While many of us will be hoping to ‘Romanticise’ that special someone this Valentine’s Day, nu-disco queen Chela will be providing the soundtrack. TROY MUTTON chats to the lady behind the moniker, Chelsea Wheatley, ahead of The Prom this Friday, February 14 at Rooftop Movies, Northbridge.
Following a pretty great 18 months that involved releasing a hit single with Melbourne’s Clubfeet and her own EP Romanticise, Chela is (deservedly) enjoying her 2013/14 summer.
“We’ve just been travelling around having a massively fun time together,” Wheatley begins down the line from Melbourne. “Last time we played was in Adelaide for an unofficial Big Day Out after party, and I ended up at Arcade Fire’s after party and DJing with them and hanging out with The Hives who are one of my all time favourite bands. So yeah, we’ve just been having lots of fun making summer time memories, it’s been great.”
It caps off a darn great year for the singer/songwriter, the highlight of which being a release on French taste-maker label Kitsuné. But it hasn’t just been one big party, with Wheatley finding herself doing plenty of writing – a lot, in fact.
“I’m always working on new music. There’s always time to write new music I find. Only because when you’re a songwriter, you’ve got ideas coming to your left, right and centre. Normal life experiences you think, ‘there’s a song in that’.
“There’s a song in everything really,” she continues, “so I’m constantly coming up with new ideas and writing new songs for certain things; it’s good.” And by new things, Wheatley is in fact referring to an album, one that if she had her way, would have already been released.
“I wanted to release an album last year,” she laughs, somewhat wryly. “So I’m definitely focusing on making the album happen. I’ve written an album’s worth of songs, so it’s more about trying to look for the right record label and the right producer for it. We’re just going through the motions of that right now.”
And while he may or may not be that producer, Wheatley has been having fun working with ARIA Award-winner Styalz Fuego, who in 2012 produced 360’s massive Falling & Flying album, which went on to win him the ARIA for Producer Of The Year. “I wrote a great song with Styalz late last year which we were gonna release as my first single this year but we decided to save it for the album – that’s how good it is,” she half-jokes.
“I really wanted to save it. I’m dying to get that song out though. I’ve also got a session with Styalz in a couple of weeks and we’ll hopefully write some new tunes then. We just keep constantly writing.”
Wheatley’s also been working on some new material with Aussie electro producer Cassian, however that one’s a little while away and highlights the frustrations artists can feel when it comes to releasing songs at the right time.
“These things can sometimes take a really long time. They can even take years to come out in public, and by then you’ve even changed your sound… but if you write a good song, if it’s really good, then it’s timeless and it doesn’t matter when it comes out. It can get really frustrating, but you need to learn how to deal with the time releases can take.”
Working with a dancefloor-friendly producer like Cassian does give some kind of indicator of where Wheatley’s new songs are meant to be heard. “I’m definitely not changing my style too far from what people have already heard, but I do want to delve deeper into more dance-heavy music. I’ve still got quite a few ballads and stuff, and making tunes people can really dance to, so I’ve been turning the tempo up a bit on certain songs.”
Another aspect that Chela has always explored – be it through photo shoots or her entertaining live shows – has been fashion, and while she may not have an extensive background in the field, it’s something held dear to her heart. “Yeah I have a big passion for fashion,” she laughs/groans at the rhyme. “… I just have always been really interested in it, and I think it’s really important to support Australian and local labels as well. So I’m always on the search for new labels that pop up around Australia.”
Combining the audio with the visual is something Wheatley strongly believes in: “I do think it’s super important, because often when people listen to things they have a visual in their mind and if you give them the visual and the sound at the same time you’ve set it for them… Personally I really love to be entertained. Some of my favourite artists in the past are the whole package, they dance and sing and they’ve got the right look. And that’s something that I’ve always looked up to, even as a kid. I’ve always aspired to be the whole package, and I’ve always placed a huge emphasis on the visual as well as the sound.”
And that’s something she’s looking forward to replicating for The Prom this Friday, although there is the small issue of figuring out what to wear. “Now I’ve gotta put my head down and find an outfit. I don’t wear dresses though! I’m gonna have to wear a suit.”