CSS sweat out 11 feel-good hits of the summer. By Jeanne Fury
Lovefoxxx is pissed. At me.
It’s all Skype’s fault. I’ve repeated myself half a dozen times, but because of a crappy Internet phone connection between my place in Brooklyn and the CSS singer’s new home in Brazil, she can’t hear what I’m saying.
“Are you saying ‘fuck you’?” she demands to know.
“NO!” I blurt. “POP. MUSIC.”
Come to think of it, “Fuck You! Pop Music!” is the message at the heart of CSS, a group of friends in Brazil who got together to write some tunes and wound up an international touring band.
“We didn’t have any goals, really,” says Lovefoxxx, who points to the name of the band as proof. CSS is short for Cansei De Ser Sexy, which roughly translates as “tired of being sexy”—a claim they heard Beyoncé make in an interview—not exactly indicative of a serious-minded group of individuals.
“Even though we’re funny and fun people, I think that we would have thought more [about the name] if we knew the band would become anything,” she laughs. “I really like the name now. I think most bands should happen like this. Not just bands, but everything. Ultimately, we were lucky, at the right place at the right time, but I really like how we came out of nowhere.”
CSS were indeed the chosen ones. They formed in September 2003, played their first gig a month or two later, and promptly took off. Though they had no intention of becoming anything, this five-piece—with their raucous punk rock ethos, electro-pop jams and celebratory live shows—was so infectious that the public had other ideas.
“After our first show, we never had to book a show,” says Lovefoxxx. “Everybody would call us and get in touch with us. It was never something we were trying hard to make work. People were really coming after us.”
They were signed first in Brazil and then in America on Sub Pop. Their debut, Cansei De Ser Sexy, featured songs like “Meeting Paris Hilton” and “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above” that heavily touted the band’s loose, kooky spirit. Its follow-up, Donkey, took the wild-eyed energy, streamlined it and added some shadows. Growing pains? Maybe. But CSS grew right through them.
Their third album, La Liberación, is back spouting laser beams, cowbells, rainbow-shooting synths, horn sections—all that jazz. If a mantra was in order, “Free your ass, and your mind will follow” would be it. Any opposition to the sunny party vibe is summarily, briskly brushed off with tunes born and nurtured on the dance floor. It’s a direct reflection of the band’s own positive outlook.
“Last year, when we were doing the album, it was a really great year for everybody,” says Lovefoxxx of her bandmates Adriano Cintra, Ana Rezende dos Anjos, Carolina Parra and Luiza Sá. “The liberating thing has to do with all this happiness that we were feeling,” she explains. “When we were making Donkey, we were in a really rough place, so it was a very nice contrast to the previous years.”
Lovefoxxx had told NME that touring to support Donkey “sucked my soul,” and left her completely spent. “We were in the touring life for so many years, it took me a while to relax, but I made it!” she laughs. “And I can’t wait to have my soul sucked again because I really want to tour a lot now.”
She has good reason to want to get back in the spotlight. La Liberación is CSS’s most engaged offering. “[The songs] are more gig-friendly,” says Lovefoxxx. “People can come together and scream together.” This connection is still a sort of new phenomenon. For all its rebellious charms, CSS’s first album wasn’t really something to consider beyond its feral light-heartedness. An audience didn’t yet exist in the band’s consciousness, and they had no trajectory to speak of. Here, songs grab you by the face and smoosh their lips to your mouth, as if to say, “life is beautiful, go get some.”
The album’s first track, “I Love You,” is a futuristic rave-up power-washed with dopamine. “I thought I was a traffic light, you always see me there but never realize,” sings Lovefoxxx, “and like a car crash, you changed my scene, you bumped into me and now my light is always green.” The surprise elation is recurring. The reggae-disco “Hits Me Like a Rock” is about a great song you haven’t heard in a long time that can still knock you out. Years back, CSS made a similar statement with “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex” (which landed in an iPod commercial), but both the song and the sentiment were thin by comparison.
Experience and necessity have gifted Lovefoxxx with a broader perspective on life and a hunger to grow as an artist. “At the beginning of the band, it was really hard to record vocals for me. I would be so, so shy, and I would have to drink loads and turn off the lights and ask for nobody to look at me,” she laughs. “Now, I’m glad I don’t feel insecure like that anymore. For some songs I really wanted to do some badass vocals.”
“Rhythm to the Rebels” starts with finger snapping and a lean beat, then disperses into cranky, spiraling riffs. “Wanna break some rules?” Lovefoxxx leers on the mic. “Well, I do.” CSS build up to it. The culmination of La Liberación is the final track, “Fuck Everything,” that borrows its high-octane drive from the Riot Grrrl era. “I’m gonna dance all night, even if the music sucks!” Lovefoxxx shouts defiantly.
“People say, ‘It’s funny how the record starts with “I Love You” and ends with “Fuck Everything,”’ and take it as a negative thing,” she says. “But it’s really happy, that song. I think everybody is going to scream together, ‘Fuck everything!’”
The idea thrills Lovefoxxx. She feels more confident and energetic now than when the band started, and performing onstage is no longer a booze-soaked mystery. Experience lead to the liberation. “Before, we couldn’t figure it out; it was like a monkey trying to open a coconut with its hands,” she says. “Now we have a knife and a chopping board.”