Electronica duo Cherry Bikini, Sophie Boscallini and Armand Abagliani, specialize in sexy dance music that pushes buttons and pushes limits. Their music is catchy dance electronica, in the vein of Soft Cell, Basement Jaxx, Goldfrapp, and Lords of Acid. They describe it as “cosmopolitan electronica for the whole world.”
Their songs often deal with sexuality with a matter-of-fact explicitness. Tracks like Traffic Sex and Just Fuck Me mix killer hooks with lyrics hotter than a Brazilian wax. The Cherry Bikini site features samples of their songs, along with lyrics, photos and news.
Sophie Boscallini is Cherry Bikini’s lead singer. She was born in a small mountain village near the French-Italian border. She’s worked as a model and actress around the world. Boscallini’s delivery and accent bring a sense of detachment to the passionate lyrics, giving them a bit of distance and irony.
Armand Abagliani handles the keyboards/electronics. Abagliani was born in the USA. He played in blues bars in his native Louisiana, then in piano bars in Lausanne, Switzerland, before settling in Paris for several years. Sophie and Armand met in Paris, and have recorded two CDs, the self-titled Cherry Bikini and Dream Days.
Currently based out of California, Boscallini and Abagliani’s music retains an unabashed European love of dance music.
Synthtopia recently asked Sophie and Armand about Cherry Bikini and their music:
Synthtopia: How did you come up with the name “Cherry Bikini”? Is there a story behind it?
Sophie Boscallini: When we first started thinking about doing this project, we wanted the name to match the type of music we wanted to produce, namely fun, sexy, light — Despite the x-rated lyrics of the first album. We didn’t want the name of the band to be too explicit, so when the name “Cherry Bikini” came up, we both thought it was perfect.
Synthtopia: When you hear a Cherry Bikini song, the first thing that strikes you is the raw lyrics. You’ve said that “With songs like “Just Fuck Me” and “Fingers” we practically wrote the final chapter on sextronica.” Unfortunately, there’s no “sextronica” category at CD stores. Do you ever worry that your lyrics will limit how far you can go with Cherry Bikini?
Armand Abagliani: We’re actually talking to Wal-Mart right now, trying to get them to add sextronica as a music category in all their stores 🙂
Yeah, when we did the first album, we knew that we probably wouldn’t achieve mass recognition because of this, only infamy if anything. We simply wanted to do a dance/electro album about sex and that’s what we did. We also knew that our future albums would not be as explicit as the first… That’s why lyrically we took the erotic element as far as we could in that first release. With the new CD, Dream Days, our lyrical approach mellowed a bit – a little more playful, not so x-rated. For future releases it’ll probably change yet again in some other way…
Synthtopia: I’m sure that you get asked a lot about the content of your lyrics. Your music is very interesting, too. Can you tell us a little about the music, what your influences are and how you come up with songs?
Armand Abagliani: Thanks – It’s funny but I don’t think someone could tell who my influences are by listening to a Cherry Bikini CD. I grew up listening to all kinds of music: punk, southern hip-hop, old country music like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. Although I listened to some synth-pop in my goth days (New Order, Clan of Xymox, and the like) I was never really into club-type dance music. Sophie definitely has had more experience with this, having grown up in France, Poland and a bunch of other places where both alternative and mainstream types of dance music are much more popular.
I think our approach to writing is fairly straightforward — Fool around with a beat and a melody until it sounds good. Then elaborate as much as you have to until the structure seems complete. I think despite all the diverse influences, the melody of a song has always been very important to us. It’s what makes or breaks a song.
Synthtopia: Do you each have certain roles you play in the process?
Armand Abagliani: Kind of. Sophie comes up with some lyrics. This is pretty much always the first part of the process. Then when we sit down to write the music, I come up with the main melodies, and she tries to match that with the vocal part. We both play an important part in the song structure process – and she often tells me when something sounds like shit, and vice versa.
Synthtopia: Many of your songs are subversively catchy. I think a lot of listeners are going to find themselves walking down the street singing the chorus to Just Fuck Me: “Fuck me from the back, Fuck me from the front…”
Sophie Boscallini: Yeah, it’s funny you mentioned that… A friend of mine in Canada told me we should do a video for Just Fuck Me and have housewives with baby strollers walking down the sidewalk, lip-syncing the song. I think most of the songs themselves are very catchy – some of them just happen to be explicit as well.
Synthtopia: Both your CDs were self-produced with fairly minimal setups. Can you tell us a little about the equipment you use, and how you recorded the songs in an apartment?
Armand Abagliani: For the first CD, the setup was embarrassingly simple. I had never recorded this type of music, having produced primarily hip hop and rock beforehand. We had a demo version of some software, an old computer which was on its last legs, and an 8 track. There was very little sound and vocal layering, almost none, and very little maneuverability because of the time constraints of the trial software.
