Chad Villarroel is channeling his inner chaos into a new solo effort that reflects his personal journey through the fire. After a self-imposed hiatus, Villaroel will launch his new passion project, Carmen, with an EP of songs called “Pause/Again,” that he says represent his cyclical journey. The single Novacaine drops July 5th and will be available on all streaming services including Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play. The EP will be out July 19th.
“I think there are elements of loss and elements of, certainly, love, and a small aspect of redemption, as well. The tracks really come from a place of heartbreak and longing and desperation. But it’s not really specific to one situation. Most of the tracks really come from hurt, but part of it is you’re better than feeling that way. There’s hurt, but there’s also self-awareness.”
After five years as bassist with The Dog Apollo, Villaroel was struggling to reconcile with his work life, band life and a crumbling personal life. Unwilling to impede the progress of his bandmates, he stepped away from the project. It also coincided with the end of a long-term relationship that left him reeling.
“The album we had written and produced was ready to be released, and they were ready to start touring. I just knew career-wise that wasn’t something that was feasible for me. I didn’t want to leave them hanging, so I kind of bowed out in enough time for them to find somebody else to play bass and just take a break. I was a little burned out, so I definitely needed the break.”
“Pause/Again” represents the trajectory, from burning out and breaking up to playing the first few notes alone in his bedroom to the musical catharsis that followed. The record was produced with Josh Cobb at Rockbot Studios in Riverside. It took over a year for him to write and produce the five tracks.
“That’s a long time to do five tracks. Obviously, there was a lot of other ideas and content that didn’t get flushed out. I didn’t know if I could recreate it. I didn’t know if I could do it again. So, I just kept exploring, and I ended being able to formulate a lot of different ideas that materialized on the EP. It’s definitely a testament to the cyclical nature of how those experiences are through your life,” notes Villaroel.
“It’s this constant cycle of maybe happiness, then complacency and heartbreak, desperation. Not just with relationships but with anything in life. That’s just kind of how it goes. You find yourself in one area of the cycle, and it just continues. That’s really where the title for the EP came from.”
When Villarroel was struggling to cope with the end of his relationship, he discovered music was a powerful way to process that frustration. Navigating a painful breakup is an experience everyone can relate to.
“I found that I’m really inspired when things are kind of chaotic in my world. That’s where I find my inspiration, and music has always been an outlet for me in that way. Music was my way of expressing myself, but it was very private. I didn’t want to do anything with it. I really started to take songwriting more seriously. When I was in A Dog Apollo, I wasn’t really the content creator, so I didn’t have the experience or the interest or drive to compose anything other than the bass parts I contributed. But I found myself starting to formulate ideas and melodies, and it came out of the need to say something,” muses Villaroel.
“Creatively, this experience opened a new door for me. I think that those opportunities are only found when you are desperate for something. I don’t think that creative output can really come from a place of being satisfied. I think for me, creativity comes from disarray and sadness. Those are the things I find I can put into something creative.”
Now that he’s made it through the darkness, he’s ready to steer his music into the light. He is looking forward to performing live once he assembles enough players to fill in the parts he recorded himself.
“The challenging part is that it’s just me. I wrote and played everything on the EP with the exception of the drums. It’s been challenging to find people who are committed enough to play, but to also look at this as a casual thing, because that’s kind of how I look at it. This is something that has to exist for me. It has to be created, so it’s been a challenge just to find people to play with. I’m hoping in the next three or four months I can actually put together a live show with players and get out there and do it, because I think that is the component that is missing from this.”
A new project is already taking shape. He’s written three or four tracks that he hopes to include on his sophomore release, but he knows he will be forced to reopen old wounds to capture the same intensity the second time around.
“I feel like half the content that’s on the EP I was living, and half is already coming out of it and recalling those feelings. Part of me is almost intimidated to tackle another set of songs, whether it be just a single or an EP or a full-length album, because I know I’m going to have to put myself back in that place again,” he says. “I’m not really into the happy stuff. It doesn’t do anything for me, and the scars certainly still exist.”