CSS Donkey

CSS Donkey
With their 2006 eponymous debut, CSS coaxed droves of guitar rock fans out of their comfort zones and onto the dance floor. Two years later, the Brazilian quintet have duly reciprocated with a more straightforward rock album that’s ultimately pretty one-dimensional. Sure, the hooks are there and can be great fun for a couple of listens but what was so satisfying about the debut was its irreverence, wit and its penchant to both celebrate and parody hedonism. It was those subtleties that gave those Saturday night anthems the remarkably long shelf lives they enjoyed. On this record, many of those nuances are gone, save for the icy-cool swagger of "Move,” which bubbles suggestively like a disco-fied early Madonna track. Instead of more of this fare we’re repeatedly subjected to an overused post-grunge-meets-new wave template, with Lovefoxxx hissing irately at boys or half-heartedly urging us to "reggae all night” on a song that doesn’t betray even the slightest reggae influence. CSS are certainly capable of more than this one-trick donkey.

What have you been up to?
Luise Hanae Matsushita (aka Lovefoxxx): We came back a few days ago from three shows in Germany. We’re always touring.

How have the dates been so far?
Germany was a bit weird because they just love their heavy metal. We’ve played some shows with our new songs. We did a small MTV tour and it went pretty well. People weren’t thinking the new songs were too weird.

  How have your new songs have been received?
I think it was just like the same vibe. It’s not like they went from summer to winter. Of course it’s not going to have the same impact as songs that people really like, like "Off the Hook,” "Alala” and of course, "Let’s Make Love.” I can’t wait for people to know our songs. I just can’t play those songs anymore, the old ones.

Over the past year, you played a ton of shows and the only time you took off was to record. Why such a heavy work schedule?
It’s because the release of the first record was just a mess. It first came out in October in Brazil and then it came out in July 2006 outside Brazil. It wasn’t really a release because there were a lot of tracks already on the internet. And then, we used to have a manager [Eduardo Ramos]; he ripped us off and he left us with lots of debt and it was very, very fucked. And we needed to release the new record like this otherwise we would lose the momentum and all this fucking stuff.

  How did he rip you off?
I don’t want to get so much into details but he managed to rip us off. But we were so naïve, we were so inexperienced. We thought he was a friend of ours, and we thought he was just a bit messy, that’s why we were not getting paid, but actually he was a psycho. He was horrible. But now I’m very happy because he suffers from kidney stones. [Laughs]

How was the writing of the new record different from the first?
Adriano writes all the songs and I write the lyrics. The main difference between this album and the first one is that when he was writing the first one he did it while he was working at his old job. In between jobs he would make some songs. But now if we are on tour, he would always grab the guitar and do some demos. Also when we did the first one, we had no idea how we were as a band, how we would sound. I think the first album was like a producer’s dream. Not a dream — he was like, just getting crazy on the computer. To play the songs [live] we had to rearrange everything, because we couldn’t play them because there were so many layers. With this one we really wanted to do something closer to what we already do. I think that if you are somebody who comes to our shows a lot, I think the first record sounds even closer to Donkey live because it doesn’t sound anything like how it’s recorded. We sound like a band and I think the first record doesn’t sound like a band. I’m very glad Donkey sounds like a band.

Was it a conscious decision to make Donkey sound rawer and more rock-oriented?
Adriano wrote the songs and I’m just copying what he said. When he was making the songs we were so stressed last year and he was just listening to old stuff he used to listen to when he was a teenager, like Sebadoh and Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and the Pixies, and I think that really influenced the way that he wrote. He writes thinking of who’s going to play, like for the girls. We never made a decision.

Ira [Trevisan, ex-bassist] said she left because she wanted to pursue other interests, like fashion. She said her priorities changed. From your perspective, were there any other reasons?
Music was never a priority for her. She never played the bass well. In November, we started recording the new tracks. She just couldn’t play the new bass lines. Adriano had to make them so much simpler and it was very frustrating. When she would play it would sound like crap, it would sound like a fart. At least she was very decent because she said, "I don't want to keep you guys from evolving so I’ll just leave.” This is why she left: because she couldn’t play bass. And I’m very glad she left because one of the reasons why we didn’t do anything new last year was because of her. She was always pushing us back and it was very annoying for me.

Have your expectations changed from the first record?
The thing is, I didn’t have expectations the first time around. I have some expectations now. I already know what’s going to happen throughout the year. The expectations are based on this. Of course, there are record label expectations but I don’t want to know about them because I don’t think it would help. (Sub Pop)