Chevel interview: new ‘Glass Bridge’ EP is most emotionally charged work yet

Our London-based contributor Alicia sits down for a typical new-normal-esque Zoom call with Dario Tronchin, more widely known as Chevel, to discuss his latest release ‘Glass Bridge’ on GASS, live performance to an empty museum room, developing previous material and avoiding writers’ block.

Alicia: Let’s talk about your most recent EP,  ‘Glass Bridge’. What inspired you to experiment with chopped vocals so much in these 3 tracks?

Dario: So, Mamiko Motto from GASS records asked me to send over some new music, as she was re-launching her label and she mentioned that she really liked the track ‘Always Yours’, so I tried playing around with the same idea from that track, the very short cut vocal samples. I did three trials, the first demo being really bad, the second one was ok.. because I wasn’t giving my best.

Then, I think it was in the middle of lockdown in Italy, which was, as you know a pretty intense moment, I was like f*** it I’m going to give this my all as I have nothing to lose, and the third attempt was what ended up being the final product which I was happy with! So to answer your question, what inspired me was definitely a kind of continuation of ‘Always Yours’, and that track is three years old, so of course I started with that as a basis but now the ideas are a lot more developed.

Nice, third time lucky! In comparison to your last EP, ‘Elvine Unlocked’, it’s a lot more cinematic with some pretty clear influences from the weightless grime scene.

Yeah, for sure, I think there is a lot of contrast between the vocals and the lower gritty mid-bass. I like to play with two opposing sounds that might seem very distant, take the female vocals that are very high-pitched and ethereal and of course the bass is more rough and aggressive, so it’s like a dialogue between the two.

Personally, I think that your music has always seemed to take these unexpected turns. You’re great at placing these juxtaposed sounds while keeping a constant flow.

Yes, it’s probably the reason I make music, to surprise people. I’m stealing this phrase from an Italian chef, which he says is to ‘fill people with emotion’ and I love it, I like to think I am filling people with emotion and surprise. It’s what I like to do to keep people engaged. Also, when I write music, even though due to the circumstances there are no live shows going on at the moment, I always try to think how something is going to sound through a big system.

Yeah, what a shame you can’t run it through a PA!

Such a shame! When I wrote this I pictured hearing it through a soundsystem within a couple of months… but it’s not happening. I always try to imagine how it’s going to impact the people listening. All music needs to be played loudly somewhere for someone of course even if it a soft ambient track. My music is not just for me.

Definitely! Listening becomes more of an experience that way. It doesn’t even need to be through a club system, just needs to be loud enough to be felt, rather than heard. Did you have any specific thoughts or images in mind in terms of how you wanted the audience to perceive it?

Usually, I don’t tend to have anything specific like images, stories or colours in mind, but rather situations, people, or specific friends. For example, I’ll picture how it would fit into a situation where people will be listening. I’ll imagine which specific friend would like it and their reaction, or how it would be great to hear it in a specific club. It’s more related to an environment or relationship rather than an image.

Did you write these three tracks with a live performance in mind?

Yes, except the first track is the only one from the ‘Always Yours’ session and it is 3 years old so I don’t know what I had in mind at the time, but totally had live in mind when making the other two.

In a recent description of the EP, you stated that this is your most emotionally-charged piece of work to date, was this a challenge at all, as I feel that sometimes it can be difficult writing music that feels more personal for the artist?

I completely understand where you are coming from and I have been thinking that way for 10 years until now, as I finally realised there is no point in me writing music if I can’t put all my emotions into it and try to transfer that emotion to the public. For 10 years it was the other way around, I wasn’t able to fully expose the emotions I wanted to, and gave the public a version of myself that I wanted them to see. Now I am able to make it more of a personal thing and it is more rewarding that way.

Do you think lockdown and the self-care time it brought with it helped you feel that way?

I have been completely alone for 3 months, not seeing any family and friends at all, and going outside made me quite paranoid somehow, so I was facing some personal challenges in that sense, like many others. One day, I just thought to myself I need to make the most of this time, picked myself back up and really enjoyed doing this EP, mainly because I just put my all into it. That’s why the first two demos were bad, but by the third attempt I felt more carefree and it worked! To answer your question, I used to feel that strange exposed pressure in a way but not anymore.

Great! That’s good to hear. Do you ever find yourself struggling with writers’ block?

I don’t think I have really ever struggled with writers’ block. Maybe I have, but my advice is not to think about whether you are going through one, but to just distract yourself, otherwise it will become more difficult to get out of one in my opinion. Also, I just wrote this in the studio (*holds up a piece of paper with the words ‘Don’t Think’ to the camera*), which seems really stupid but it’s real. Earlier we were talking about not being scared and holding back and I realised that even though I don’t tend to overthink things, this definitely helps. I usually go with my primal instinct when making music, and when I don’t feel like I can, I do something else and come back to it.

Do you have any more projects coming up and where do you see your productions heading?

I am currently working on an album, which I think is just about ready, but I would like to find some vocalists, which is not easy as I am not a big pop artist, so I need to be lucky to find somebody that is willing to sing over my music. If I do find someone who I like and is willing to sing over them, I think this is where my productions are heading, more song-based. They will remain experimental, but will most likely be more ‘pop’.

Purchase and stream ‘Glass Bridge’ here: https://gassrecords.bandcamp.com/album/glass-bridge

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