Stereo Total: Utopian Lounge-Punks

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"It wasn't love at first sight, musically," says Brezel Göring of his first forays into music-making with girlfriend and Stereo Total co-conspirator Françoise Cactus. Eventually, the pair struck upon a way to combine Göring's background in the Neue Deutsche Welle ("German New Wave") scene with Cactus' love for French chansons and '60s garage rock. In 1995, they released their debut, Oh Ah! (Bungalow), and over the course of five more albums cemented a signature sound: minimal and cute electro-pop backdrops topped by knowingly naive lyrics about horror films and bunnies and Holiday Inns (sung by Cactus in heavily-accented English, Japanese, German, and many other languages, including her native French). With an EP, Discotheque, just released on Disko-B and KRS reissuing My Melody (1998) and Jukebox Alarm (1999), we caught up with the duo at home in Berlin.

XLR8R: What has been the biggest change for you as a band since My Melody and Jukebox Alarm came out?

Françoise: At this time, there were two other people in the band. Now it's just the two of us. It's much easier and it has changed everything, even the music. It made it more simple and more minimal. [I was really influenced by] this band in the '80s in France called Rita Mitsouko. There were just two of them–a man and a woman–and they were also a couple. I think it's nice. Anyway, I have always loved minimal music. You can see that on our cover version of Hot Chocolate "Heaven's in the Backseat of My Cadillac" (from Jukebox Alarm). It's not funky at all! It's almost nothing. I think that My Melody and Jukebox Alarm are not as well produced as Musique Automatique; the sound is sometimes a bit more scratchy and rough. I like sounds that are wild... but still not scratching my ears.

You two are very influenced by '60s French music. Who is your favorite artist?

Brezel: Always, [we] come back to Serge Gainsbourg. He had a very psychological way of writing songs. They're not just good pop tunes with good instrumentation or good melodies; his lyrics also have a double meaning–something really intelligent or really dirty but really funny at the same time. Also, he used jazz, rock 'n' roll, and even psychedelic stuff and reggae and put it all in this chanson context. [I like] this way of using music–taking it out of its context and putting it in another–and this is something I like to do myself.

What are you working on right now?

Brezel: We are doing a musical about Patty Hearst [in April]; Gina D'Orio from Cobra Killer is going to play Patty. In Germany, [we just released] a record with six new songs, Discotheque. There's one song that goes "I hate everybody in the discotheque/I don't like pills/I don't like coke/I don't like the stroboscope." Also, did you hear about this life-sized puppet Françoise made out of wool? It's called Woolita. She showed it in a group exhibition last year and... there was this scandal because this puppet looked so fleshy. There's a little book about the scandal and the tabloid yellow press [published by Martin Schmitz Verlag] and [it comes with] a record we made where the puppet is singing.