Chrissy Costanza, frontwoman of American pop-rock trio Against The Current is certainly someone who knows her mind.
‘If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said CEO,’ Chrissy tells The Guide. ‘I didn’t care what it is of, but I want to be the boss. I want to be able to support myself and make my own rules – and that’s the way I approach music now.’
And along with her band members, Daniel Gow on guitars and drummer William Ferri, she’s living by that maxim.
Their 2016 debut, In Our Bones, cracked the UK album chart top 30, but like so many other young acts, it’s the online stats that show their draw – their YouTube channel has nearly 2m subscribers with their videos having been watched around 300m times.
Its follow-up Past Lives is due at the end of this month, and when we spoke, the New York state-based band were busy adding the finishing touches. And as a taster for the forthcoming album, they had recently released two of its tracks, Strangers Again and Almost Forgot, unannounced.
The tracks, their first new music in more than two years, amp up the pop factor. Did they have concerns about how they would be received?
‘We were nervous, but ultimately we knew we needed a bit more time to work on the record. We knew we had these two songs that were where they needed to be, we were ready to shoot the Strangers Again video, so we said let’s do it, let’s get it out there to tide people over, but also to get everyone ready for the new record and the new era, and what we’re going to sound like.’
Was it a conscious thing to shift their sound this time out, then?
‘I think ultimately the sound is going to change every time we go in and write something new, especially the more we tour and the more bands we make friends with, and the artists that we like – we fine tune more and more what we’re like as artists.
‘I don’t want to say this album is totally different, even though it kind of is – it still has ATC’s personality at the heart of it. I just think it’s us - growing up and getting older and maturing, but ultimately we’re the same people and we have our way of doing things,’ she pauses and laughs, ‘but I think it’s a better way now.’
The band has been around for seven years, but as they formed when they were in their mid-teens, are still relatively young.
‘The album is mostly about these experiences that are so formative and distinct in your life. Those experiences from your teenage years to your early twenties, they’re so dense. We’ve only been on the planet 22-23 years, so all of those experiences seem like time periods, or eras to us, so designating a song for each of those time periods was kind of where we were going with this album. They were so key and crucial to who we are today.’
And their early success has meant much of that has been in the public eye.
‘I don’t know any other life, but I was still in high school when we started the band. I still had two years of high school to go and I did a full year away at college, so I had plenty of friends who did “normal” things, so I knew what I was doing was atypical based on the reactions of everyone else around me.
‘Even if to me it was everyday life, everyone around me made sure to let me know it was not everyday life to do the things I do!
‘Growing up in the public eye, I’ve grown up to be conscious of my actions and who might be looking at my actions.’
As a result Chrissy is attempting to strike that line between wanting to be a responsible role model, while also being the rock star.
‘It becomes very difficult the older I’ve got, as I become more “edgy”, or “angsty”, or whatever, to find that balancing act between who I am and who I want to be around my friends which is kind of the way I would act around my fans. But still making sure that’s something I’m proud of my parents and my grandparents seeing, or my friends’ little sisters and brothers seeing. I try and keep it balanced in the middle.’
Chrissy also often finds herself the focus of attention on the band. The video for Strangers Again is a case in point. For the majority of its run time, its solely Chrissy and a double – the boys only appear right at the end.
‘We had multiple options where we wanted to go with the Strangers Again video, and that treatment basically outlined what the song was about. At that point there was a conversation to be had which was: “The guys won’t really be in it, who’s ok with this and who isn’t?”
‘I said it’s not up to me because I’m not the one directly affected by it, it’s up to the guys, and they said, no, this treatment is perfect - we don’t want to be forced into a video where we don’t fit.
‘Sometimes I think they’re happy with that because they don’t have as early a call time as I do so they can sleep in!’
With the ongoing under-representation of women in rock music remaining a hot topic, does she ever feel any pressure on her as a successful young woman?
‘It’s something I was always aware of when I started the band, and it was something I was aware of when I was younger because I had these role models I looked up to like the Joan Jetts and Pat Benatars, and I realised there was a severe deficit. I had way fewer females to look up to who were leading an alternative or rock band than I did males.
‘And when it comes to the new era, when I was around 14-15, I really only knew Paramore and no-one else. There were a handful of others, but no-one else really on their level. And there still isn’t really, but they deserve to be up there, they’re unreal.
‘So for me, I was always really aware of this, but the way I was raised, I would really look up to my dad – he was the boss man, and I said when I was younger that I was going to be like that. I never thought I can’t be like that because I’m not a guy, and if anyone ever said: “Maybe your husband is going to provide for you”, I said: “No, I’m going to take care of myself”.
Fortunately, The ATC team is a tight-knit one where they look out for each other.
‘The guys are awesome and the team are really conscious of me being a girl and having different needs. They don’t treat me differently where they shouldn’t, but they also respect the fact that I’m not a guy – I can’t pee in a bottle on a van ride. That’s not going to happen! I think I’ve been lucky with the band I’ve landed in, they’ve never highlighted my difference as something wrong, they use it as something positive when it’s meant to be, but also make sure I’m included like everyone else.’
Engine Rooms, Southampton
Tuesday, September 18