticise” are your favorites?
Chela: I’ve got to be honest, I’m not really too familiar with all of the “Fifteen” remixes. I know there’s an Oxford remix that’s gone very well, but for me it’s kind of strange to hear my voice changed like that into the sound of a chipmunk. But yeah, that one’s had a lot of love which is great. Out of the “Romanticise” remixes, I mean, I love them all but one that I constantly DJ is the Le Bruce remix because it’s the one that makes me feel the most like dancing and having a good time. The Collarbones remix is really good for just like I guess when you’re feeling more of a chilled energy. It’s good for winding down, that one.
Me: What is the songwriting process like for you?
Chela: It’s always different. There’s no formula. Sometimes I just come up with a lyric. Like today, for instance, I was weeing (peeing) because I had lots to drink, and I was like, “God the wee just keeps going!” And then I wrote like in my head these lyrics saying, “It just keeps going and it won’t stop, don’t let your guard drop.” And then I was like, I’m gonna have to write it about something else but like, I can use it. I took it back and wrote it down, and then I thought about what else I could write about, obviously, because you don’t want to write about that.
Me: What was the inspiration behind the song “Zero”?
Chela: That’s a bit of a secret, but it’s basically just about when you’re friends with someone, and you want to turn it into a romance, and you kind of work your way towards it and then it doesn’t work out, and they just want to be friends, but you feel like you’ve worked towards it. That’s kind of what it’s about.
Me: Which artist collaboration was your favorite and why?
Chela: I mean, I don’t like to play favorites. I haven’t collaborated a huge amount in terms of what’s been actually released, but I really enjoyed collaborating with Clubfeet on a song called “Heartbreak” because those guys became really good friends of mine, and we’ve had great adventures together on tour and just hanging out in general playing basketball and whatever. So, I really enjoyed doing that
Me: What albums have you been listening to lately?
Chela: I’ve been listening a bit to Ramona Lisa which is Caroline Polachek’s new solo project. I’ve been listening a bit to Mac Demarco, Blood Orange, of course, Cupid Deluxe. I really love the Haim record that came out.
Me: Do you plan on releasing a full length album any time soon?
Chela: Yes I do. I’ve been writing it for a long time and I’ve just been waiting for the right time to make it happen and bring it to fruition, so I’m hoping that’s not too far away.
Me: Tell me about your YouTube video on “How to Dance to the Zero Minimix.” Did you pre-choreograph it, or was it all impromptu?
Chela: It was totally impromptu. I think I played the first weekend of Coachella and I came home for a week just to hang out, and I didn’t really have that much to do so I was sitting at home writing, and I love that minimix so I really enjoy listening to it, which is like, you know, you want to make music that you enjoy listening to. So, I don’t know, I guess I was just quite proud of it. I thought it was quite interesting so just last minute I thought I would add another element to it by giving people a bit of a video. And that took me 15 minutes just to make the whole thing, and it’s crazy how well it was received after being so easy to make.
Me: What do you like to do for fun when you’re in NYC?
Chela: Oh man I love it here so much! I was just walking down Bedford just before, and I stopped by an ice cream place…it was an ice cream truck, like a cream color (Van Leeuwen?), but the last time I was at that ice cream truck was six years ago when I first came to New York and I feel in love, like, in complete love with the city and it brought back so many memories for me of walking down Bedford with my cousin Jess, and we got ice cream there and went shopping at the op shop—you call them thrift shops here. The thing I love the most about New York is that there’s such a huge street culture. I love walking everywhere, because I just moved to LA and something I’m really missing out on is being able to walk or catch the subway or the train anywhere I want. So, that’s kind of why I want to live here at some point but I’m standing in LA.
Me: What do you expect your fans to experience tonight at your concert with Goldroom?
Chela: Firstly, I hope they dance. Secondly, I hope they sing along. But mostly what I love with music is if it provokes deep emotion and I think especially with songs like “Fifteen” which is very nostalgic for a lot of people thinking back to their teenage years. The response we’ve had so far has been super emotional, so I hope that’s the case tonight.