Eight years after the release of their eponymous debut, Brazilian dance-rock group CSS have started over.
In 2012, one year after band co-founder Adriano Cintra left the band, the group decamped to Los Angeles to record their fourth album Planta with TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek. It was both their first album recorded outside of Brazil and first with an outside producer. "We had friends telling us we should work together," says guitarist Luiza Sa. "We tried to do one song together to see how it felt and ended up just staying."
Fuse sat down with Sa and singer Lovefoxxx (who also gave us their 5 Favorite South American musicians) to discuss working with Sitek, lamb chop tattoos and the dread and joy of turning 30.
You’ve said recently that since Adriano left, the group feels more "synced." What did you mean by that?
Lovefoxxx: We got really involved in making the music. It was something that was very different before. Just by talking through the songs together and making them together, you get in sync with each other. One thing that was very good on this album was that there were songs that I made where I said, "There's nothing else I can do in it" and you pass it along and you know it's going to get finished. It was easier and everyone was together. It was like being in another band.
Luiza Sa: The thing is that Adriano was a producer, so the way he worked was, in a way, going all the way to the final product really fast. Sometimes that didn't leave space...
LF: The departure of Adriano really made things fresh for us again and more exciting.
What was the first time meeting Dave Sitek like? Did you click immediately or was there a "Getting to know you" period?
LF: Overall, we are kind of antisocial. When we're in a festival, we're never trying to talk with other bands. I don't know why, but that is how we are. When we hung out with Dave for the first time, it was a big stretch to get out of our comfort zone. We had never been in that situation before. I was so nervous I could barely speak, but we really clicked a lot in our humor. Humor is such an important thing in life and art and people usually take it for granted. So we got along pretty well. We were only going to do two songs together, but the second time we were there, Dave was like, "I want to do the full length."
What was the work process like?
LS: We started at 3 PM and went until 4 AM. Then swimming in the pool.
LF: Swimming at night and looking at stars.
LS: We would do meetings in the pool and ask, "What do you think about that YouTube video?" for three hours.
What do you think Dave brought to the sound that wasn't on previous CSS albums?
LS: The beats are very "Dave" in my head. He has a studio with a bunch of drum machines where everything is connected. It has an analog sound that feels very soulful even though it's just a bunch of electronic things.
LF: The songs are emptier and stripped down. They grow when they have to, but it is more about taking things away and putting a little bit back.
LS: Yeah, just keeping only what is absolutely necessary and expected.
LF: It was always about what is best for the music and no egos. Nobody was like "I came up with that." We were just like, "Whatever. Let's be free with this one."
I saw photos of the band and Dave giving tattoos to each other, so there must have been a certain degree of bonding.
LS: Yeah. I got this little "K" because my girlfriend/fiancé is called Katie. And [my girlfriend] got an "L." Dave tried to do a pyramid [on my arm], but it is so f-cked. He was using a needle that he never used before, so it was all wiggly. I kinda love it, but I totally forget that I have it.
LF: First he was like, "You should tattoo me because you will be good at it." He told me to do the CSS logo on my leg and a few weeks later, I tattooed his dog on him and he was like, "See? I'm so happy because you can see how much you improved." [Laughs]
I got a lamb chop because the first time we had dinner, he made lamb chops for us. Later, after becoming his friend and learning more about him, I learned that he only makes lamb chops when it's something really special and he doesn't do it all the time. This is a nice metaphor for me about our friendship. I also got a TV on top of a radio on my leg since I gave him our logo.
This is the first album recorded outside of Brazil. Did it feel natural moving to Los Angeles?
LF: [Before hooking up with Sitek] we rented a house in Echo Park. We needed to make a new album, so we just focused on that and we didn’t have a producer or anything. We were just in the house making music.
LS: People are so helpful and so positive! I didn't wear shoes for months. We moved to another house and had a back yard. We had a back house with a room of instruments. We were playing music, going to the farmers' market. Foxxx was going to yoga every day.
Did the whole band live together?
LF: Yeah, always together.
LS: We grilled a lot.
When Donkey came out, you said it was recorded "on the road and for the road." Was Planta a different situation?
LS: We are a little older and a little more grounded. We still care about the same things and believe in what we used to believe, but with a little more experience. It is like we try to do things differently.
Three members of the band are going to be 30 soon. When I turned 30, I didn't really go through any existential crisis…
LS: But what about 28, 29?
I was about to say, 28 is when I panicked a bit. It's the secret killer.
LF: It’s not even secret. It's the Saturn Return.
LS: Me and Anna just turned 30, Carolina is a little older and Love is 29.
LF: I’m going through Saturn Return as we speak.
What advice are you giving her?
LS: [Laughs] I'm not coaching her! I was like, "Look, it's normal to feel a little crazy and like everything is wrong and question everything, but the dust is going to settle. So just be patient." When I turned 30, it was like a weight just fell off. For me, 29 was the hard year. I told Lovefoxxx, "It's good. It's growing. There's no way of getting around it and once you've done that, you're in a different place and it's fine."
LF: Saturn's a hard planet, dude.
LS: But it teaches you.
Do you think this new headspace affected how the album came out?
LF: You just open up your hand more. With this record there was no ego, it was about the song, not about my idea or your idea. Let's just make this sh-t sound good. One of my favorite songs —that unfortunately didn't make the album—was a song called "I Am the Muffin." I was in New York and they made this song by themselves. I came back and they were jamming that, and I was like, "I love this song." If it were a couple of years ago it would have been like, "F-ck, I wasn't there, I didn't have nothing to do with it." For me to be so excited about the song that I had nothing to do with was the biggest achievement for me.
So it was more about maturing than aging specifically.
LF: That's what it was for me.
LS: It's not a very angry album. The themes are similar: looking for love, friendship, nature, there's still a sense of believing in the same things, but having been through some stuff. I love that the record ends with "Faith in Love" because you know that love hurts and it's hard but you still believe in it. It tells a lot about the record. It feels like a good ending.