Brazilian band CSS brought their wisecracking brand of party rock to an international stage in 2006, just when rock bands were commanding audiences to dance. Aside from a band name inspired by Beyoncé and big tunes chock full of novelty topical value — “Meeting Paris Hilton,” “Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above” – frontwoman Lovefoxxx’s arsenal of wacky clothes and onstage humor ensured they stood out from the rest of the neon-hued nu-ravers. Girls regularly turned up at shows, “foxxxed out” in the singer’s eccentric day-glo Avenger apparel; fashion brands approached her to collaborate. In 2009, Lovefoxxx, a former fashion student, co-designed t-shirts for street brand Graniph.
After CSS’s second album floundered commercially, the band took some time out to regroup, and are back this summer with La Liberación, an 11-track collection of brash electro-rock. Things are already looking up: “Hits Me Like A Rock” is heating up dance floors and Hype Machine alike, and the band is heading out on a large-scale tour in October.
You have a unique style story, Lovefoxxx. Tell us about your tattoos.
Lovefoxxx: This latest one on my arm says “Rip Shit.” I got it in Portland last year, at random. I was nervous and a friend happened to console me by giving me a pep talk. ‘No girl, you’re going to rip shit,’ he said. I decided that was so inspirational, so I branded it on my body. I also have a fish, and one of a brain that’s coming out. I usually get them when I’m having a great time and inspiration strikes.
Girls mimick your style at shows. Where does inspiration for your costumes come from?
Lovefoxxx: I tend to make most of my own costumes, and they definitely reflect where my head’s at at a given time, just like our music. I used to be addicted to cat suits, as everyone knows. I would customize them for each show. That also required a ton of paint, and also makeup and hair maintenance, which wasn’t very spontaneous. It became a chore, but it was worth it.
How has your style evolved since then?
Lovefoxxx: I’ve broken free. Right now, I want to look really masculine when I take the stage. I’m pairing Jeremy Scott tees and jackets with pants. The twist? I’m adding staples to everything. On stage, I tear it off in layers! At the end, I’m in my normal clothes, so it’s a transformation.
Will CSS’s music always require an equally strong visual?
Lovefoxxx: We’ve always strove to make a statement with our presentation. I studied fashion design, so that’s where I experiment. What we wear makes a strong accompanying statement to what we play, and how people receive it.
Ana Rezende: We’re also huge film buffs. We’ve been going through a Spanish phase; the aesthetics are actually very different from Brazil’s, believe me! Spanish cinema is influencing how we want to approach our videos for this new era.
What is the primary difference between La Liberación and Donkey?
Adriano Cintra: Our last album Donkey was darker because we felt darker. We’d been on the road two years, non-stop. We knew we wanted to do a different album than the debut; we wanted to make a harder guitar record because it felt right for then. The vibe has changed a lot since.
Lovefoxxx: Where you are in your life at any point really influences the kind of album you’re going to make. Each of ours is different so far, so there’s a good range. Right now, we’re in a good place and the album reflects that energy. We had a year off to play with new ideas; it was a healthy process. The theme of this album is liberation!
What are some of CSS’s unlikely influences?
Adriano Cintra: Lately, I’ve been listening to Metronomy, Lykke Li, and The Kills. But we listen to a lot of dance pop music, too, as it’s our main inspiration. Shakira, Gwen Stefani, that kind of thing. And we’ll hear things in those types of songs we can imagine working within our own sound. You can hear some of that influence in songs like “City Girl,” which has a lot of keyboards and backing tracks — almost like the Eurythmics.
Urban legend positions CSS as a cult of wild Brazilian ravers. What is the true story behind how you found each other?
Ana Rezende: The truth is we all started hanging out at a space Adriano ran from his apartment — an “artist’s space” called The Temple of Rock. [Laughs.] We’d party from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.. There was a lot of vodka and candy. We’d sell CD-Rs at parties; we’d do some recording in between. We ended up getting kicked out. The priests that ran the building hated us.
There must be some memorable stories.
Adriano Cintra: We would have nights where you could only play music from 1996. Another popular one entailed “coming out” in front of your parents for free entry. Someone mooned us another time! There are definitely some interesting photos documenting that era…
Ana Rezende: My parents don’t know any of this! Stop!
Lovefoxxx: See, we were friends before we were famous! We’ve always done the same thing: just having fun, being ridiculous.
What was unique about growing up as a music fan in Brazil?
Ana Rezende: Music was so expensive, it was a struggle to know what was going on. Of course, everything we liked was imported. You’d have to know the store owner, who’d order the record for you and you’d wait weeks to get it. Otherwise, you’d have to browse the import magazines for ideas — NME, Melody Maker, Kerrang!, the British titles. There was a moment where we had a crazy president that allowed our currency to rebound in the 90s; it was like a free-for-all for a year! It all fell apart, but in that time we spent all our money discovering bands like the Breeders and Garbage.
Any milestones on this album you’re particularly pleased about?
Adriano Cintra: We recorded six versions of the same song, “Partners In Crime,” and suddenly I realized I wanted Mike Garson, David Bowie’s piano player, to play on it. And he said yes! And we nearly crapped our pants.
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