[29 August 2007]
The Waterfront in Norwich is one of those venues that time seems to have abandoned. Perched in a nondescript industrial area surrounded by bodywork shops, it’s not on the tour book of Britain’s rock and roll landmarks. The inside is surprisingly spacious, the walls plastered with posters for tribute bands—AC/BC, Non Jovi and the like. But today there’s something special in the air. Cansei De Ser Sexy have sold The Waterfront out. Tonight is going to be wild.
Not that they’re anywhere to be seen at our allotted meeting time. They’ve all gone for a wander, despite the most exciting local landmarks appearing to be a greasy spoon and JJB Sports. When they do drift in they walk straight onstage to commence perhaps the most ramshackle soundcheck we’ve ever witnessed. With six members, many with multiple instruments yet to be plugged in, it takes a while to get things going.
So when we finally get to sit down for a chat with bass player Ira Trevisan and sex symbol singer Lovefoxxx (Luisa to friends and family) the band are well over an hour behind schedule. Which, with most bands, would excuse an aroma of stress backstage. Especially bands that have barely slept in their own beds over the past nine months.
“From July 13th to now we’ve spent 15 days in Brazil,” smiles Lovefoxxx. “I feel like we’ve been touring since then.”
“We did a light tour of Australia and New Zealand and then we got to rest a little bit,” sighs Ira. “Not at home but we did get to rest in Melbourne and Auckland. It was one week with only two gigs. I feel it’s still the same tour as the first one.”
“I like it,” grins Lovefoxxx, owner of the most mischievous smile in music. “When I go back to my house it’s kind of weird. We were at home for six days over Christmas and we ended up sending thirty e-mails a day to each other.”
There’s a traditional belief that bands, to make any lasting impression, have to possess a gang mentality. Normally that involves a bunch of guys drinking, snorting and shagging their way across the world. The bonds between the girls and boy of CSS run deeper. Formed in Sao Paolo with the sole ambition of having fun they’ve been on a roller coaster ride ever since. Sub Pop plucked them from South American obscurity over a year ago. Since then, they’ve barely had time to stop and take stock. In September we first saw the band on a makeshift stage in front of a hundred enthusiastic kids in a Brighton nightclub. Four months later they were headlining to three and a half thousand at London’s Kentish Town Forum
“The last tour we did in England we had a very bad bus,” offers Lovefoxxx with little prompting. “It was Babyshambles’ bus before ours. It had a bad karma. It had an awful carpet and was very stinky. We all got very crazy from that bus. But now everything is fine.”
“The Forum was the biggest venue,” notes Ira, getting back on track. “The venues are growing and there are more people on our MySpace page. It’s like when you have a job and you get promoted.”
“It’s like playing a video game,” reckons Lovefoxxx. “You start on the first phase and it’s very easy. Then you go to the second one and you have more powers, but it’s harder.”
Bands from London, Manchester or New York that arrive with massive major label hype don’t make the impact that CSS have. When you start a band in Sao Paolo you don’t set your sights too high.
“We never had any expectations at all so it’s quite easy to overcome them,” announces Ira. “The reality is closer to the fantasy than we expected.”
The fantasy arrived when Warners, the major label parent company of Sub Pop, realised that the CSS phenomenon was too big to leave untended. That’s why, this March, Cansei De Ser Sexy, one of the best albums of 2006, gets a re-release and a major label push.
“It’s going to be almost the same,” reckons Lovefoxxx. “We were supposed to have May and June off to produce new material but instead we have to do a bunch of press and more shows. We still have March off to do new stuff. Sub Pop have a nice relationship with Warners and they know what we’re about. They know what expect so there’s no pressure at all on us.”
On one hand, CSS are living carefree lives, enjoying touring and the fun that comes with it. On the other, their drive is partly fuelled by the hostility that greeted their emergence from the close-knit Brazilian rock and pop scene. They’re stupid girls. They can’t play their instruments properly. They got lucky. All accusations that have been levelled at them from a society not used to girls kicking musical tush.
