It’s a crazy time right about now for CSS. They’re touring madly – they knocked our socks off with their live show in Liverpool two weeks ago, on a weekend that they’d also played in London, at ATP and in Israel no less. It’s probably something to do with the fact they’ve got their hotly anticipated new album ‘PLANTA’ due out June 10th on SQE. It’s produced by David Sitek, who is suddenly looking like man of the moment for console duties. Originally art-school kids from Sao Paulo, CSS have long had an affinity with the UK, ever since their break-out single ‘Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above’ hit here harder than just about any place else in the world. In amongst all this, Luiza Sa found time to admire the name of our website and to answer some questions for us. The band that helped define nu-rave now reckon they’re ‘Freestyle’. They have some very sound advice for us too – “Drink better quality liquor” amongst many other words of wisdom. You read it here first….
Hi guys. Thanks for talking to ‘God Is In The TV’. How’s it hanging with CSS today?
Hello! What a wonderful name – “God is in the TV”! Today is a very good day for CSS. We can’t wait for the record to come out.
Do you have any super-powers you need to warn us about?
We can get very loud and seem like we are fighting just by speaking to each other normally and, in consequence, make people feel uncomfortable. Also we speak Portuguese so we can say stuff to each other that you will never understand. Perhaps even about you. But we don’t really do that, of course!
We’re all agog for the new album ‘Planta’ – I’ve so far only heard one track, that being ‘Hangover’. It sounds pretty damned upbeat – like a mad carnival. What can we expect from the rest of the album?
The record is definitely more of a dance record but, as always, we mix a lot of styles to do our version of pop. ‘Hangover’ has the most Brazilian vibe of the whole record. The record has some rock, some electronic, some reggae, even some R’n’B but not exclusively and not in that order. Lately I’ve been thinking we are a Freestyle band.
Does it follow on from ‘La Liberación’? I loved ‘City Girl’…
I guess it does. It’s very hard for us to have such a sharp vision about it, we are way too involved to know. I think it’s very healthy to not really know exactly what you’re doing in terms of concept. We understand “La Liberación” better, now that some years have passed, so the same will happen to “Planta”.
“Planta” feels very positive to us and carries the vibe of “La Liberación” but maybe we are more mature as people. Maybe is less about the teenage angst (“La Liberación” had a lot of that in the lyrics) and more about being happy, friendship and love? I know it sounds cheesy but it’s more like a peaceful, hippie celebration as opposed to a power, punk-gang celebration that “La Liberación” is.
How does the finished album compare with what you set out to do? Did you manage to realise what was in your heads when you started out?
We did not have a clear vision at first and I like that. I think at some point you get to that place. At some point we decided that the album was going to be more of an electronic dance music one but on the beginning you don’t want to know, you want to let it lead you. It really reflects the place we were, both mentally and physically, which brings me to the next question…
Did you take time out to write the album? Who actually writes? You recorded it in LA – tell us what that was like?
We lived in LA for most of 2012 to write and record the album and that was a huge influence on the record. The whole process was around 9 months, like a baby. We went there with nothing, not even a demo, starting from zero. All of us wrote in the record, many times together in the same song.
In 2011 we had such a wonderful time visiting LA during a tour (two shows and three days there) that the vibe just stuck in my head. Not only we were treated so well in LA, it felt like LA was a very interesting place to be artistically at the time. So around november 2011, when we were touring Europe and deciding our plans, I said “Why don’t we go to LA to make a record? We can rent a house, live together and do it”. Our management and all of our equipment was there and everyone was just like “Yes!”. There wasn’t so much thinking behind it. We were chasing a feeling, but we all agreed that it made sense.
How was it working with David Sitek – is his influence strong and audible? Or was he more like a transparent mirror for your intentions?
Working with Dave was very special in many levels. Our relationship goes way beyond work, we consider him family and his house/studio has a wonderful environment. We learned a lot from him and I think the most important thing we learned was to have self confidence to create and also to make it as fun as possible because that really goes in the work in the end of the day. We had a lot of fun together, from cooking, to jumping in the pool, to watching funny videos online, to playing with his pets.
I know he has a very special, original sound (almost like a soulful electronic sound, that comes from him being a rocker but also being so influenced by Hip-Hop and R’n’B and Brian Eno etc ) that is all over the record, but a lot of it it’s just him extracting something that was in us already, and in the demos already. Even cleaning it up sometimes; just taking things off and leaving the absolutely necessary. He is just very good. Kind of like a genius with no ego, he is more interested in making good music than any personal thing. That is his personal quest. Also he has no rules and will work differently when the situation calls for it, so it’s very fun and free. And we did feel like we were all in the same page the whole time. There wasn’t any disagreement, we were a team. He was open to our ideas and we were open to his.
