Stereo Total are a playful, madly eclectic duo, who like synth pop, new wave and electronica, and Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc. They are proud of the fact that even though they’ve made a lot of records ‘they all sound the same’ and they ‘have made so little progress’.
For a person who hasn’t had a huge amount of sleep in the past few days, Brezel Göring, one half of Stereo Total, is brimming over with enthusiasm for their latest project, the film score of Underwater Love, directed by Shinji Imaoka. Described by an equally exuberant Christopher Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express), who was the cinematographer on this fast-paced project, as a musical comedy with sex and dancing, Underwater Love is a pink film – soft-core porn – filmed in five and a half days (it’s usually five for a pink film, but Doyle was given a little leeway) and tells the story of Asuka (Sawa Masaki), who’s about to marry her boring boyfriend but has an erotic romance with a water spirit instead. Producer Stephan Holl approached the duo, and they couldn’t turn the chance of writing their first film score down. Göring says: ‘He connected all the loose ends, chased down all these people who would never have thought of being involved in such a project and got them to do it. And I’m always excited about working on things which are different.’
Stereo Total, who ‘more or less make music that [they] want to listen to’ had no idea what a pink film was, so Holl sent over a pile of DVDs and he and Françoise Cactus, the other half of the band, sat down and watched them. It was a bit of an eye-opener. ‘I was really insistent that I didn’t want to make music for a movie where young girls aren’t treated well, because, you know, in some Japanese movies that’s really common, they can be really violent, but I thought this was funny and original. I loved the girl with the big tits, with the sunburn (another love interest of the water spirit), and the hippy God of Death was fun.’
The filming may have been speedy, but the musical part took a little longer. ‘Three years, I think,’ says Göring. ‘We got the storyboard and then we did the music and then the singing.’ Cactus sings the lyrics in Japanese: ‘I know that I have a French accent when I speak, so I was a bit worried about that, but I had a Japanese teacher and she told me how to pronounce the words, and everybody seemed to think it was funny.’ Göring had finished the music ‘and then the whole script was re-written…’
He wrote more music than was used, cut out background stuff, and had a little go at making the music accompanying the sex scenes ironic. He grappled with the fact that some of the cinematography veers from the incredibly sophisticated and atmospheric to the resolutely lo-fi, and fought against the idea that most directors want the score to sound like Schubert. ‘I was surprised that so much of our music ended up in the movie, it was so exciting. As a band we have such a dilettante, un-academic, anti-professional approach, we always feel that’s it’s going to be wrong, if things are going right from the start. We like uncontrollable situations like this.’