Many Tongues And Lots Of Fun With Stereo Total

For Stereo Total, being a multilingual punk rock band also has its humorous moments, especially when it involved corporate advertising, says singer Françoise "Cactus" Hove. "They wanted to take the song 'L'amour à 3' and put a man, a woman and a ham in the bed. I said 'No, no, no. My boyfriend is vegetarian and this is too disgusting. Forget it.'"

- Dara Hakimzadeh
Photos by Sheila Busteed

posted October 8, 2007

Many Tongues And Lots Of Fun With Stereo Total

     Stereo Total’s lead singer, Françoise “Cactus” Hove, has a passport that would probably make even a few diplomats jealous. She’s been to over 19 countries with bandmate Brezel “Pretzel” Göring and says meeting new people has propelled her love of language – many languages.

     “At the beginning, I was writing songs in French and mostly playing in countries like Germany, Switzerland and Austria and I was thinking, ‘This is stupid! I’m writing these beautiful songs and nobody understands them. That’s not good.’ So I started writing songs in German,” explains Hove in a thick Parisian accent.

     She grew up in Villeneuve l'Archeveque, a small town in the Burgundy region of France, but moved to Berlin, Germany, in the mid ‘80s and joined the Genius Dilettantes movement, which involves artists with no formal training creating music based on their ideas.

     “Living in Paris, I thought for a musician or an artist it’s not for me,” she says. “It’s really stressful, really expensive and really difficult. Berlin was not so pretty but there was a community of artists and artistic movements.”

     In 1996, Stereo Total released its first album, Oh Ah, featuring a cover of Salt and Peppa’s “Push It.” The band’s most recent release, 2007’s Paris – Berlin, is its ninth album.

     “Normally when we record an album, I never listen to it but this one I’m listening to it sometimes. I like it because it sounds so natural. It sounds rough; [it] sounds like a live concert,” she says.

     Hove adds that a turning point for the band linguistically was in 1998 when touring took them to Japan and she decided to sing in Japanese.

     “When we were singing in Japan, everyone was laughing and at some point I wondered, ‘Is my accent so horrible or is that because this person made me a strange translation,’” says Hove.

     Part of her creative process involves having friends translate lyrics for her or help her improve her pronunciations.

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     “Now I’m recording lots of songs in Portuguese because we have a Brazilian neighbor, and also in Spanish. I like to try out different languages, and I think when we go playing somewhere, the people really enjoy it if you sing a little bit in their language. It’s more open-minded.”

     Hove says all the languages she has tried to speak have been an enjoyable challenge.

     “I have tried to sing in Icelandic and this is really, I’ve never met such a difficult language because it sounds like haa-hooo shhiihhh-umm. It’s really bizarre. There are special intonations so it’s really, really difficult.”

     Being a multilingual punk rock band also has its humorous moments, especially when it involved corporate advertising, says Hove.

     “They wanted to take the song ‘L’amour à 3’ and put a man, a woman and a ham in the bed. I said ‘No, no, no. My boyfriend is vegetarian and this is too disgusting. Forget it,’” she says with a laugh.