A new album from Stereo Total is always a breath of fresh air, as the Berlin-based duo are masters at crafting catchy pop songs that are also very unusual sounding. French chanson, low-fi rock, weird electronic noises, multi-lingual lyrics, and odd song structures are just a few things one might hear in a Stereo Total track. It’s the type of thing that in lesser hands could come across as pretentious and/or unlistenable, but for Stereo Total the various styles and sounds seem to meld together naturally. The quirky band is back with a new CD, “Paris<>Berlin” (currently released in Europe, out in America August 20) and member Brezel Göring recently answered some questions for us by email.
Are there any general factors that determine what language a particular lyric will be in? For example, do you see the language choice as a factor in crafting the mood/feel of a track? Does it depend on subject matter?
“There is always a ‘strong line’ in every song like ‘mehr Licht’ (= more light), ‘Ich liebe Liebe zu dritt’ (= I love to make love with three people at the same time), ‘Wir tanzen im 4-eck’ (= we are dancing in a square) or ‘Let’s go to a holiday INNN’. This line determines in what language the song will be (french, german, english or italian).
“In some songs there are two different languages used (‘ma radio’ is a french song, but the computer voice is talking in german.) It is all about frontiers to dissapear: linguistical frontiers, stilistic frontiers and of course political/geographical frontiers.”
Musical technology has evolved quite a bit since Stereo Total began, especially with computer-based recording, software synths and sound manipulation. Has this had much of an effect on your creative process and the way you record/perform?
“I don’t think, that technology is important. If they would have spent one year on one single song, they could have done every thing computers do these days with tape splicing in the fifites. Then there was this Weinberg-method, wich was basically a acoustic way to produce the typical moog sounds, which were of course electronic. So I think, it is only the idea that counts, not the technology, in which it is realized. But sometimes machines give you ideas. With Stereo Total we use more or less the same equipment in the last 14 years, since 3 years there is also a computer, but is only one tool among others.”
You’ve always had strong album/cd cover art … are you bothered by the fact that digital music distribution/playback is taking the emphasis away from the physical product?
“I am very much into vinyl, the rest – cd, download or mini discs – just doesn’t belong to my world. It is good to know that is there – but not for me. The most important thing is the music – I am not bothered if people don’t care about the package.”
Did you think Stereo Total was a project you’d still be doing over a decade later? If not, at what point did you realize that it was a long-term project?
“No, we never had plans that went further than 3 months. It was a surprise, that someone wanted to release our first record, but I never thought of doing this band for such a long time span or to make a living out of it. It was the project I started with my girlfriend, it was more personal.”
How influenced are you by audience/fan feedback? For example, in terms of songs people want to hear at shows, or their feelings on new material. What kind of impact has the rise of the Internet had on this?
“It was a very good experience for me, to see that people from different countries from various parts of the world, like our music. Music is non-verbal utopistic, a possbility, how things could be. So it is not that people want to hear a certain song, but the fact, that they heard any song and that they liked it, which is important to me. Some were writing that they enjoy the music, Labels were contacting us who wanted to release 7′ or wanted to use songs for their web site or what ever: i really enjoy this kind of feedback… Also the fact, that our music is available for free in file sharing is very pleasent. I really like this aspect of the internet.”
What are your thoughts on the use of your music in commercials? Do you see it as a promotional tool for the band, or just a different outlet to earn money from the music? Are there products you DON’T want to see you music used in commercials for?
“There were some requests for commercials, that we turned down, because we did not like the product. But in the last years some commercials used our music. We were always on independent labels, we made never any decisions for money reasons, but I am not ashamed to earn money this way – as long as I stay independent and don’t have to make any compromises. We are aware of the fact, that we are somehow part of the whole music industrie, but we stay out of the way as much as possible: there is no business like business.”
I read that Brezel’s solo releases came out of music too far out for Stereo Total. Have you ever created music that was just too NORMAL to be used?
“Sometimes my musical ideas sometimes do not inspire Françoise, so I release them on solo albums. Besides of this we have no restrictions of what is ‘too normal’ or ‘too crazy’, as long as it pleases us both.”
What can we expect from the upcoming tour?
“The new songs are really good for playing them life, it is all about energy, crazy sounds… Sometimes things tend to become very complicated, but on this tour I have the impression, that the music is going to be very easy, seductive and simple, but realy strange at the same time. In the upcoming shows we are going to do everything, that we never did because we thougt it is going to be too complicated. But the complications give us new ideas…”
What music have you been listening to lately?
“Besides of a lot of old music that I am discovering all the time, I like the new german band Robotron very much (lofi punk and devo, theremin and happy hardcore), the los angeles band Barr, Hawney Troof, Miss Pain from Brighton/England, I like the band von Südenfed (which is Mouse on Mars with Mark E. Smith), Black Devil Disco Club, Thieves like us….”