Multilingual band brings punk twist to synth-pop base

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There are a few things you should know about Stereo Total. One is that “Total” is pronounced “Toe-TAL”; another is that Stereo Total is out-of-this-world outrageous.

Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring make up Stereo Total, a multilingual, Berlin-based, French-German duo that makes absurdist synth-pop with a punk twist.

If that sounds like too much to soak in, consider this: Stereo Total has been making New Wave-inspired electronic music since 1993 and their songs, typically sung in German, French and English, are sometimes also sung in Japanese, Spanish and even Turkish.

It makes sense that a band with such longevity and a fondness for languages would have a cult following worldwide as well. With 11 albums under their belt, Stereo Total has consistently put out art-house-worthy, dance-inducing music for nearly two decades. In anticipation of their Saturday show at The Mohawk, The Daily Texan spoke with lead singer and drummer Françoise Cactus about partying with weirdos in Lithuania, boring ‘90s fashion and what Europeans really think about Texas.

The Daily Texan: Hi! How are you doing?

Françoise Cactus: I’m fine, thank you! We just arrived in Chicago and we are playing tonight at The Empty Bottle.

DT: Awesome. So I guess my first question, since you tour pretty regularly in Europe: What differences do you find between European and American audiences?

FC: I think they are kind of similar. It’s friendly and good here; we have lots of girls in the audience and I won’t say that Americans are like Europeans. I guess they are kind of the same ... but American music is rock ‘n’ roll more than Europe’s.

DT: You and Brezel have covered a lot of famous songs over the years — I just heard your cover of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” — what’s the impetus for creating so many covers of the “classics?”

FC: We just cover songs that we love! We have ideas to make them sound different than the original. We don’t want to sound like [the original] ... We are influenced by them because we like to cover them. We have covers from Brigitte Bardot [to] ... KC and the Sunshine Band. But yes, the songs we like to cover are kind of an homage to the artists we like.

DT: I know Stereo Total takes a lot of cues, stylistically, from earlier decades. So if Stereo Total could take a time machine to one specific year and play a sold-out show in that year, when would that be?

FC: [laughs] For me, I would like to be in the 19th century, you know, like Madame Bovary — she had two boyfriends! I don’t know; I like the clothes from that time. I would not like to have been in the Middle Ages — I’m sure it was stinky and everything.

DT: Speaking of clothes, I noticed you have a pretty unique sense of fashion. Who are your fashion icons?

FC: I really like the ‘60s style — like in the movie “Who Are You, Polly Magoo?” — lots of good stuff, really great. It’s comparable to what I like, I suppose. I don’t like ‘90s clothing style; it’s really boring. And I think it’s too sporty the way people wear clothes now. It’s not original enough — with jeans and T-shirts and sports shoes — it looks so boring. I hope I’m not offending you. [laughs]

DT: I might be if I weren’t wearing khakis and an Oxford shirt right now, because jeans and T-shirts are what I typically wear. Alright, another strange question. How would you describe your perfect sandwich?

FC: I cannot eat bread; I’m allergic to wheat! But I’d put good stuff in it like tomatoes, a little bacon. Actually, I love everything except watermelons. You know what I don’t like? When they put too many things in the sandwich. ‘I’m OK, I’m OK, OK?’ I’ll say. I don’t like when they put everything in the sandwich. It’s too runny.

DT: So you and Brezel have been touring for about 16 years now — and considering you’ve been all over the world — what’s your favorite country to play in?

FC: I really like to be on tour in the U.S. and I don’t say that because you’re American, but I just love to play New York and L.A. and San Francisco. It’s always a good place to be. We like to play in South America, you know, and Mexico City. [We once played] in the middle of Siberia; that was really fun. We had brought a lot of big coats with us we didn’t even use. [laughs] But we love to play every country. Oh, and I love to play in Spain and Italy.

DT: Has anything really crazy happened on tour in any of those countries?

FC: Before we were here, we were playing in a little country far away from everything — in Lithuania — and everybody was wearing mohawks and crazy hairdos and frightening makeup! Not even one normal-looking person. [laughs]

DT: That sounds interesting. I have one last question ... what do you and other Europeans think about Texas?

FC: What do I think about Texas? That they eat a lot of meat there, nah?

DT: You’re right.

FC: [laughs] I think it can be completely different, depending on where you are in Texas. I think the countryside would be too boring to me, even if it looks good, but I think Austin is really fun and I like to be there.

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WHO: Stereo Total with Masonic and Candi and the Strangers
WHERE: Mohawk
WHEN: Saturday, 9 p.m.
TICKETS: $12 advance, $14 at the door