Brazilian rock group CSS are taking the world by storm. Since forming back in 2003, the band has made their way from the local, São Paulo scene to worldwide exposure, thanks in part to a chance feature in an iPod Touch commercial and an enthusiastic YouTube following.
After spending more than a year in Brazil working on new music, the band has made their triumphant return to the States, performing at, among other venues, the 2011 Coachella festival in Indio. Guitarist Luiza Sá checked in with LA Music Blog to discuss the band’s humble beginnings, her inspiration for being involved with music, and what the future has in store for CSS.
Did you always know that you wanted to be involved with music? What inspired that?
I would have to say that Hole was always a big inspiration and then Bikini Kill—I was always a music fan anyway. I have musicians in my family, but seeing girls doing it, like Liz Phair too, and L7, the whole ‘90s girl rock thing really made it more personal. I always loved Nirvana, but seeing girls doing it—it had a different level of connection.
Was there ever any doubt from friends, family, or anyone else that you wouldn’t be able to make it?
When we started the band, I was in college. I was studying for fine arts, which was already something very alternative that wouldn’t necessarily make you money, so my parents are really accepting. My dad plays guitar, and my mom is a teacher. They’re kind of like the ‘60s, ‘70s generation.
When the band happened, we never, ever, ever could predict that that would become our job. Like really, never. It was completely for fun, and it was completely punk in the beginning and DIY—it was just kind of mayhem. It was just for ourselves. Things really grew naturally, and we took [it] from there.
The thing we would do is, you know, do a song and do a show and let it go from there. It wasn’t like, “Oh my god, let’s get big.” There weren’t any plans. It just happened.
How did you make the transition from just being in college and being a fan of music to actually getting to do this as your career now?
(LAUGHS) I don’t know!
This is actually my first band. Adriano and Caro had a band together. Adriano’s actually worked with music since he was 15, and he’s like 36 or something now, so I think that one way or another, he would end up in this world, I don’t know how, but he would always have bands.
Except for him and Caro—this is her second band—everyone was doing something else. Ana went to film school, Caro also went to art school, and LoveFoxxx is a pretty fucking amazing designer and not only a singer. It was more like we were friends, and we wanted to be together more—not that it was more than to make music, but it was as important, so I think that translates into our music.
It’s not a real, talented, musicians band, if you will. I don’t think we would end up at a music school. (LAUGHS)
But I know at one point, we had to get serious. We were pretty rock ‘n roll. We didn’t give a fuck about anything. At one point, we really had to think about it, and think about the show, and rehearse a million times, and actually try to step up.
What was that point when you realized that you needed to get serious?
We were doing all these small shows, and smaller shows are easier because you’re so close to people and it’s easier to reach out and touch them. Then we were invited to this big festival in Brazil. They had all of these amazing people playing—we played right before Kraftwerk, and they had PJ Harvey and Primus and all these huge bands. It was like a 5,000 people audience, and I think because of that, we were like, “Ok, now we need to put on a really amazing show. We need to play really well. We can’t just show up and do crazy shit, because it’s not going to fly from a distance.”
So I think that was one of the turning points. Another turning point was getting signed and getting to tour outside of Brazil. That was an awesome experience, when SubPop signed us. Things happened naturally. It wasn’t from day to night, like so fast, but it was kind of fast, and it felt natural.
Being from Brazil, you’re not necessarily as accessible to the rest of the world as bands in the States, for example. So along with that, have you felt any major setbacks as you’ve been gaining momentum?
Well, I think that Brazil is still a very sexist county. In a way, it’s changing. The whole world is changing—it’s connected now, with the web, anyway, but most Latin countries tend to be a little sexist.
We’ve never actually experienced something really bad, but we’ve had a lot of sexist comments made about us, like that we’re ugly, instead of someone just saying they don’t like the band because the music’s bad or something. This would not happen to a man, I feel, in Brazil.
Aside from that, we’ve never really had a lot of trouble, in that sense. When we signed to SubPop, we were trying so hard to make it work; we all had jobs, and we were trying to tour on the weekends, and we still couldn’t pay our bills. It was completely tiring, not to mention dangerous because we were driving on really bad roads. So finally, we were kind of giving up on the idea. We were like, “Oh, this is a fun band, but it’s not really gonna grow. There’s a limit to this kind of music that we’re doing here.”
So when SubPop signed us, it was like back on the game and going to the next level, which was playing all over the world!
Has there been any specific milestone that you recognize as an “I made it” moment?
I think of lots of moments. I think, especially, when we’ve had people that we admire playing with us, like Donita Sparks (of L7) came and sang “Pretend We’re Dead” with us. We had Jarvis Cocker (of The Pulp), and Primus. It’s really intense and amazing when someone you admire so much is working with you.
Something else, another situation, is when people cry or people write letters telling us that we’ve changed their lives. It’s really intense and powerful, and I think there’s no money that could buy that, you know? And also, lots of gigantic shows that we did, like mostly festivals.
What advice do you have for anyone that’s inspired by your band and how far you’ve come?
I think people should follow their dreams, and they should do things because they want to do things for themselves, and not just have a goal to be famous and successful—I don’t think it works like that. It has to come from a place of truth, and people feel that. So if it’s successful to you, and it’s good enough to you, people will feel that.
I think there’s a place for everyone, and you don’t need to necessarily be the biggest star ever. You just need to do things because you love it.
What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
It’s pretty exciting. August 29th we’re releasing our new record, so after that, I think things will really take off. We’ll have a single coming out in May, but after that, we’re going to have a US tour, and we’re going to go to Europe and Asia. We’re actually playing Fuji Rock in July, which is really important to us. We have a big, big connection with Japan, and with everything that happened, it feels good to be a part of something that I feel like they need now, which is energy. So I think it’s going to be kind of a busy year!
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