Christine and the Queens On Why Her Tour Is Not to be Missed: It's Like 'Weird Broadway'
There isn’t another live show like the one that Christine and the Queens currently puts on. At any moment, you might witness a massive shower of sparks, a colored smoke bomb, or a cluster of dancers forming a sailing ship with their limbs. But at every moment, the French multi-hyphenate (who was born Héloïse Letissier, and these days goes by Chris) is at the center of it all, commanding the stage with her ballerina's grace and tight vocals.
Chris built her show with care, working with the French contemporary dance collective (LA) Horde to ensure that it would not just be seen, but felt. “We all know we're working on something quite different, and we are terrified-slash-super excited,” she tells Billboard before her Friday set at Boston Calling. “It's scary and cool at the same time.”
Below, Chris shares some of her touring highlights from the past year, and reveals what she’s plotting next.
You returned to Coachella this year. How was that set for you?
Coachella was quite cool. The slot was fucking great -- 8:00 p.m., nightfall, huge stage. It's epic because I bring something really theatrical to those festivals, with pyrotechnics and smoke, but I also bring something way more ethereal. Backstage, every night, we don't know if we'll get to perform the whole thing of it. It's really hectic.
At first, the people attending at Coachella were a bit disrupted by the proposition, like, [makes surprised face]. We're not taking selfies, there's no features, I'm not changing my outfit seven times. But it's always the same on this tour. At first they'll be, like, [makes face again] and then they're caught up in the madness of it, or they relate and empathize with what's happening.
You also did a string of dates with Florence + the Machine, including two at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. I saw that it snowed on you...
It snowed on me! It was quite unexpected. People from Denver were like, "We're sorry." I was used to all the hectic shit, so I was like, "SNOW! Let's do it!" With the snowflakes and the red rocks, it was like, "Whoa." Props to Florence [Welch], because she did the whole gig under the snow in a float-y, see-through dress. I was like, "She's going to drop the Gucci, right?" And she went in Gucci, barefoot, of course. I was not even sure she was human by that time, she is kind of a siren.
Did you get inspired at all while watching Florence’s sets?
She was quite inspiring and has a spiritual quality when she performs. I want to nurture that a bit more. She's really lovely -- what I like about her is the contrast between the softness she can have, and the immense strength she has as a performer. She's taking the stage and owning it. I was so happy to get to tour a bit with her.
What's bubbling in terms of ideas for your next tour?
I'm already thinking of how it can be different. I'm thinking of something less classic, like, more performative and special. I think people want that special experience now. People already told me that my [current] gig is like "weird Broadway." I will do Broadway at some point. [Laughs] I have to travel a bit further. I've never played South America, I never did Japan. And I would love to be in a place for a week, where people have to come to you [like a residency].
How do you put together a setlist these days?
The setlist is easy, because there is a loose, dramatic arc. It doesn't really move, because has to be this solid evolution. The tough thing is to remove or add a song to that, because it's kind of like adding a chapter to a book and I'm like, "Fuck, where do I put that chapter? It doesn't fit with the rest of the story!" It's not like a shuffled playlist. So the setlist is there, and solid, and we sometimes amputate it -- I'm saying "amputate" because I'm a drama queen -- depending on the festival.
What’s the most unique venue you’ve played in your career?
I did a show in New York at Westway around 2015. It's now closed. I just remember the [disco] ball being shaped like a huge ass. I think of it sometimes. I want to call that ass back, but I don't have the number of it. If they still have that thing, I'll [fund the reopening].
What’s your favorite song to play live right now?
Good question, because it's [sings] changing all the ti-i-i-me. I like "Goya Soda." It's hard to sing, so that's why I like it. On stage, it's a really theatrical duet between me and another dancer, it's more emotionally investing. I really like it.
At first, I thought of the brand. Goya is like a bean brand here. Did you know that when you wrote it?
Oh, shit, no. I was thinking of, like, the painter [Francisco Goya]. Oh, no!
Have you gotten to do anything fun during down time on this tour?
I did an opening in Las Vegas with Florence, and went to a strip club for the first time in my life. I just sat and observed and wrote a short story, because I'm fascinated by the concept of a strip club.
The "Girlfriend” video just celebrated its one year anniversary. I know this is tricky to answer quickly, but what’s it like for you to look back on this past year?
Damn. I want to write a book about that year. It's superbly meta, what happened to me. "Girlfriend" was a pure display of power and newfound sensuality, new ways to work my femininity. I came out with a bang, with this energy of almost bragging, but matador-esque.
I was interested in working that on [sophomore album Chris], then everything that happened around that record was really polarizing. It depended so much on the country, on the reception. The U.K. was so smooth, the U.S. at one point, they really got it...
I remember you speaking about how you struggled to get your points across to French journalists.
France was, like...so complicated. [Sings] I will never forg-e-e-et it. But [that reception] crystallized around notions that were so fucking depressing to me. As a feminist, I was sometimes very desperate. I was like, "Really?"
But it was meta because I made this record thinking of -- I'm not like them, but thinking of icons like Madonna, and how lonely it can feel to be a powerful woman. I felt fucking lonely this year for, sometimes, the same reasons. What happened backstage became almost as interesting as the record itself. Which is why I'll have to do a Netflix special [cackles]. It's been a crazy year around a record that is [itself] kind of crazy. I don't take drugs, but I felt a bit high because of all the intensity of that year! It's hard to give a condensed answer. I think I'll probably write something about it.
Are you thinking about your next album yet?
I recently started to write new songs again, for something that probably won't be the third album yet, but, like, a weird addendum to the second one -- a coda. The cycle of that record [Chris] made me realize how much I love danger as an artist. I'm like a gambler. It made me really sure of who I want to be as an artist. I don't have any mixed feelings about what I want to do artistically.
Can you tease anything else?
Recently, I did something with Charli XCX. Yes, I diiid! I love her, we're friends now.