CSS' Anniversary Tour Is Peak Nostalgia

CSS' Anniversary Tour Is Peak Nostalgia

By: Erica Russell
Mar 01, 2024

The dirty floors of the DIY basement shows were perpetually sticky. The photos were taken — with flash — at sharp, overhead angles, not on cellphones but on teeny-tiny digital cameras. Somebody was always wearing Day-Glo spandex and smudged eyeliner, and everybody looked like a hot mess. It was the mid-to-late 2000s, right in the thick of the hipster-blog boom and CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexy) were at the epicenter of the cultural soundtrack.

With their glittery, treble-busting songs such as "Alala," "Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above," and “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex” — famously featured in one of Apple’s iconic iPod commercials — the subversive Brazilian dance-punk band led by lead singer Lovefoxxx was one of the most omnipresent acts to emerge during the retroactively coined “indie sleaze” era, right alongside other bloghaus artists like Crystal Castles, Simian Mobile Disco and Uffie.

Formed in 2003 and named after a Portuguese translation of an alleged quote from Beyoncé, who was apparently “tired of being sexy,” CSS were never that serious — they just wanted to have some fun. The band was originally a means for its members to get out of work early and escape the oppressive daily grind. The neon-drenched group’s rise in the mid-aughties, and 2006 signing to Sub Pop Records, was propelled largely in part by the then-untamed internet, from indie music blogs to Flickr fashion accounts, MySpace and illegal, P2P music download programs like LimeWire.

Amid the Big Bad Bank-triggered economic crisis of 2008, their deliciously self-indulgent electro-rock sound and tongue-in-cheek lyrics appealed to a generation of wistful teens, college kids and clubgoers who were so not sorry for party rocking in their sequined forehead headbands and American Apparel disco pants. But just like the Great Recession, the bubble eventually popped for CSS too: By 2014, the music that was meant to be an escape from work had suddenly become a real job that was antithetical to the group's original M.O. coupled with some nasty internal disputes and a growing restlessness among its members, CSS went on a stunted hiatus.

Now, five years after reforming in 2019, CSS are going back on tour in North America for the first time in more than a decade. Kicking off May 3 in Washington, D.C., and fueled entirely by nostalgia and the joy of reconnecting amid their 20th anniversary, current members Lovefoxxx, Ana Rezende, Carolina Parra and Luiza Sá are eager to reintroduce their buoyant brand of ‘00s dancefloor hedonism on the cheekily titled It’s Been a Number of Years Tour.

“All the girls live in Los Angeles, I live in São Paulo. We all have different careers right now, and we are all very satisfied with our personal and professional lives. We're in such a lucky position to be able to come back after 11 years with no new album, just to do this one more time and have some fun,” Lovefoxxx tells PAPER about the tour, which will also include dates in the U.K. and Europe.

Below, Lovefoxxx shares her wildest and most emotional tour memories, reflects on CSS’ journey together, and waxes poetic about the unsung era now called “indie sleaze.”

How are you guys preparing for this first tour after so many years? Are you anxious? Eager to get back out there?

We’re excited to get together and tour because, even more than the shows, we just love hanging out together and going out to eat, you know? The show is a great excuse and who has this kind of chance? Like, which group of girlfriends has a band? It's very unique and special. We played Primavera São Paulo in December last year. Every time we play Brazil, it's bigger, somehow, emotionally than anywhere else, because it's where we're from. Now that we've done it, we're like, “OK, we got it.” It's kind of like performing in front of your parents.

You ripped the Band-Aid off. And there’s no fans in the entire world like Brazilian music fans.

You know when you're playing a video game, and there's the boss in the final level? Playing Brazil is kind of like playing the last level of the video game. Not that it's easy to play Webster Hall, but I think it's just gonna be fun. There's no pressure on us. This is a reunion tour, it's not really a comeback.

What do you guys like to do after a show? Do you go out and party?

Depending on the hour, something that we always did was go out to eat. Like in Japan, we would go to the random ramen place inside the bus station that had the best ramen. Ana and Carolina are good researchers, so they’ll research what kind of beer to have, what kind of local food to eat. But after the most recent shows we played, we just wanted to wear cotton pants and debrief the show together—have a nice drink or even tea and talk about how everything was for us, make jokes and be silly. We’ve never been too much into partying after shows unless we were in Austin because there was always a DJ gig afterward.

What makes a CSS show a CSS show?

We could be you, you know? We could be your friends. We never dreamed of being on stage, or being an international band, or being famous. We just wanted to leave work at a decent time. We started the band to have an excuse to leave work. You know when you see someone having loads of fun at karaoke? We’re just having a great time and stoked to be on stage.

What are your wildest memories from your early days performing?

