Stereo Total

They play with an abandon that is unmatched by acts who embrace and emulate them. A retro-art mentality, sexy lyrics, and a wanton rebel-child’s soul are the foundation of what makes this band such a permeable force across the globe. Writeups read like amped, deifying expressions of a multi-lingual duo that uses eclectic instruments and influence the art world, all played out in youthfully translated text. This sort of thing has surely become all too common for Berlin’s Stereo Total.

Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring exude an intimate sound on their latest album Paris-Berlin, while lacking nothing of the duo’s astounding prior work. Known for their use of anything that produces a killer sound, Stereo Total have ditched excess and gone for simpler, more precise sonics. The record isn’t boring or stripped down, but stark in its instant likeability and unassuming honesty. Over the phone from Berlin, Françoise divulges the feelings behind Paris-Berlin and reflects on Stereo Total’s history.

Tell me what is different from Stereo Total today, versus the band 15 years ago. Happy anniversary, by the way.
Thanks a lot. Are we so old already? Well, I suppose that we look older. We can play much better together now. It’s magic, we just have to write a song. We can play it immediately. We are not so anxious anymore. When we made our first record we were very proud of it, and nobody wanted to put it out. At that time it was not the kind of music the labels were putting out. But I think that we didn’t change too much. We still like to try out things and see what happens.

How do you blend all of your influences so seamlessly? They are very different from one song to the next, but always make sense.
As we met and decided to make music together, it was clear that we came from really different musical undergrounds. With his former project called “Sigmund Freud Experience,” Brezel was making experimental electronic music. I had this band called Les Lolitas. It was garage rock ’n’ roll with a French-chanson touch. So we didn’t start talking like, “Girl, you’re gonna do my music now!” or, “Boy, listen to my great stuff!” We were openminded. Later on we realized that anyway we didn’t want to be prisoners from a special music style. What was the most important for us was our own interpretation. We like to play music, but we also like to play with music.

What about the balance of cute, retro pop with naughty, carefree punk?
That’s how we are: moody. As a teenager I always listened to punk rock and heavy metal. But when I moved to Berlin, I noticed suddenly that I was missing the French pop. I started collecting these French records that didn’t mean anything to me as long as I was living in France. Or maybe they meant something to me, but I was just listening to them on the radio.

What is it about music and sex that work so well together?

As a French singer and diplomat, I like to transport French cliché. Besides that, music had always a sensuous function in my life. Always standing in the middle of the things that I like the most, which is not the fact by bureaucracy, cars and war for example.

Have you ever considered making Stereo Total lunchboxes? People could store all kinds of fun things in there.
Good idea! Never thought about it! But don’t you have to put food into these boxes? That [reminds] me of the handbag from a good anorexic friend of mine. You ask her for a pen and while she is searching for one, you see the old peas and pork chops in the bag.

I think one day Stereo Total will be Germany’s national treasure. More popular than Heino! [The most famous traditional German folk star ever.]

[Surprised, she instructs me to choose between three possible answers]
I don’t think so
Oh! Poor of you, you know Heino?
Who knows?
The “Goethe Institut” is always sending us around the world to represent German culture, even if 50 percent from the band is French.

I read you weren’t happy with “I Love You Ono” used in a commercial.
Oh, that’s not true. We were really happy. We found that funny, that Sony, who has got millions of really well known bands under contract, choose us for their commercial. Specifically because we had recorded the song in one hour with a four-track recorder. Then we were happy that our favourite Japanese band The Plastics would get some money from it. They composed the song in the 80s. Then we were happy that our first great independent label, Bungalow, which was completely broke, got money from it. And finally we were also happy that we got money, too, and went immediately out to buy some new clothes!

Are you trying to start a revolution with Paris-Berlin? It’s not unthinkable.
Yes, that’s true. But I think, it’s almost not possible anymore, and that gives me depression. For example, in France they want a conservative president…this period that was after [the student protests of] 1968 has kind of disappeared. When I was a teenager I was a little revolutionary. [laughs] I think the way we are living is different—I don’t feel it in the air.

It’s very possible that Stereo Total could bring nations together with the many languages that appear in song. Would you be the world’s pop music ambassadors?

We don’t like frontiers. Not between music-styles and not between countries. The world belongs to everybody.

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