It looks like you’ve got a few weeks off then on the road right through June and July in the USA?
Yes, it sure looks like it! Right now I’m on the “off” time, but we will reunite to tour in about two weeks. We just came back from Europe last week, where we played three shows and did some press for about two weeks.
What do you do when you’re on the road to stay sane?
By now we should be better about dealing with touring, it’s been a while. The very basic things go such a long way. For example: sleep well. Whenever you can, that will change your day in such a significant way. Eat well: for the same reasons. Have access to a nice bathroom so you can go about your business and shower. Don’t drink too much, and drink better quality liquor. As you get older the hangover will hit harder. Also just enjoying it as most as you can and being able to have little moments of solitude, even if it’s just inside your bed bunk before falling asleep.
We do enjoy each others company more than the average band and it won’t be hard to see us all together at every single meal or walking around town during our free time. That also helps a lot.
What’s it like being a Brazilian band? Do you think it’s harder not being from the UK or the States? Or is me even asking that question simply symptomatic of a very narrow view?
It’s a very interesting question. For different reasons, it’s hard for everyone. But probably easier now for a non-UK or non-USA band now than it was before the internet. I don’t think we would choose to be born in the UK or the United States over Brazil. Maybe when we are about to get our ninety-fifth visa and we have to get the bigger line at customs and be asked more questions, we might wish we were American or British because they get treated better while crossing borders (although many times border people show their love for Brazil) but on other occasions I wouldn’t trade it. Think about it. When you say the word “Brazil”, you probably think of happy people in a beautiful place and that’s mostly true, even if that’s not the whole story and still is a third-world country with many challenges. You can’t fake that happy thing, as you couldn’t fake the very deep beautiful British ballad-making.
Being Brazilian is not the easiest because you have to grow up with, and understand, a very complex reality that might make you turn better or worse, but that exact thing gives you a very, very broad point-of-view of the world. Brazil is very backwards on some important levels (still a lot of racism, sexism, corruption, inequality and lack of education that leads to violence) but very forward on others (the kindness, the soul of the people, the music. And Brazil really did have miscegenation in a way that’s unheard of anywhere in the world and that’s pretty much the future of our species – it is the future).
I can’t really explain what it means to be Brazilian because it’s too big of a question but as a Brazilian band, maybe it could be harder in terms of breaking into a market, but with internet we got that break. We are not a traditional Brazilian band because we make music for the world and not just for Brazil. We don’t even sing in Portuguese (mostly). We live / lived in different places in the world, we are not so attached to a place because we don’t have to be. Being Brazilian is always there, inside of us. We carry the happy, excited, fully expressed thing and people generally love it, even uptight people. I think it really works in our favor. We have the urge to unite, to invite everyone in, and that’s how our show must feel like, and that’s a Brazilian thing. Probably not exclusively brazilian but still…
Which other bands do you love playing alongside? Or who are you looking forward to playing with? Any music that you’ve come across and are bursting to recommend to us?
We once played with our friends from The Gossip and that was so much fun. We are big fans of their music and of them as people. Now we are about to tour with IO Echo and MS MR and that’s very exciting! When we toured with Tilly and The Wall, SSION and MEN, that was a blast. Those people are the best quality of people and great artists! We lately have been listening to the new Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds record, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Chairlift, Hunx, Grass Widow, Twin Shadow.
I don’t know if it’s politic or polite to ask this, but it sounds like it was an awkward time when Adriano left? How are things now?
Things are good now because everyone is doing what they want to be doing and the work that we put out (either us or him) should be the only thing that people really care about in the end of the day. I know a crazy soup opera sounds way more interesting and people are always going to read into things and connect that to the work but the truth is that there isn’t much of a story more than he wasn’t happy and quit the band.
What’s next for CSS? Are we expecting to see you getting announced at more festivals over this summer?
I don’t know if we are playing many festivals this year in the UK but maybe a couple. We will probably come back to Europe by fall and then again and again! We plan to tour in different places with this record.
Any message you’d like to give to the world?
I would say – ” Dear world, try to be as kind as possible and come from love. Love yourself. Be present. Get off your phone once in a while. Slow things down. Try to recycle and buy less. Use things till they are beyond repair, making less trash. Try to not give in and be lazy about it. Be conscious of your decisions (from the way you treat yourself and others, to the places you choose to buy or eat, to what you leave behind). A little bit of effort is all it takes.”
I for one can subscribe to every word of that. In the meantime, here’s a taster from ‘Planta’, the lead single ‘Hangover’.