Christine & The Queens: “My last EP was the result of emotional short punches in my face”
Christine & The Queens – aka Chris but real name Héloïse Letissier – is bouncing around the same emotional purgatory as the rest of us while in lockdown. “It really depends on the day really,” she tells NME from her “spacious but extremely narrow” Parisian apartment. “Sometimes I feel super-strong; sometimes I feel super-weak.”
In another sense, though, she’s in her element. When France first started enforcing social distancing due to the coronavirus outbreak last month, Chris took to streaming her own intimate gigs every night.
She speaks to us on Facetime – in between dancing in her living room and writing in her bedroom – about what went into her beautiful and ambitious recent EP and short film ‘La Vita Nuova‘, her quest to collaborate with Tame Imapala‘s Kevin Parker and what to expect from her “vast and hopeful” third album.
Hi Chris! How’s social distancing going for you?
“I’m isolating in my house. I brought a lot of sound gear in my room and I’m writing a lot of new music. Creativity is a way for me to deal with my creativity and emotions. This is immediately what I thought I would do.”
So you’re working on your next album?
“My original plan was to be in the US right now to promote my EP. I was going to do some American TV, stick around in LA and do some sessions with musicians. I decided to take this as a sign to write a lot on my own first instead. It feels a lot like the usual process when I start a new album. The mindset is different, because on my third album I’m looking for something very vast and hopeful.”
Your debut ‘Chaleur Humaine’ said, ‘This is me’. Its follow-up ‘Chris‘ said, ‘This is me and I do what I want’. What does ‘La Vita Nuova’ say?
“I would say: ‘Fuck me – I feel sad!’ There was a real sense of unravelling in that EP that was quite present. It’s true. ‘Chris’ was so much about warmth, performance, lust, being campy and joyful. The record was still a bit scorched, but still vivid and full of a desire to eat the world. ‘La Vita Nuova’ in contrast was the result of receiving a lot of emotional short punches in my face during 2019.”
“I experienced a lot of deep things while touring the second record, and the tension between the tour and the rest of my life crumbling apart became unbearable. I have to be able to relate to the material. I wrote [ the song] ‘People, I’ve Been Sad’ a year ago now and the songwriting is unforgiving. You can’t cheat when it comes to songwriting. I have a no-bullshit policy. The phrase, ‘People, I’ve been sad’ just came out of my mouth.”
Did the idea for the film come after the EP, or was it always part of the plan?
“At first I wanted the EP to be released without any commentary. I wanted people to receive something really solid and theatrical without too much explanation. I wanted that thing to arrive like a fever dream. I’m trying to talk about loss and heartbreak – there are experiences that are hard to communicate, feelings that are almost delirious. I wanted the movie to express that. It’s really pure.”
Are there any artists in your orbit that you’re itching to collaborate with?
“I’m super shy, so I need to be comfortable with them. I can’t just write to them out of the blue and say, ‘Hey, let’s collab’. I don’t know how to do that shit. I love Kevin Parker from Tame Impala and am obsessed with his work. I don’t know if it will ever happen. I love MGMT and would love to do something with them too. Like everyone else on earth, I love Rosalia too. If she wanted to I could write a fucking movie for her. She’s really consistent and super charismatic.”
What will be the tone of the new record?
“I’m not choosing; the songs are basically yelling at what to do. The new songs are surprisingly hopeful, and I’ve never described myself as that. It’s upsetting because I don’t know how to deal with that! I’ve always said I have a French tormented soul. I have a cool concept for the record, I think. I love a concept.”
“It’s sounding really spacious and ambitious. It feels like taking a huge leap forward. It’s also possible that maybe I’m just being really delusional in lockdown. Right now I’m like, ‘This is awesome!’ Maybe later I’ll be like, ‘Ah, this is shit…’.”
On your recent livestreamed chat with Charli XCX you said you plan to to get high and watch the much-mocked movie Cats. Have you done that yet?
“Not yet. To be honest, I am a bit afraid. I’m on my own so if I get on to a really bad vibe because of the movie then it’ll be terrifying. My friends advised me to wait for them until I can watch it. Maybe I could do it on Facetime so we can all do it together. Otherwise it will open a door that I’m not ready to open – to another dimension. I would just disappear, because of Cats.”
How else are you passing the time? TikTok? Netflix?
“Oh, God. I wish I understood TikTok. My first reaction was, ‘Wow, I’m old’, and the second was, ‘I can never do this’. I haven’t been binge-watching anything, but I’m really into watching really old, demanding, conceptual movies. I have the time now to pay attention, which is really hard to do in our current lives.”
“I’ve been really enjoying Alain Resnais, a French director from the ’60s. His movies are slow and really literary. I’ve also been enjoying a lot of old Japanese movies. They’re brutally beautiful stories about geishas and samurai. There’s one called Ugetsu by Kenji Mizoguchi. That’s my favourite. I’m demanding the beauty that I don’t usually have time to properly address. I haven’t been binge-watching anything shallow. I’m in deep and serious business. I’ll be emerging as an intellectual!”
Anything else you’d like to say to the world in these trying times?
“Just stay safe and reach out if you feel depressed. It’s important to not feel bad if you feel bad. I wasn’t comfortable reaching out for much of my youth, but it’s something I do more now. I love you guys and I miss you. I need to perform. At some point, you just need human warmth. When this is all done, let’s just party. “