When they were children, a tragedy ripped apart the lives of German siblings Otto and Astrid Rot. Their parents were killed by a train. Or a lion. Or a lion on a train. Whatever it was, it left the two orphaned and homeless, and they grew up in squats, with only each other to rely on. Along the way, they taught themselves to play music, eventually forming a duo called Die Roten Punkte (that’s the Red Dots to the Germanically impaired among us). Otto and Astrid have since toured the world, sharing songs such as “Rock Bang!” and “Burger Store Dinosaur” with audiences that have been just as inclined to laugh at their absurdity as they are to appreciate their new-wave-flavoured infectiousness.
If all of the above sounds a tad far-fetched, that’s because the history of the Rots is a total fabrication, an invented back story for a fictitious band. Well, the touring-the-world part is true, but Die Roten Punkte are more at home at theatre festivals and comedy clubs than they are in rock ’n’ roll venues. Good luck getting Otto to admit that, though. When the Straight asks him to shed light on the rumour that he and his alleged sister are actually a pair of Australian actors named Daniel Tobias and Clare Bartholomew, he sidesteps the question without breaking character.
“It’s weird for us to play in comedy festivals and theatre festivals, which we are being booked in all over the place,” says Otto from, funny enough, Melbourne. “We take expressing our art through music very seriously. Being a serious art-rock band, it’s difficult for us to hear people laughing sometimes in the audience. But it’s okay for me, because people express themselves in different ways. And as long as people are feeling something and enjoying themselves”¦.I don’t mind that people call it different names, as long as people get something from our concert.”
Whatever level they’re enjoying it on, Die Roten Punkte have evidently made some fans locally, thanks to past appearances at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival. Otto says the love is mutual, noting that he enjoys hanging out on Commercial Drive and munching raw vegan fare at Gorilla Food. A long-time health nut, the singer and multi-instrumentalist abstains from indulging in alcohol and illicit drugs. His sister? Not so much, and her notorious, chemically fuelled antics often prevent him from enjoying his time in all the cities that Die Roten Punkte visit.
“Sometimes I have to spend a lot of time making phone calls and finding out where Astrid is,” Otto says ruefully. “It’s like I’m a little bit of a detective. I have to find out where she was and where she’s going and stuff. And it’s hard, because she doesn’t like me to follow her, so I have to do it very secretly.”
Astrid, Otto reveals, spends a lot of her time hiding from debt collectors—when she’s not getting in dust-ups with other female rockers she encounters backstage, that is. “She hit Courtney Love in the face with her shoe, and they were rolling around the floor fighting, and then they were kissing,” Otto says of one such incident. “It was really strange. And then, of course, Astrid, she ended up in rehab again. It’s like this never-ending cycle with her.”
When she emerges, though, the drumming half of the duo is always ready to rock, and, armed with a collection of scaled-down axes that would make Little Guitar Army drool with envy, so is Otto. He’s not modest about what the audience can expect from a Die Roten Punkte performance: “When we get on-stage, it’s magic. It’s going to be the greatest rock ’n’ roll concert you’ve ever seen.”
And that’s the truth. Or is it?
Die Roten Punkte performs its Kunst Rock show at the Cultch from Tuesday (August 2) to August 13.