“Adriano [Cintra – drums] worries more than he should about this sort of thing,” smiles Ira. “I don’t know if it’s a Brazil thing. It’s the same everywhere. People like being regretful. Why is this happening to them and not to me? It doesn’t affect us at all. If journalists ask us how the scene in Brazil is, we’re honest. We’re not going to say it’s amazing and so people got a little bit mad with us. Not that we care that much. In Brazil they’ve never had a pop band go through what we went through. For them it’s as new as it is for you guys. We had Sepultura, who are really good, but are still in, like, a metal ghetto.”
“Some people are very proud of us,” shrugs Lovefoxxx. “Not a lot, but they get very excited. Whenever I think about what’s going on with us, if I wasn’t in this band, I’d still think it was exciting.”
Lovefoxxx and Ira both exude the type of enthusiasm that make them perfectly suited to life in a travelling band, but there’s more to CSS’s success than that. Behind the stage diving, the partying and the sexiest singer since Debbie Harry was still part of Blondie (first time round), there’s a band bristling with creative energy and do it yourself spirit.
“Adriano is always producing things,” announces Lovefoxxx. “Right now he’s probably sitting somewhere with his computer open on Logic. He made a bunch of melodies and beats. I wrote some lyrics but haven’t put them on the songs yet. We’ll do that in March in Sao Paolo. When we come back to Europe in April we’re going to have a new show.
“Now I think about it I get a little bit scared,” she giggles. “We’re not going to start talking about global warming. Nothing serious. But the thing that goes through my mind is that we can’t go wrong. There’s no way we can make this sound bad. Everything Adriano is producing sounds so amazing. Even if I write lyrics like ‘Poop shit poop shit’ it’s going to sound good. There’s no way we can do something bad because we won’t let it happen. ‘This is bad. We’re not doing this. Let’s do something better’.”
In some ways the second album will be the barometer for just how far CSS have come. Because their first album, awesome as it was, has snuck up on us.
“That’s one of the reasons why people like us,” yells Lovefoxxx. “We never arrived as a big thing with posters all over the place. That’s not a friendly thing. We were coming through blogs and small things, like it should be. People were charmed by it. We never expected anything. And we’re from Brazil. There are no bands from Brazil!”
“In England you guys have a whole musical culture which we respect a lot,” adds Ira. “You really go to gigs and buy records. Our manager studied music business and he always talks about the rules. You always have to release two singles and then an album—that kind of thing. We did things completely different. We came with an album a year old and everything was different with releasing and promoting. We’ll probably keep doing the things we’re doing now. We don’t want to get into this corporate thing. It’ll be amazing to have resources so we can do bigger things but we still want to do things ourselves. We still want to be involved with everything and we will. Because we can’t see our band doing it any other way.”
“Like our poster for tonight,” growls Lovefoxxx, snatching a colour photocopied sheet off the wall. “Whenever I see the white CSS logo on the blue background it hurts my heart. I can’t look at this. It’s so ugly. The details are what make the band. Warners wanted to make us some badges and they sent us some artwork to approve. I didn’t like it so I designed some new ones and they printed them.”
“We’re really critical,” agrees Ira. “Every single one of us. We like that unity. It has to be our way of doing it and it’s going to be like this forever.”
There are three things you need to know about CSS. They’ve made a great album. They put on a terrific live show. And they have the brains and the attitude to go from Brazilian pop sensations to fixtures on the international music scene.
“We have all these sides,” Lovefoxxx smiles her cheeky smile. “We are a party band, but there’s time to do that and time to do this. We cannot always party. We’d lose our minds.”
“And we don’t see this as work,” shrugs Ira. “It’s just a bunch of ideas coming up. We’ve already agreed the next tour will be called The ‘It’s already a sensation’ Tour.”