There’s something inherently explosive about everything Christine & The Queens does. She is one of those artists that radiates vividly with each note she sings, each move she hits. And now, for the first time, she has just finished treating Australia to her exhilarating and euphoric live performance.
Music Feeds caught up with the French superstar, where she told us about how beautiful she finds Australia, how she feels scared writing new music, how integral choreography is to what she does and how she feels queer women in pop music are helping to shape the culture.
Music Feeds: I understand that this is your first time touring Australia. How are you finding it?
Christine & The Queens: I’m really excited to just be there and get to travel so far with the music, it’s an amazing feeling. I’ve been in four cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide – and I’m mesmerised by nature, I have to say. I don’t know if that’s very Parisian of me to say, but there are so many beautiful seashores and the elements are so wild and gorgeous. Everything is in perfect shape and everything seems so healthy. And everyone here is really friendly. People are really chill. It might just be the great, salty waves.
MF: Do you find inspiration from nature when writing your music?
CQ: That’s actually an interesting question. If you think of nature as the human body – yes. Especially when you write music like I do, I feel connected way more to gut feelings than before. I learned how to listen to how the body responds to music and how it is shaped by it. It became really interesting to focus on stamina, pure stamina. In a way, yes, but on the human scale.
MF: Well, that makes sense because your shows include some pretty precise and smooth choreography. When you’re writing music, does the choreo come to you while you’re writing the songs?
CQ: It kinds of depends. Sometimes, it’s really intertwined. I wrote a song called ‘Doesn’t Matter’ on the second record, and as I was writing it I was like “Oh, it’s going to be a duet with a male dancer and in my head played movements of someone trying to break free, really expansive movements. That thought helped me actually finish the track, with the really lyrical address in the end. Sometimes, it’s immediately in the track. Sometimes, it’s an exploration I have and ideas come later. There’s a song called ‘The Stranger’. I didn’t have any precise idea of the dancing yet. But on tour, I’ve been working with all the dancers on collective writing. We were doing workshops sometimes on some songs. The idea was to do some really intense slow motion, and that came from the workshop for that song. We wrote around that. Something tragic, like a fight in slow motion, and mesmerising to watch. The songs that I keep on the album always call for something physical. They call for a performance.
MF: Is the physical something you look for when listening to other artists?
CQ: I have to admit, I respond to music quite physically. When I love a song, I dance…I guess, probably. I just realised, probably. It probably always has to be physical.
MF: So, how do you think Chris has impacted your career? What do you think that album has done for you personally?
CQ: Interesting question. I think when I made it I wanted to be sure people met me for who I am as an artist. There was a huge will to be confident on that record and to be uncompromising. At the same time, I wanted to do a grand gesture of love towards pop music and what it means to me. It was an album of self-affirmation, and I was thinking from there, it can go really well or it could divide. Actually, it did both. I think the record divided a bit more than the first one, because with self-affirmation came people really (understanding) who I am as an artist. I wasn’t compromised and that might’ve been dividing people. But, I was totally solid on who I wanted to be as an artist. It was an important chapter for me but incumbent as well. It really helped me be able to grasp more than two albums. It was necessary. There was lots of joy writing that record. I felt proud…the second album is something I can really relate to deeply. It got more precise and a bit more daring.
There’s a sense of vulnerability. And sometimes when I write a song I can’t really control what I’m feeling. And it’s quite sad because the song is more sincere. Sometimes I don’t even realise I’m sad and I’m writing a track and then I’m like “Oh, I actually am sad!”
MF: How do you combat that then? Do you try and follow that path or do you change it so it fits with what you initially wanted to do?
CQ: No, I don’t fight it. I go along with it. But then it can just reveal emotions, it’s cathartic. When you write an album, it’s not like a pleasant time because you have to process everything. You can’t shy away from how you’re feeling. Sometimes, I’m scared. When I know I have to write a new album or write a song, I’m scared because I know I will not lie, which can impact my life. When you’re like “I’m going to write a love song” and you get to writing and you realise I’m actually not in love anymore. What the fuck?! I have to feel the truth now. It’s also why I can’t live without it now. It’s a way to process things, and it starts a conversation and it starts the hope of being heard.
MF: Just to switch gears for a bit, part of your tour included WOMAdelaide. How was that?
CQ: It was really cool. It’s such an eclectic festival. I was wondering if I would fit in, because maybe people don’t expect that to have pop routines and me grinding, because it’s a really family friendly festival. But it went really well, it was so chill. The vibe was so welcoming and soft. The sights are wonderful, too. You’re facing nature and ancient trees. The vibe was really great.
MF: So that festival started on International Women’s Day. Last year, we saw a huge surge of amplification of voices of queer women in pop, with nods to you and artists like Janelle Monáe. I was wondering how you feel that pop music in 2018 and onwards has accepted the LGBTQ+ community?
CQ: What is good is that they’re not really new conversations that are happening. When you think of like gender fluidity and exploration, we’ve had Prince and Madonna and stuff. But I think also what’s good is that it gets more nuanced as it goes. Janelle Monáe can talk about pansexuality and so can I. People actually asked me if I invented the word and I said “No! I didn’t invent it but you can just read on it.” It’s good that now pop can tackle those subjects without being questioned. Things are happening slowly but surely, and are getting more welcoming. But at the same time, I’m just being wary of it being branded at some point or it being fashionable in some way. Is it becoming too glossy? Is it being digested in a way that is profitable? Because if so, that’s a problem. I’m always more hopeful about the younger generation of performers like Billie Eilish or Lorde, who take feminism and address it really simply and normally. The newest generation are going to be really wonderful for that. They’re going to have conversations that are not shaped by profit. It’s refreshing.
MF: The younger generation also aren’t growing up with the same restrictions and bias and bigotry at a mainstream cultural level as we did. There’s more room to have those conversations.
CQ: Yeah. Visibility is the first step towards something more interesting and when you grow up now, you can have access to more information. That itself is a joy and a luxury, so hopefully the years ahead are going to be really interesting. But I think the conversation should be pushed even further and nuanced even more.
MF: Do you think there’s a limit to how far the conversation can or should go?
CQ: I don’t know, but I think it’s important to stay restless and to keep on being demanding. From feminism to intersectional feminism, there’s a leap that should be taken. Things could go further in a good way, and people should arrive at meeting points. It’s going to be really interesting to see how everything can converge at some point. I don’t know if there’s a limit to that, but the horizon is interesting regardless.