Die Roten Punkte brings on the rock and the snark
Interviewing Die Roten Punkte is a tricky proposition at the best of times. Otto and Astrid Rot never break character, always insisting that, yes, Die Roten Punkte is an actual rock band, and that, no—despite persistent rumours to the contrary—it’s not a comedy duo. The two also claim to be German siblings and not unrelated Australian theatre artists. The truth, as Fox Mulder used to say, is out there, but it’s not as “out there” as Die Roten Punkte.
Needless to say, getting anything close to a forthright answer is out of the question when the Straight finally manages to get the Rots on the phone. It doesn’t help matters that the call gets dropped after a few minutes, and that subsequent calls to Otto and Astrid go directly to voice mail. Not their voice mail, mind you, but that of a very American-sounding fellow named Brian and his significant other, Amy. But when the purported Germans are finally tracked down in New York and the interview begins in earnest, the talk quickly turns, naturally, to bananas.
“If you were a scientist, and you were trying to develop the best food to eat for nutrition and digestion, if you eat ripe bananas, it’s like the most perfect thing,” says Otto in a Sprockets-worthy Teutonic accent. “I was seeing how many bananas I could eat in a day, and then I looked up on this website on the Internet called 30 Bananas a Day, and there’s all these athletes who are eating lots and lots of bananas. So I tried it, and my record in one day is 44 bananas.”
All of this is apropos of the fact that Otto follows a strict raw vegan diet and abstains from alcohol and drugs, which is in marked contrast to his sister’s alleged hard-partying ways. Such is his love for bananas, in fact, that he wrote a song (featured on Die Roten Punkte’s 2010 album Kunst Rock) called “Bananenhaus (Banana House)”, which is about a protective carrying case for the fruit. There’s a local connection there: the Banana Guard was invented in Vancouver by three surgeons, who happen to be friends of the band.
Carrying the theme to the point of absurdity (which is a Die Roten Punkte specialty), the duo’s new album Eurosmash! and the stage show of the same name feature a song called “Look at My Fruit”, of which Otto is evidently quite proud. His sister has her own take on it.
“It’s not the best song on the new album, I have to say,” she chips in.
“Oh, it’s a great song,” Otto insists.
“I wrote a really good song for the new album, Eurosmash!,” Astrid says. “It’s called ‘Body Slam’, and it’s all about what I like to do on a date. It’s all about getting physical and close to people. And I do lots of wrestling moves.”
In spite of their apparent differences, the Rots have managed to stick together for four records and a number of world tours. The key, Astrid indicates, is not being in one another’s personal space 24/7.
“We are coming up with a few compromises to our touring situation,” she says. “So right now Otto and I are staying only five minutes away from each other, but just in different apartments. And that is really helping, because he doesn’t know what I do or where I go so much. He cannot find me all the time, so this is good.”
“Yeah,” her brother says. “Sometimes, I have to call the police to find out where Astrid is.”
“No, you don’t,” she counters. “I am just having a good time, and then I am always there in the end. You don’t have to wait that long for me.”
“But if I don’t know where you are, I ring around in a few places,” he says. “Then if you’re not there, I call the police, and they can tell me.”
“Yeah, well, don’t call the police, ’cause that’s just being a nuisance.”
The local constabulary can probably expect to field a few questionable phone calls when Otto and Astrid Rot come to town, but what of theatregoers? Those who have caught the duo’s past Vancouver appearances already know that a Die Roten Punkte show plays out like a rock concert with plenty of snarky banter in between the songs. According to Astrid, she and her sibling will also be showing off a few new moves. “The music is a lot more dance-y, so there’s a lot more choreography,” she reveals. “Otto and I got a choreographer in. In Super Musikant a few years ago, we did a bit of a dance number to ‘Ich Bin Nicht Ein Roboter (I Am a Lion)’, but this new album has a lot more dance music.”
As usual, the pair will be playing their absurdly undersize instruments, including Astrid’s wee drum kit. This, she claims, is where her penchant for booze is an asset. “My drums are very small, and I have to focus on them, otherwise I can miss,” she explains. “But with a couple of drinks behind me, I am focused and strong.”
“It’s true,” Otto concedes. “It makes you hit the drums harder, and it makes you miss with more force, I think.”
As for Otto, he plays scaled-down six-strings. The Straight is about to suggest that, when he’s in Vancouver, he pay a visit to luthier and musician Cal Thompson, who makes all of the Little Guitar Army’s miniature axes. But that’s when the line goes dead, and the next voice your flummoxed correspondent hears is saying the following: “Howdy-ho! This is Brian and Amy!”
Die Roten Punkte presents Eurosmash! at the Cultch from Tuesday to next Sunday (August 28 to September 2).