Aqualung has new vitality 

Singer Matt Hales, who has recorded six atmospheric pop albums as Aqualung, has an usual metaphor to describe a change in his life.

In his old hometown of London, he says, “When you take the trash out, you just do it as quickly as possible and scramble back inside, because it’s usually cold and raining.”

Now that he and his family have relocated to a canyon outside of Los Angeles, he says the chore has become “an uplifting experience. All I’m doing is taking out the garbage, but I’m seeing the mountains and the trees, and the sun’s on my face — it’s just a very different feeling.”

There’s a shiny new aura surrounding “Magnetic North,” the latest recording from Aqualung, who appears Tuesday at the Swedish American Hall in The City.  

He has made the most of his star-studded surroundings: “Fingertip” and “Sundowning” are duets with Kelly Sweet; “Remember” pairs the keyboardist with Sara Bareilles and “Time Moves Slow” teams him with A Fine Frenzy’s Alison Sudol.

“I feel like the energy I work off of has a different flavor to it now,” says Hales, 38. “So it’s been really interesting to see the effect this environment has on the music I’m making.” 

Two years ago, a disenchanted Hales was considering early retirement.

He opted to become a Beach Boy instead. Like the circus elephant-dung sweeper who can’t give up showbiz, he says, “The challenge for me has been how to keep shoveling the s--- without having really stinky hands. I’ve been trying to find the balance, where I can do the things I love, like making music and playing for people, without losing my mind. So California is the latest maneuver in that quest, and I think it’s going to work out.”

Thanks to his “fancy visa,” the move wasn’t complicated,” adds Hales, whose children have already picked up American accents. The visa’s terms, however, bar his UK TV actress wife Kim Oliver from working in the U.S.

Aqualung got a big break back in 2002, when Volkswagen used its “Strange and Beautiful” in a commercial.

Since then, Hales’s ethereal tunes have popped up in countless films and TV shows — a side career that’s booming, via his close meeting-taking proximity to Hollywood.

He’s also producing a cavalcade of other artists in his home studio, The Box.

For him, the only single down side to L.A. life is what he has to endure every garbage night. “In England, we have this idea of raccoons as cartoon characters,” he says. “But now it seems to me that they’re not all that cute, really …”



Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St., San Francisco    
hen: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $17 to $20
Contact: (415) 861-5016,,

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
Pin It

Speaking of...

More by Staff Report

Latest in Other Arts

© 2018 The San Francisco Examiner

Website powered by Foundation