SÃO PAULO ROCK CITY? “It’s our home, we love it — but I think everyone in the band feels that
every time we come back, nothing’s really changed.”
CSS guitarist Luiza Sá is resting in New York City, on a rare break from her band’s non-stop tour, and reminiscing about the first song they played at their first rehearsal: Madonna’s “Hollywood.” “We met up to rehearse, we were all in the living room, and we’re like, let’s just play something to see how it sounds. And then [CSS vocalist] Lovefoxxx came in wearing a Motörhead T-shirt — I think she was scared that we were going to be all ‘Rock and roll, grrrr!’ — and we turned to her and said, ‘Hey, we just learned Madonna’s “Hollywood,” ’ and she was so happy about it, just ‘Oh, thank God!’ ”
CSS’s willfully careless mishmash of pop and rock styles has made them an international phenomenon and arguably São Paulo’s biggest musical export. The success of “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above” and “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex,” from their 2006 CSS
Sub Pop debut, shows that, at least in certain circles, the world is ready for their mix of froth and hooks. “We love all the pop stuff.” says Sá. “We do love the Pixies, but we also love Mariah, you know? And we don’t want to choose. Our songs are our versions of pop.”
Said songs are fun and wacky; they’re also naively naughty. “Fuck Off Is Not the Only Thing You Have To Show” is all the more insanely catchy for its nutty use of the English language. “When we did the first album, we didn’t speak English all the time, so we could say a lot of shit and we didn’t realize it. Now, we’re not the same people because we’ve toured a lot, and we speak English all the time, and the new album shows that. The first album we recorded not really even considering that we were going to tour; and then we toured so much that we changed as musicians. This new album is much more organic, much more how we sound live. We’re not being all serious and trying to start a revolution, you know. It’s still us, we’re just a little bit more mature.”
People’s expectations in advance of their new Donkey LP raise some interesting issues — especially in the Western-pop-hegemony department. When your first album is beloved of the Anglo world as a quirky lo-fi work of funny, semi-broken English, are you being patronized just a little? And does it matter that CSS are from Brazil? (The initials stand for Cansei de Ser Sexy, “I Got Tired of Being Sexy.”) Or are they just another indie-dance band playing festivals and touring the world?
Recently departed CSS bassist Ira Trevisan told one journalist she was sick of being asked about CSS’s “Brazilian heritage,” adding that in some ways “it would be good if we were Belgian.” Ms. Sá has a gentler take: “Look, São Paulo is our home, we love it — but I think everyone in the band feels that every time we go out and come back, nothing’s really changed. Brazil’s like Italy in a way: the best food, the best scenery, a lot of cute-looking people, a pleasurable life, but it’s a little bit more slow, and as far as music goes, it’s not the best place for pop or rock in English.