An interview with Ana Rezende of CSS.
by Megan Smith
When Brazilian all-girl quartet Cansei de Ser Sexy, better known as CSS, performs, it’s like seeing a fantastic pop revolution occur before your very eyes. The band name, an alleged Beyoncé quote, may translate into “I got tired of being sexy,” but these girls definitely have not lost their appeal. Band members Lovefoxxx, Ana Rezende, Luiza Sá, and Carolina Parra combine dance, pop, and punk sounds that have the colorful and badass feel of M.I.A. mixed with the smooth vocals of The xx. Their fourth full-length album, Planta, which was released last month, features dynamic and dance-inducing tracks like “Hangover” and “Into the Sun.” I had the pleasure of speaking with the band’s guitarist and keyboardist Ana Rezende about the band’s current tour, her thoughts on gay marriage, and their upcoming Houston show.
Megan Smith: I wanted to start out by saying that I saw you perform live back in 2008 at Austin City Limits. It was an amazing performance, and I kept thinking, “I don’t really know what’s going on in front of me, but I like it.” Do you remember that show?
Ana Rezende: Yes. That was an amazing show! We really liked that show. It was just so much fun.
Do you think it’s that kind of high-energy performance that keeps CSS fans coming back for more?
I think so. It’s very natural for us to perform like that. We have a very good interaction on stage. We’ve been doing that kind of performance for a long time, and I think it only gets better. We feel very comfortable doing shows, and it’s just a lot of fun for us, very natural. I think that’s the best part about it, because it doesn’t seem forced or anything, it’s just how it is. We’d never do it differently, and we haven’t done it differently. When you’re playing different shows every night in a different city, it can be very tiring. But, that’s one of the ways we keep it interesting with that natural energy. Interactions with the public are always different though, so it changes a lot.
If I remember correctly, it was around that time that one of your older songs “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex” was featured in an Apple iPod Touch commercial. A lot of up-and-coming bands seem to get a real boost from being featured in commercials these days. Was that a positive experience for CSS?
Yes. We chose to be in that commercial. We could have said no, but I think it was great because we were playing a lot of shows, especially in Europe, where we were much more popular, but that commercial really made it better for us here in the U.S., and that’s really great. Even now, when we play that song, people really, really love it. It’s not even a single from the album, which is the most interesting thing. It never became a single, but it’s one of the songs we can never stop playing. I think it’s always positive when more people are interested in what you’re doing.
Your music has definitely evolved since then. Although Planta doesn’t have the same “crazy house party” feel as your first album, it hasn’t lost that sexy, fun, electrified feel. What were the thoughts and emotions that went into this album versus your first few?
There are a lot of differences in this album. It’s the first record that we did outside of Brazil. We went to L.A. to write some songs, and we were scheduled to be there for a couple months, to see how it went. We ended up being there for almost a whole year and doing the whole record. So I think the whole L.A., California vibe was very important and inspired things for us. It’s also a reflection of how we are right now. We are much more mature people, and I think that translates a little bit on the record as well.
This is your first album since the band has been four members, instead of five. Has Adriano Cintra leaving impacted the band and your sound?
Yeah, it has. I think mainly because Adriano produced the records and wrote quite a lot of the songs, too. This time, we had to do it all ourselves and create another dynamic because things completely changed. That really impacted us, but in a really positive way, because it turned out to be a very pleasant way of doing things. It was the first time we worked with a producer outside of the band. Our producer was just amazing, and he made each day feel like a holiday. We never felt like it was work or that we were under any pressure. It was very organic. Going into it, we really didn’t know how it was going to be, but it turned out to be just a really nice time.
Some of your style, to me, mirrors a lot of queer performance art. I know several members of the band identify as gay or queer, but I’ve also read before that that you don’t want to be known as a “gay” or “queer” band. Is that true?
I think we do identify a lot with the whole queer community and scene—with our friends, with what we like, it’s just an extremely natural thing for us. We don’t have any problem being associated with that either. We love that! We wouldn’t be offended if people thought we were a gay or a queer band, because some of us are. We’re very proud of it.
Have you found that CSS has attracted a large gay fan base?
We do. We have a lot of gay fans. It’s actually been a really big part of the fan base since the beginning, and that’s very cool. Especially in Brazil, since we’ve been more popular there for a while, our fans will keep us up-to-date on all the queer slang there on Twitter.
We might be progressing here in the U.S., but marriage equality still isn’t legal in every part of the country like it is in Brazil. Do you think it’s a cultural difference?
To be honest, I was very surprised when gay marriage passed in Brazil, because I thought it would be awhile. But, what we did there was like what we did here—the Supreme Court there had to rule. Brazil is a very religious, Catholic country, so I think it would have been very difficult to pass if it was put to a popular vote or something like that. I was also very proud of Brazil, because it’s an amazing thing to happen. We’re one of the first countries in South America and one of the first countries in Latin America to do so. I think America is a long time coming, because of the amazing gay community that you have and how strong it is. Being gay is part of mainstream culture and has been for a long time, and I find it strange that when I think about the most developed countries in the world and think that America hasn’t given all its citizens those rights yet. One of our girlfriends from San Francisco actually got engaged after Prop 8 was overturned, which is really cute. I’m very proud of my country for having those rights for a few years and also really proud of America now for its progress.
You’ve been on the road for a while now. How’s the tour going so far?
It’s been great. We just did a show the day before yesterday at the Brooklyn Bowl, and we’ve done about three, four weeks of touring so far. Now we have a few days off before we go to Texas and Louisiana—which we love. We really like playing Texas, and we’re really excited to do that.
Should we expect any surprises at the Houston show?
Well, we always try to do every tour a little bit different. I’m not going to say anything to give it away, but it’ll definitely be a little different than last time we were there. But, we always try to have as much fun as we can and make others have as much fun as they can too.
CSS performs at Fitzgerald’s, 2706 White Oak Dr., on July 17. Tickets: fitzlivemusic.com.
Megan Smith is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.