Berlin's Stereo Total brings a Teutonic treat to Tucson this Tuesday, November 12.
Francoise Cactus, one-half of Stereo Total, says the band's shows are "entertaining and, in a way, funny. That's what the people say."
So what do they sound like? Well, you could compare them to an amalgamation of ABBA fronted by Nico and Serge Gainsbourg plugged into an old Nintendo and backed by The Troggs. The band's sex-charged techno-lounge-rock should prove extra-interesting on this tour because, unlike past outings, the band will perform as a duo.
"It is more crazy when you only have two people," says Brezel Goring, the other member of the band. "When you listen to music, and there are four or five people playing it, there is no mystery in how it is done. But when there are only two people it's much more bizarre."
The new configuration has forced Cactus and Goring to restructure songs in order to perform them as a two-piece.
"We are relying more on minimalism," Goring said. "The music is reduced to everything that's essential. We do use samplers, but not in a sequenced way, only to add some more noises. So almost all of the music will just be what we two can play."
"It makes it easier to travel as a two-piece," he adds. "It's like going with your girlfriend on a holiday trip. You get to go to a new town everyday. There is always something going on at night, and there are always new people you can talk to. It's fun."
The band is in America to promote a new album, Musique Automatique, which signifies a fresh direction that sounds a lot more slick than previous albums. More than one of the songs sound like the band was sucked into an old 8-bit Nintendo game, with all the cheesy bleeps and blips put under their complete control. At another spot the musicians resemble the French band Air--cool, laid back, and down tempo, with Cactus and Goring crooning out extra-sexy torch songs.
One of the album's highlights is "L'Amour a 3," which appears in both French and English versions. The use of a gospel sample mixed with ethereal sounding beats, combined with Cactus' repeated crooning of "I love the three of us" during the chorus, is something that could have easily been placed on the Avalanches' album Since I Left You, or even on Moby's Play. It's the sort of tune that presents an opportunity to expand the band's American fan base.
"For me this record sounds better than the others," said Cactus. "Not so rough, but not too commercial, not too mainstream."
The band credits the new direction to a new producer. "Our other records were recorded in our sitting room," said Cactus. "But this one was with Turkish-Finish producer Cem Oral (from the band Air Liquid). It's good that he could understand what we wanted to have."
Goring agrees. "I always like the latest album the most," he says. "I'm really satisfied with Musique Automatique. On the records we made before I was completely in control of everything. I was doing the mixing and doing the recording and I really had my hands on each step. I wanted to have this sort of randomness or surprise in this record. That's why we decided to let someone else mix it. Giving it to someone else's hands freed me up from a lot of the worries I normally have about a record. It let us just concentrate on the songs and the melodies. I was surprised though, because there were so many melodies that I really liked that were missing completely from the finished album. I would ask Cem, 'Where is this sound?' and he would just nonchalantly say, 'Oh, I didn't like it.' I think that he was right though, the other sounds just weren't necessary."
Cactus is pleased with the final result. "We trusted this man," Cactus says. "Sometimes, when you go to the studio you get techs who don't understand what you want to do, and they change everything, and you are crying and saying, 'What have they done to my music?' But we trusted Cem, so it ended up that we could concentrate more on the music."
So will they work with an outside producer again? "We will see," says Cactus. "We are starting to record new songs, but it will be a while before we have another album out."
A Stereo Total album offers an interesting tapestry of sounds because every other song is in a different language. from French to German to Turkish to English. But neophytes, says Goring, shouldn't be put off by the multitude of languages found on the band's albums.
"It's the same for us with American singers," he says. "I don't understand English so well, and when I listen to American bands, it's only a floating of words, like another instrument. I never know what they are singing about. I know German and French well, and that's all. But Francoise knows more, Italian, Spanish and a bunch of dead languages."
"I didn't have English in school," Cactus says. "My brother had a book where it was one page of Rolling Stones in English and the other in French. So this is how I started learning it."
When neither knows the language, they get by with a little help from their friends.
"For example, the Japanese song we have, we wrote it in German first, and then gave it to someone to get it to Japanese," says Goring. "It was released in Japan and we toured there. That was the motivation for that, to visit Japan. The Turkish song we wrote with Cem because we though it sounded good with the music. It was good for rock and roll!"
If you're wondering what they're singing about, check out www.StereoTotal.de.
"On our web site we didn't translate all the lyrics, but we made a short essential translation of the main topics of the songs," says Goring. "So it's five sentences about what the whole song is about. And don't be scared of our English. A lot of the stuff that I wrote I think is hard to understand for English-speaking people."