The funny business of turning music into ‘Art’Take everything that follows with a grain of salt. Otto and Astrid Rot comprise the greatest band you’ve likely never heard of and they have quite a story to tell. Tragically, horrifically orphaned at a tender age, the German siblings were then subjected to an abusive aunt and uncle before finally fleeing for the squats of Berlin. They channeled their torment into Die Roten Punkte, “the greatest band in the world,” which got its start as a hilarious Fringe show that’s blossomed into a touring production and spawned three albums so far, including their newest record, Kunst Rock. The Rots poke with WE from a hotel room in Los Angeles, where they’re resting up before making their grand return to Vancouver, home of their beloved Banana Guards.
WE: Have you adopted an LA rock star lifestyle?
Otto: Oh yeah. Last night we were kicking by the pool, that’s how they say it here. You don’t actually do any kicking, though, that would be dangerous. Astrid is here, too.
Astrid: I just got home, so I am a little bit kooky.
Did you do the “walk of shame” home?
Astrid: There was no shame. It was a cool night.
Otto: You have to be careful with Astrid because she was in drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Astrid: Stop it, Otto. That’s private. Shut up. I was having a great time. I went to a cabaret night last night. It was very cool. And then we went dancing later, it was very nice... You made a mistake going home so early Otto.
Otto: But the hotel has high speed Internet.
What kinds of things do you do that you require such a high speed?
Otto: Talk to friends and make videos. I have friends in bands all over the world. Also lots of straight edge friends, like people into politics and food. We’re always talking about lots of straight edge — do you know what straight edge is?
Umm, more conservative?
Astrid: No, she doesn’t want to know.
Otto: It surprises me because it’s so famous everywhere, I thought everyone knew.
Astrid: It’s boring Otto, no one cares.
Otto: In the 1980s there was a new movement of punk music and it was coming out of Washington and it was a whole lot of people listening to bands like Minor Threat. It was people who listened to hard edge rock ‘n’ roll music, but also talking about social issues in the world and caring about the world and not taking alcohol or drugs.
Like the rock version of Family Ties?
Maybe. Can you tell me a little bit about how you came together as a band?
Otto: We grew up outside Berlin in Grunewald, and then it was very sad, when we were little and on our way to the zoo, our parents they were killed by a lion. The zoo was very close by. So we had to go home with no parents —
Astrid: That’s not true at all. What happened was we were on the way to the zoo for my 12th birthday and our parents were killed by a train —
Otto: It was a lion!
Astrid: That’s completely stupid.
Otto: It was a lion!
Astrid: Andrea, you don’t believe it was a lion, right?
I respect both your versions.
Astrid: It would be a big news item: Lion escapes from a German zoo, killing two people. It was a train and afterwards when we were home we were all alone and our aunt and uncle came to stay with us and were very nasty.
Otto: They made us do cooking and chopping wood and dancing.
Astrid: Anyways, I took Otto and we ran away to Berlin and it was the late ’80s and we lived in a squat —
Otto: Do you know what a squat is? No furniture, concrete everywhere.
Astrid: Yes, she knows. There were lots of musicians everywhere in Kreutzberg and I guess it was just inevitable that we would end up in a band. I was going out to see lots of bands, but nobody seemed to want to be in a band with Otto and I, so I was like, don’t worry Otto, we will just make our own band and we’ll be the best band in the whole world. Pretty much that’s what’s come true.
You have the title of best band in the world?
Astrid: Well, we wrote the song first and have the t-shirts. The t-shirts say “I’m in a band,” but really, if you look between the lines, read the subtext, it really says “I’m in the best band in the whole world.”
Do you have peers that you feel are almost as good as you?
Astrid: There are lots of those bands, but they’re not playing so much now. David Bowie —
Otto: There are lots of bands that we love and whose energy we’d like to be like.
Astrid: I really like Blondie.
Otto: Devo, Talking Heads, B52s.
Astrid: I like Florence and the Machine and Arcade Fire.
Otto: We love Arcade Fire. I love Tegan and Sara.
Otto: They live in Vancouver? No way! I wonder if we could get them to come to our concert?
Astrid: They’re probably busy, Otto. Touring somewhere in the world.
Otto: I’m going to Facebook them.
Astrid: They wouldn’t be answering their Facebook. They would have somebody else answering their Facebook. We’re the only ones who answer our own Facebook.
Tell me a bit about the new album.
Astrid: We wrote a rock opera in six parts in the middle of the show and it tells the whole story of after our parents died.
Is it a bit darker?
Otto: There are dark moments and happy moments. It’s kind of like a cross between The Who Sell Out, the mini rock opera before Tommy, and Green Day, we were really influenced by them in the last two albums as well, like with American Idiot and “Jesus of Suburbia.” So we just wanted to write our own rock opera of our own story.
Astrid: We also have a Go-Gos track called “Bad is Good.”
Is there a single for the album?
Astrid: Well, the first one is called “Burger Store Dinosaur” and the second one is called “Bananenhaus.”
Otto: That is about a Vancouver invention! Do you know the Banana Guard?
Astrid: We know them, we met them!
Otto: They’re on our t-shirts.
Die Roten Punkte perform to Aug. 13 at The Cultch (1895 Venables), 7pm. Late shows Aug. 6, 13, 10pm. $16-$25 from TheCultch.com