Here come Australia's favourite faux-German headbangers, Die Roten Punkte, with a new party-hardy album and old sibling antipathy.
After a four-year absence from the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, Teutonic siblings Astrid and Otto return with their rock 'n' role act, a mash-up of cabaret concert and fictitious family comedy. The strain on their relationship from touring Europe in a bus as the opening act for punk star Amanda Palmer was evident during a recent interview.
"It's very hard to travel with your brother," says bossy big sis Astrid over the telephone from a tour stop in Victoria, B.C. "To be honest, sometimes Otto does extreme things. He often calls the police because he thinks I'm missing. All I've done is go out for a couple of days. He is on the public-nuisance record for calling the police too many times."
An irritated Otto, known offstage as Daniel Tobias, can be heard interjecting that Astrid is also on the public-nuisance list because of her partying.
Answers Astrid, a.k.a. Claire Bartholomew, "But I had a good time getting there. You stay at home."
The brother-sister band from Berlin, whose performances have been described as punk rock-meets-Eurovision, still bicker about how their parents left them orphaned: she says they were run over by a train, while he contends they were devoured by a lion. One thing they agree on is that their brand of Krautrock keeps them together.
"When Otto and I are onstage, we're fearless," says Astrid. "It's like magic. I think the audience feels we're having a good time. That's why they want to rock, bang and make a party."
The new album Eurosmash! -- which will be available following shows at the Pyramid Cabaret -- is the followup to Kunst Rock (Art Rock), which they unveiled here in 2010. One of the numbers, Do You Speak Dance?, imagines the pair being asked by NASA to act as ambassadors for the world; they find only one common language with aliens they meet.
"Kunst Art was arty but didn't have a lot of hits," says Astrid. "It wasn't so popular. With Eurosmash!, I was thinking, 'Let's have some hits, pop hits, dance hits and rock hits."
When Otto talks about his contribution to the record and his interest in saving the planet that are contained in the song Good Choices, Astrid cuts in, saying that the environmental concerns were fine and good, but that they have other needs to satisfy, too.
"We have to make some money," she complains. "We have bills to pay. It's not cheap being a rock 'n' roll band. We have a lifestyle to maintain. Otto is on a platform of high horse."
The two profess a soft spot for this city and plan to shoot a short day-in-the-life of Die Roten Punkte (the Red Dots) film during the band's Winnipeg run. For a proposed followup feature film the pair has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $40,000. A $100 contribution gets a 20-minute Skype chat with Astrid and Otto on a topic of your choice. For $75 you get a signed bananenhaus, Otto's favourite fruit-protection device that keeps bananas safe.
The duo fondly remember their 2007 debut, when they first felt the love of fringe-goers who dressed up like lions and robots and sing along to Ich Bin Nicht ein Roboter (I Am a Lion). They are only appearing at one fringe festival this year -- Winnipeg's.
"We're really excited to be coming back," Astrid says. "We just hope people remember us. We just want to make a party and a cool movie. We hope people want to be part of it.
"We feel Winnipeg has our biggest fans in the world. It was the first town we felt we were getting some success. People threw a party for us."
For their new show, she will be strutting around in a new dress, a silver lamé number she describes as a silver fish meets the Ice Queen. Astrid was likely inspired by Eurovision, the annual European song contest that captures the best and worst of the continent's music and stage fashion.
"I think Otto and I are a little like that, the best and worst of Europe," she says. "At our best, we are rocking out and fireworks is going off.
"At our worst, we're screaming at each other and throwing food at each other in a car park somewhere. Hopefully that won't happen in Winnipeg."