French pop sensation Christine And The Queens (AKA Héloïse Letissier) has had an incredible year: a star-making Glastonbury performance, a debut album (‘Chaleur Humaine’) that climbed all the way to number 2 and has since gone gold in the UK, and – to top it all off – an AIM Award for Independent Breakthrough of the Year that she picked up just two days ago (September 6). Ahead of a big UK tour in November, including two dates at London’s 5,000-capacity Brixton Academy, we caught up with Christine about her new single ‘Saint Claude’, the English-language video for which was unveiled today.
The French version of the limb-stretching video was created in 2014 and Letissier’s brilliant dance moves have helped it rack up almost 20m views since then – mirroring sales of her debut album ‘Chaleur Humaine’, which has gone seven-times platinum in her native France. Check it out below, along with our Q&A with Héloïse.
What’s the story behind ‘Saint Claude’?
Héloïse: “In Paris I witnessed a scene of humiliation. It was really weird: I was on the bus and he was just sitting there. He had this really extravagant look and he was talking on his own. He looked really ill, but at the same time really extravagant. And people started to actually mock him. I witnessed this amazing phenomenon where people just rejoiced in mockery of someone else: pointing a finger at just one person. The whole bus seemed to be friends just like that It was kind of scary to watch.
“And actually, I did nothing. I didn’t stand up for the guy. I was so embarrassed I decided to get off the bus – I got off at this station called Saint Claude in Paris – and this is why the song is called that. I gave him this name afterwards as a symbol. But the song was like me trying to mend something that happened – I didn’t do anything and I felt I should try to write a letter to this boy in a way. Because he was an outsider, kind of a freak, and I think I just witnessed how easily some people point fingers at freaks, you know.”
What was it like recording the video – fun?
H: “Yeah! It was challenging as well because I had to do each take many, many times – and at the ending I’m actually lifted into the air with a harness. That was fun, but at some points that was kind of painful. But I really loved doing the video – for me it sums up the character really well. The energy of the video for me is precisely the energy of Christine.”
Your dancing is amazing. Can you tell us more about it?
H: “The dancing has always been part of the character. I knew Christine would be a dancer because it was about trying to own everything I had, trying to like myself a bit more. I think when you dance you basically dance with what you’ve got – if you’re short you dance that way and there’s no way to cheat.
“Now I’m actually touring with dancers and I’m working with them all the time. It’s really interesting, they each have really different styles of dancing. I didn’t want to do a routine that was rigid with people doing the same thing – it’s them vibing along with what they have as well.
“I’ve been learning a lot when I’m with them because I’m actually confronted with many ways of dancing. So for me the dancing is really about being welcoming as well. I don’t want to be admired because I dance, I just want other people to want to dance with me, I want it to be contagious. That’s what I love about it.”
Your moves get compared to Michael Jackson a lot. What’s that like?
H: “It feels amazing, but a bit intimidating. I’m a huge fan of Michael Jackson, I grew up watching his videos, and I love how he stages everything. I love the masculine attitude of Michael because it’s almost theatre – so I was always struck by that. I think I kept that in my own dancing, because I actually find it’s interesting to have the same macho attitude – being a girl as well – and for me he’s the ultimate performer.
“But my dancing’s like the music, it’s a hybrid. I’m hugely interested by Michael but I love contemporary dance and I’ve been really influenced by [modern dance choreographer] Pina Bausch, or other choreographers. I try to be hybrid in my dancing: if I like something in, you know, dancehall choreography, then I’m going to learn it and maybe integrate it. I don’t want to choose my references, I can be inspired by many many types of dancing.”