For Dream Days, we had bought some software – Reason, Cubase, and a bunch of plug-ins to play around with. But due to our day to day activities, we were very limited in the time we had to play with all this. Basically we had to write, record, sing, master and do everything else in about 2 months. Plus we were learning how to use a lot of the software while we were recording. That’s why when we listen to the CD we hear what we call a “spontaneous honesty” in the songs.
Synthtopia: If money wasn’t a concern, what would you change in the way you work? Would your music be different?
Sophie Boscallini: I think we will always value simplicity in our music. If a situation arises where we have more money, I think we’ll just be able to create a fuller sound that comes from multiple tracks. So far, the most tracks we’ve worked with was 16. However, our general approach to writing and recording music wouldn’t change much. We’re not the kind of people that sit and tweak a snare drum for 3 hours. We think that sometimes raw simplicity is a good thing.
Synthtopia: Your songs are raw and sexy. They seem to be from the point of view of a strong sexual woman, almost a fantasy view of a woman. But you’ve mentioned previously that there’s also a “desperate, out of control” aspect to the songs. What interests you in focusing on these situations and emotions?
Sophie Boscallini: Many of our songs (and all of our songs on the first album) are about lust, often extreme lust, and extreme lust is often out of control. I think that when writing about these topics you have to take into account the desperation, and focus that often exists in this type of moment.
Hopefully that comes through in some songs. As to why we write about these topics in general, we think that these are strong topics, ones that we have fun exploring, and hopefully most people can relate to.
Synthtopia: I’m sure you get a certain amount of flack from people that think your music is pornographic, exploitive, or trashy. How do you handle that?
Armand Abagliani: Yes we do. We get criticism from all sorts of people –
Some of it is aimed at the pornographic nature of the lyrics, as you put it. A lot of it comes from people who think our music and lyrics are too simplistic, usually electronica purists. How do we handle it? I think it’s fine – We don’t expect everyone to “get it”. Plus we have a new song we’re working on (mp3 only) called “F.U.” which we’re dedicating to these people
Synthtopia: Too bad you can’t get that into the Wal-Mart sextronica section! I bet you can tell a lot about people’s personalities by how they react to your music.
Sophie Boscallini: Absolutely. And sometimes you get surprised about who reacts in what way.
Synthtopia: You’ve got two CDs out now. How would you compare your first CD with your second one?
Sophie Boscallini: We had a little more time to do the second one (two months) and our equipment was a little better. I think we managed to create stronger songs, ones that are a bit more developed. I think we had some pretty songs on the first album, and we both still really like that one, but I think the songs on this one are prettier, and the production is a little better. It’s still got the Cherry Bikini “sound”. We’re still learning how to produce, but I think we’re moving in the right direction. Energy wise I think the two albums are about even.
Synthtopia: Both your CDs are full of sexy dance electronica. Is it true, Armand, that you never dance and hate going to clubs? What’s up with that? How come you’re not doing sexy chill-out music?
Armand Abagliani: I wasn’t always like that, but I’ve definitely become a non-dancer in the past years. Sophie, for instance loves to dance – She has to dance for a little bit when we go out, almost to get it out of her system. As for chill-out music, I like it, especially stuff like Nightmares on Wax and Thievery Corporation. I don’t think musically it’s something that we would create though, at least not until we’re much older. I think we both can relate to the energy of our music more.
Synthtopia: What’s a Cherry Bikini show like? Do you have any shows coming up?
Armand Abagliani: Since we came to Los Angeles, we haven’t played live because a) the focus has been more on recording and promotion and B) we want to be able to have a really cool show, not just Sophie lip-syncing and me sitting behind a keyboard trying to look cool. We want to do something a little more elaborate, sound and lights, and this will take some time to develop. The label that put out our song “What I Like” on a “Bad Gurrlz” compilation, Gay Records, told us that some promoters in France want us to come and play there soon and there’s talk of us playing the big Gay Pride festival in Australia next year. For now though, it’s all up in the air.
Synthtopia: Any wild Cherry Bikini stories you’d like to share?
Armand Abagliani: During our last 6 months in Paris, before we came to California, we played about three “real” shows and they were crazy. One of them was in a strip club in the northern suburbs, very nasty area, where we got booked to play a “last minute” show through a friend of a friend. We get there and set up behind a curtain. The curtain opens and all we see is a huge crowd of Moroccan men with blank stares. What our friend had neglected to mention was that all these people were there to see a Moroccan pop-singer and no one had told them that that singer had cancelled. Suffice to say, they were not impressed with our special brand of “erotic electronica”.
Synthtopia: Sounds like the gig from Hell! What can you tell us about your web site? Can people download some tracks to check out your music?
Sophie Boscallini: Our web site is http://www.cherrybikini.com – we’ve always had free mp3s (both full songs and samples) available through this site. There is also a lot of info about the band and the music.
Synthtopia: Where can people get your CDs?
Synthtopia: Armand, Sophie, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for Synthtopia!
Cherry Bikini: Thanks for listening.