Multi-lingual European duo Stereo Total are back with their 11th album “Cactus Versus Brezel,” another collection of quirky and extremely catchy songs. While they use a lot of electronics in additional traditional instruments, the group has always focused on the ideas more than the technology, leading to a very spontaneous ‘live’ feel to their recordings. For the new album, the group took this to the extreme by recording on 8 track analog tape. Comprised of Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring, the group recently embarked on a US tour. The following is an interview with Françoise conducted before their NY show on April 12, 2013.
What type of material are you doing on the current tour?
“Most of the songs we’re playing are from our new album, which is called ‘Cactus Versus Brezel.’ But we also like to play the old hits that people want to hear. Because we want them to be happy!
We have songs in Japanese, English, German, French, and Spanish. It’s good to study languages. If you want to learn everything with a French accent, it’s perfect!”
What determines what language a song will be in?
“Normally, for the songs which are in French, German, or English, I just get an idea in a certain language, so I don’t really think about it. Sometimes I have a little phrase that comes into my head in German, sometimes in French, rarely it is in English immediately. For the others, I can speak a little bit but cannot really work in these languages, so I just ask some people to make translations of the songs. Generally, the songs in German are completely different from the songs in French, because the way of writing songs in German is completely different. When I write songs in German, normally I need a really funny idea–something really original and funny.”
How is it different performing in different countries, where the general native language of the audience differs?
“We always have different set lists, depending on where we are playing. If we go to South America, we play much more songs in Spanish, and on this tour we are trying to play more songs in English. It depends where we play. And when we play [in] other languages, we explain what the songs are about.”
Can you talk about the making of ‘Cactus Versus Brezel’?
“We recorded it all in Los Angeles in a studio that has equipment from the 50s and 60s. We recorded with big tape machines and huge, old fashioned microphones. We recorded it a bit like the Beatles would have recorded! We didn’t use any computers at all. It’s all analog. If somebody buys a vinyl record, this object will never have been in touch with digital. It’s completely old fashioned. We wanted to do that because we noticed that the analog sound is much more warm and alive than digital sound. And also we wanted it to sound more like a live show. So we played everything live and had only eight tracks to use. The only things that we did later on were the vocals and some little solos. It’s not sounding perfect, but it’s sounding really warm and human. That’s what we wanted to do.”
What tracks have you had the best response to so far?
“In Europe, the song on the radio, especially in Germany where we come from, is ‘Die Frau in der Musik’. It’s a very feministic sound about the the position of the female musician in the male music world. It’s really a funny song. Other songs that people like are “Pixelize Me” and also a song that we recorded in five minutes at the very end of our recording sessions called “We Don’t Wanna Dance.” We’ll see in the tour which songs people like best in the US.”
The album just came out in the US, but wasn’t it originally released last year overseas?
“It came out last fall in Europe. We wanted to wait [for a US release] until we could go on tour, rather than releasing a recording and going on tour months later.”
What made you use ‘Cactus versus Brezel’ as the title?
“The title is kind of an accident. The designer took this drawing and was putting some letters on it, and put ‘Cactus versus Brezel’. So we kept it for the title. Everyone is asking us, ‘did you have a big argument?’ Well, ok, we’re always having arguments when we are making music, but that is normal.”
When creating new music, do you generally start off with lyrical or music ideas?
“Every time it’s different. Sometimes I’ll have an idea for a lyric, sometimes there will be music first and I think about lyrics for it. Sometimes we’ll just be have a jam session. Generally, Brezel is collecting sound ideas and I write lots and lots of songs. I could write ten songs a day, though most of them are shit! [laughs].”
Going back to your being able to write songs very quickly, do you ever go back to older, previously unfinished songs and then complete them?
“Yeah, sure. On this record, for example, there is a song called “Ein Lied für Vegetarier” – this song I wrote on the early 90’s. I don’t throw anything away.”
Previously you had a song called ‘Everybody In The Discotheque (I Hate)’ and the new album has a song with similar subject matter. Could you elaborate on your feelings towards discotheques?
“We have a song on the new album called ‘We Don’t Wanna Dance.’ We are living in Berlin, which is the city of techno discotheque. It’s fun twice a year, but not really our thing. Because in Berlin people are always singing songs about ‘let’s go dancing, we want to have fun, we want to dance and have crazy parties!’ So just to make them angry, we say we don’t like to [laughs]. But’s it’s just a joke, it’s ok.”