Though CSS has shed the overt pop of its 2006 debut (which spawned the highest ever Billboard charting single for a Brazilian artist, “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex”), the true nation of origin for the electro-punks’ Sub Pop follow-up, Donkey, is still the dancefloor.
The product of lifetime immersion in English-speaking culture, the four women and one dude of CSS are world citizens, and quite giggly about it. Still, sipping champagne over takeout sushi by an indoor pool 20 yards from a bustling Manhattan street, they remain Brazilian to the core. “I think it’s more an attitude, and the way we see life, than the actual music,” says bassist/drummer/programmer Adriano Cintra about being from São Paulo, birthplace of the tropicalismo.
“The way we party—our parents grew up in the revolutionary period of tropicália,” smiles guitarist Luiza Sá, a recent Brooklynite, “and when you’re a teenager you just want to listen to the opposite...”
“Grunge!” somebody shouts (pronounced “groonge”). Giggles ripple around the room.
“I remember loving The Beatles when I was a kid and asking my mom to translate everything, and my favorite song was, like, the most stupid song ever,” Sá says. “It was ‘I’m Only Sleeping.’ I thought it was really romantic, but it’s not. He’s just, ‘I want to sleep. Leave me alone.’”
After taking over TramaVirtual, Brazil’s MySpace, CSS invaded the English-speaking blogosphere with saucy songs like “Meeting Paris Hilton” and “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex,” which Americans may know from an iPod Touch ad. Though Donkey reprises the synth power of the group’s self-titled debut, CSS really does seem tired of being sexy (as Cansei de Ser Sexy, their full band name, translates). They’re now more interested in riffage than provocation.
Half-Japanese singer Lovefoxxx (now residing in London) blushes at the broken-English success of their earlier work. “You can feel the weight of curse words,” she says. “In Portuguese, I curse a lot. But in English it doesn’t work to be like, ‘fucking, fucking, fucking.’ I didn’t have no idea in the last songs! I know they were dirty words, but now I can feel the weight of them.”
“It was more like sounding,” suggestts Sá, “like phonetics.”
“And rhyme,” Lovefoxx adds.
“Like hip-hop,” Sá confirms. “Just curse a lot and rhyme.” And giggle.