We did our first tour in July 2006 opening for Diplo, and then we went to Europe. I was blown away that people knew us and were singing the lyrics. Then when we came back to America, we were supporting Ladytron and more people were singing our songs. Yhen we went to Japan and Russia. We played a free show in Casablanca and there were girls in burqas in the front row. I had diarrhea ‘cause I had food poisoning, but I was keeping it all inside for those girls, like, “Those girls are everything to me right now!” Last year, when we played Primavera São Paulo, the roar of people waiting for us when we got on stage was so loud. I was surprised because it had been so many years and people still love us. That was pretty mind-blowing.

I remember you used to go dance with the fans in the audience and crowd-surf a lot at your shows. When’s the last time you crowd-surfed?

It wasn't at these last few festivals we played in Brazil because [the stage] was too far from the crowd. The last time I crowd-surfed was probably in Australia in 2014 when we played Big Day Out.

I read a long time ago that you felt you came more from the fashion scene than the rock scene, and I’ve always considered you a fashion icon. What will Lovefoxxx turn out sartorially on this tour?

I'm already working with a friend on some outfits. I started using jumpsuits and unitards because I love the look of surfers, but it’s like that meme about expectations and reality because, in reality, I look nothing like a surfer. It's gonna be colorful—maybe an ode to those looks of the past, but with something comfortable. Everyone has looks nowadays, so maybe I would like to break that and do an anti-look, like just shorts and a T-shirt under something else, you know? And then sneakers… with arch support. But always something for the gays, and always something for myself, too. It has to be beautiful.

Considering the state of the world right now, people are desperate for an escape and I think we turn to nostalgia for that. What are you nostalgic for?

I talk about this a lot in therapy, but I really love my story. I moved to São Paulo by myself when I was 16. I wanted to work in fashion, I was studying, I had two jobs and I just had so much audacity. So I’m kind of nostalgic for the person that I was at 18 or 19, who wanted so much of the world. Now I’ve conquered a lot of that, and maybe it’s a very privileged place to be, but that's what I’m nostalgic for: being such a big dreamer. But I don't miss my entire mind back then because I was also an emo teenager.

CSS was one of the earlier acts to build a fanbase with the help of the internet and song downloads. Looking back, what was it like being online as a musician at the time?

It was very natural for us. At the time, we were asked about the internet by a lot of journalists who were older than us. We didn't even understand the question. It was like asking a fish about water because we were so immersed in that, but now I understand. You know, we thought Metallica was super cringe because they were fighting against Napster and we just wanted people to know our music. It felt great to be in front of that movement because we didn’t have any albums out, but we were touring all over Brazil just because of having our songs online. The internet was always part of our career in a very organic way.

A lot of new music that’s popular right now, across all genres, is very curated and sleek. When I think back to the era in which CSS exploded in the indie rock electro scenes, it was very messy and free and raw. There was an unpolished authenticity that I remember feeling really freeing as a teen and in my early 20s. Why do you think people are so drawn to that era?

I remember when the 2010s came around, it suddenly became the era of the bloggers and the It Girls. I remember thinking everybody just wanted to look good and be pretty; nobody wanted to be funny or look like shit and just have fun anymore. What a waste! But I still DJ and every time I go to a little club run by some young kids, there's always weird, messy-looking people ready to go with the hot glue gun and glitter. I love the influence 2000s electro has had—it was the closest to a new kind of punk because it was very DIY. You just needed to have some backing track and a microphone and you could make music. And there were a lot of women in the electro scene; everything was super free and not that serious, which is a great environment for creativity. So much more so than looking good in a photograph.

What do you make of the indie sleaze revival? What does that phrase conjure for you?

Party photos, right? Cobrasnake really created something special and encapsulated the aesthetic of the time. All those parties, and people always sitting on the floor. I think of it as a naive time, and it's been 20 years already. I remember when I was 19, we were nostalgic for the ‘80s, which is when I was born and which also seemed like such a long time ago at the time. And now people are revisiting [the mid-to-late 2000s]. That's the 20-year cycle. But I love it, and I’m happy it’s making a comeback. And I love those images because they make me think of an internet that wasn't so boring. Instagram looks like LinkedIn now.

Will there ever be another CSS album?

We were working on some demos in 2019 but then the pandemic came and the whole world shut down. We got kind of the opposite of excited. At the moment, we don't think about it. We’re focusing on this tour, because our lives have changed so much. I’m hitting the studio every day, for nine hours, just painting a lot and very excited about [my art career]. I just had my first show last year and it was a huge success, and now I'm going to art fairs all over the world, so I’m really looking forward to that. So, at the moment, we don’t have plans to make new music, but I’d never say we’ll never make anything new again because we were already on that path.

Are you still tired of being sexy?

I mean, more than ever now, right? You know, the name of the band was something that I was ashamed of in the beginning, even though I suggested it. But I think now it's such a great name. It really represents us. I think if there's a time to be tired of being sexy, it’s right now.

Photography: Gleeson Paulino