LIBERATED: CSS

The Brazilian band
conquers its “Spanish phase” (and bad bosses) on
La Liberación.

 

BY SELENA FRAGASSI

 

“It’s going to happen at some point,” says Lovefoxxx. The
pint-sized and always colorful singer of Brazilian jungle pop quartet CSS lets
out a soft chuckle into the phone receiver, giving away the irony of her inside
joke. “All the big pop artists go through their Spanish phase: ABBA, Madonna,
Toni Braxton. And we like to think this is ours.”

 

Of course, this is not the first time CSS has borrowed from
the influence of a Top 40 pop star. After all, the band’s name – CSS is an
abbreviation for “Cansei der Ser Sexy” – is in homage to Beyoncé, a translation
of the bootylicious singer’s declaration that she grew “tired of being sexy.”
But to compare the troupe’s third album, La
Liberación
, to, say, Evita is a
bit off the map.

 

“Okay so with us things are always a bit distorted,”
Lovefoxxx finally admits, “our Spanish song [the title track] is actually a
punk rock song. We have Spanish guitars in ‘City Girl,’ but it has nothing to
do with Spanish influences. Oh, but ‘Ruby Eyes,’ that was inspired by some
dialogue from Volver [Pedro
Almodovar’s film].” Soon this dissertation becomes dissected into something of
a mismatched Picasso, but that’s the great thing about CSS – there’s not just
one way to look at them.

 

Even looking at the album title, the first one named in the
band’s native language, for some sort of clues becomes a bit tricky. “We didn’t
pick it; it came to us,” Lovefoxxx declares. “We were going back and forth with
different ideas for the title and when this name came up, we stopped and said,
‘This is amazing.’

 

“When we were making this album last year, we were in a
really good and positive place,” she continues, pointing to internal problems
during the time of Donkey, CSS’s 2008
release that brought with it a deluge of collateral damage from poor management
decisions after wild international success began with their 2005 eponymous
debut, helped by the iPod single featurette, “Music is My Hot Hot Sex.”

 

“I don’t think it’s too relevant to go back to all of that
drama again,” Lovefoxxx cautions before divulging, “we went through some really
bad management on the first album and that touring cycle. And as a result, we
were left with many, many problems that we had to solve.”

 

And solve they did, branching off from long-time label Sub
Pop Records and signing a licensing agreement with V2 outfit Co-operative Music
for the new album, which was released jointly by V2, Co-operative and Downtown
Records.

 

“One benefit was that we had plenty of time to make this
record,” says Lovefoxxx, noting that La
Liberación
was started in February 2010 after a nearly year-long creative
hiatus during which time each of the five members was living around the world,
Lovefoxxx DJ’ing in various cities and bassist Adriano Cinta fostering a
soundtrack company, the studios of which were used to make the new album. “We reworked
songs countless times to the point where they’d have completely different
lyrics and melodies. If we didn’t love them 100%, we’d change them. In the end,
these are all songs we really like.”

 

 

MP3:

 

 

Within the mix is disco dub opener “I Love You,” Rasta-rave
number “Echo of Love,” the hyper catchy first single “Hits Me Like a Rock”
(featuring Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie), riot grrrl anthem “Fuck
Everything,” and the jazzy standout “City Girl,” which features a
perfectly-timed horn section… and a revealing backstory.

 

“I always wanted to belong to the big city, to the
metropolis,” says Lovefoxxx with a tone that lets you feel some distant
skyscraper scratching at the surface of her wanderlust voice. “When I was 13 my
brother really did move to New York
City. He went there to practice Aikido and was living
in a dojo. I remember the first weekend he was there, my parents and I called
him and I asked him, ‘how is the city?’ and the first thing he told us was that
everybody walks really fast.”

 

Having outgrown her small town outside the district of Sao
Paulo, the singer remembers how inspired she was by the story of the marathon
pedestrians of NYC, a city that still gives her butterflies every time she visits.
So, she adopted their habit. “I started walking really fast too because I
thought people would look at me and wonder, ‘Oooh, who’s that girl, where is
she from?'”

 

Where she was actually from, people bullied the young
fashionista for her now trademark outlandish getups and hairstyles. “I used to
wear really crazy outfits and have big hair and people would go out of their
way to mess with me and scream things at me out of their cars,” she says,
invoking the lyrics of the song’s chorus, “and all I really wished is that no
one would give a shit and not care.”

 

Yet people do care, albeit now in a good way. With CSS
conquering not only album charts but the minds of impressionable young fans,
Lovefoxxx is that globetrotting trendsetter she always aspired to be. Just take
one look around the crowd at a CSS show and the neon jumpsuits, facepaint and
asymmetrical hair are dead giveaways; although the hipsterettes who will
undoubtedly rip through thrift stores and American Apparel racks in advance of
the band’s upcoming tour are going to be in for a surprise. Lovefoxxx has gone
… boy-ish.

 

“At this moment, I have a more masculine outlook,” the Peggy
Noland accomplice confesses. “I’ve been wearing the catsuit for such a long
time, and I thought it was a good time for me to get rid of them and wear
something else. So I’m going back to my roots. Shorts and T-shirts, what I wear
normally. And you know what, it feels really good to play in jean shorts and
band T-shirts. I’m no longer a slave to the one-piece.”

 

She may have seen La
Liberación
of the catsuit, but Lovefoxxx recalls it wasn’t so long ago that
she was shackled to fashion when working for yet another bad manager – at a
large department store.

 

“I had to take photos of the clothes and crop them and
upload to the store’s website. But the people there were really boring and bad –
like the guy who stole our money.”

 

And so instead of actually working, Lovefoxxx would punch in
and log online, updating her Fotolog
page
and interacting with its community. “I would spend the whole day on
the Internet, commenting on photos and thinking of really smart things to say.
Many people that I’m good friends with today I met on there. I even met Ed from
Grizzly Bear on Fotolog!” In turn her own page brimming with images of found
objects and portraits of girls and dogs became wildly popular, even though
Lovefoxxx herself admits, “I don’t know why it became so famous.”

 

Although she still photographs with her Yashica G4, Lovefoxxx
suddenly turns her attention to video, saying that the next step for the band
to conquer after La Liberación would
be to take further artistic liberties
with a DVD, but in only a way CSS could love.

 

“Like recording a show, a really crappy show in someone’s
living room.”

 

 

[Photo Credit: Andreas Konrad]

 

 

CSS will begin a North
American tour on October 1 in Vancouver
and tour through the end of the month. Go to the band’s official website for
the list of dates (and downloads of exclusive tour posters).

 

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