Growing Up: Chateau Chateau makes strife sparkle on new album “Grow Up”

click to enlarge Growing Up: Chateau Chateau makes strife sparkle on new album “Grow Up”
Courtesy Photo

Tucson duo Chateau Chateau are no strangers to spectacle. Even when singing about self-doubt or lost love, their songs are often packed with colorful synthesizer layers and soaring melodies. On stage, this can result in up to eight musicians, plus dancers, adorned in flamboyant costumes and wild lighting. Their “cathartic indie pop for weirdos” is on full display on Grow Up, their second album, which dropped on Friday, May 6.

As the name implies, the album follows a theme of maturing and looking back at one’s life. But listeners might not pick up on the references to trauma or isolation right away, as they’re surrounded by shimmering guitar and soulful vocals. Even songs with titles like “I Don’t Love You Anymore” are danceable and humorous. This colorful ethos is also reflected in the musicians’ other work: singer Bleu Fitz works as a tattoo artist, and guitarist Alex Hamby performs as a drag queen.

“The title ‘Grow Up’ was more to myself,” Fitz said. “The songs kind of tell my coming-of-age story. Most of the songs start with a theme of ‘this person hurt me’ but at the end of them, I’m my own person and can stand back up and be myself. They all talk about my formative years and trauma… And even being able to laugh at all the horrible things you went through.”

Fitz says Chateau Chateau’s style of darker lyrics over upbeat music evolved over time. She previously performed in metal bands, and darker lyrics were natural. When Chateau Chateau formed, Hamby took a lead on the music. But with this latest album, the instrumentals are written equally by Fitz and Hamby.

The album drops as Chateau Chateau are fresh off their performance at South by Southwest in Austin, a music and culture festival famous for highlighting up-and-coming performers from around the world. Grow Up is also their first album on independent record label Kill Rock Stars, which has previously represented the likes of Elliott Smith, The Decemberists and Sleater-Kinney.

Fitz and Hamby recorded the album from March to October 2021 in their home studio here in Tucson. Fitz says that on this album they had access to better equipment and more professional connections, but they were still happy to record at home.

“Both of us love Tucson so much. We really try to be a part of it, like I’m always trying to go to as many local shows and events as I can,” Fitz said. “I think that lifestyle has to affect our sound in a way. Being around it so much has become a part of our lives and our style. There’s definitely Tucson in our sound.”

Many of their songs are dense with instrumental layers of guitar, percussion and synthesizer. The opener “Bunny” (which happens to be one of the best songs on the album) has a strutting rhythm and playful guitar, combined with Fitz’s deep vocals that manage to sound both apathetic and animated a la Amy Winehouse.

The track “Ugly” goes in more of an electronic pop style, with stuttering synthesizers throughout the entire playtime. But this is not to take away from the lyrics’ humanity, when Fitz sings things like “I see you’ve really declined now that I’m in my prime, I know that you’ll get what’s coming in time.”

Not every song is so fully packed. Fitz says the goal for “I Don’t Love You Anymore” was to strip the sound down and just have guitar, bass, drums and vocals in more of a traditional rock sound.

“But then there are other songs like ‘Bunny’ that have like 80 layers. There’s no end in sight when we’re doing it,” Fitz said. “Usually we just have to step back and listen to it a week or a month later and edit from there. We almost always delete tracks.”

The songs follow the difficulties of growing up with a decidedly upbeat sound palette, but the entire album seems to have a narrative as well. There are pointed titles like “Push Your Luck” and “Keep It Together.” And even the sole cover song on the album is of the ’80s hit “Voices Carry,” which is subtly about a toxic relationship. The album’s closer is a calm instrumental that Fitz describes as a “the calm after the storm,” but the title “Regression” may imply the cyclical nature of the themes discussed.

“It’s about finding how to be happy with yourself and by yourself. I think for a lot of people, particularly adults, it’s a hard thing to do,” Fitz said. “So I talk about that a lot, and I think that’s one of the important things I convey.”

Grow Up

by Chateau Chateau

from Kill Rock Stars