Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS)'s Luiza Sá on Her Early Days as a DJ and Becoming a Bay Area Resident

In the mid-2000s, a group by the name of CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexy) from São Paulo, Brazil stormed onto the burgeoning indie dance scene. Armed with an arsenal of catchy dance-punk tunes, they spent the next few years garnering international fame with tracks like “”Music Is My Hot Hot Sex” and “Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above.” However, after the release of their 2013 album Planta and relentless touring, the band decided to take a break to pursue individual music endeavors.

For band member and current Bay Area resident Luiza Sá, the natural route was to go back to her roots as a DJ. A party-rocker before CSS ever became a band, she began her career in her teens as an indie DJ in São Paulo. As CSS formed, she became the go-to DJ for band after parties and sometimes with member Ana as MeuKu (a fun phrase to translate from Portuguese.) After moving to New York in 2008, she became a regular on the DJ circuit, and with her recent move to SF, is quickly becoming a local favorite with her eclectic and unpredictable musical selections. We caught up with Luiza Sá about her first DJ experience, weirdest request, and current Bay Area residencies. She plays a guest DJ midnight set for indie dance party Fringe this Saturday [8/15] at Madrone Art Bar. 

What was your first public DJing experience like?
I don’t quite remember my first “public” DJ experience… it could have been so many different little parties and clubs. It was good that we would all do it a lot, so there was no weirdness about it. It was definitely more about playing cutty tracks and sequencing songs in an interesting way then being technically good.

When did you and bandmate Ana from CSS form Meuku, which you've mentioned before is a play on Russian duo T.A.T.U?
Meuku started because we would hang out together so much and just call each other and try to top each other with themes like “the gayest song ever” and from there we would put together little sets that were sort of absurd. CSS started a party as soon as the band started but me and Ana always were this duo and it was probably the high of the night. Having someone to DJ with back-to-back makes it very interesting and fun. We just thought that T.A.T.U was a really cheesy industry group being opportunistic, pretending to be gay and we made fun of it. I don’t think we took anything seriously at that point; all of our ideas came from jokes, like the name of our band and much of our songs.

What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten?
You never get really interesting weird requests. Mostly is just the super pop stuff of the moment or Michael Jackson. The funniest request I ever heard was this woman asking for “a dance song.” I asked ‘like what,’ and she said ‘like The Kooks.’ I mean, that right there is a whole discussion of, ‘what the hell are you talking about?’ But to be honest just as much as requests, if not more, I get asked, ‘what song is this,’ in a really excited way and I love that, because I’m like that, I will always ask someone about a new song I haven’t heard.

Since you DJ'd the CSS after parties, what kind of jams would you play?
I always played whatever I felt like it at the day and it changes with time. It’s hard to completely know. I love dance music from the ‘90s (childhood), hip-hop, electronic, rock… it’s really all over the place. I’ll play a banging techno song, followed by Joy Division, followed by Kendrick Lamar, followed by Can, Azari & III, Saint Etienne, and Bikini Kill. I mean, I really just like music that is accessible, as opposed to getting really deep into one specific genre like dubstep or whatever else. Lately I got really into a lot of early ‘70s music. Back when the band started I remember clearly how “Crazy in Love” and “Rock your Body” were ones we played a lot. It all felt fun, to mix all this Le Tigre, Sleater-Kinney and more indie stuff with Britney Spears, M.I.A., and Peaches.

What has been your most memorable DJ gig in your career thus far?
One time, everyone in the band was a DJ at this Mexico City after party that just felt like the biggest thing we have ever done. I have done a lot of venues that feel like almost a show, literally playing onstage — kind of a weird setting for a DJ anyways — but it happens. Venues were built for theatre so it’s kind of funny but just last month, I had a set after a band at the Koko in London and it was great. Everyone was really into it and dancing to my schizophrenic playlist. Bless the Brits! I have traveled to different places to DJ, like Buenos Aires and Iowa. One of my favorite parties to play was Lipgloss in Denver.

Since moving to SF, what have you observed about the Bay Area DJ scene?
I don’t really know if I can speak about the Bay Area DJ scene because I don’t go out too much, except when I DJ or a close friend DJs. The night thing I’ve done the most since I moved is to go to Aunt Charlie’s. I love that bar. I haven’t really hit the gay scene… I really like Primo Pitino’s stuff. He’s great. I love Andy Cabic (Vetiver) because he’s so knowledgeable with music. But I have a party with him and David Wilson so of course I like their set. I recently went to the MOM DJs night at Madrone and that is super fun because people are there to dance!
I used to play Chelsea Starr’s Hot Pants party here but that is gone and it feels like old SF, the SF before this insane tech boom! I think there’s a lot out there, I hope there is, but I’m just home watching Netflix because I had such intense nightlife since I was 13 and it became my work, so I’m not “over it” but I definitely had my share. Oakland definitely feels very cool to me. That’s why I started No Sé with the guys, because I wanted a dance party that everyone could come to that would be cool, mixed, pop and not pop and to dance and learn and try new things.

Tell us a little about No Sé in Oakland.
We only had two events but it was very fun so far, almost effortless, which feels very promising. Oakland is so rad and I love the Starline Social Club, the place where the party happens. My goal is to hit it hard on the dancing but keep it interesting. I almost hate when it’s a constant 1-2, 1-2-3-4 kind of beat, or just completely set at 120 BPM or whatever. I like to keep things moving.

Put together your ultimate DJ dream team. Who would be on it?
I don’t know of a perfect DJ team. I love Kim Ann Foxman’s sets. She’s so elegant. There are these hip-hop DJs from Brazil that I was super impressed with. One of them is called Zé Gonzales and his sets were just completely epic and he dared to mix stuff, throw in some rock, different flavors, and he was the best technical guy, on the vein of '80s hip-hop vinyl guys. I also love DJ Harvey, DJ Shadow, and more recently DJ Dixon.

What will you be playing this Saturday at Fringe?
I think Fringe gives me a chance to play some of my loved indie tunes that I wouldn’t normally play. I usually finish a playlist a few hours before I go but I’m thinking I’ll go back to the beginning of my DJ years with this one. It will probably be a big mix bag.

What's next for you in terms of music? Will CSS come back or are you just concentrating on your DJ career for now?
Everyone in CSS is pursuing different things for a while but we are just taking some time off. I started writing new material for another project with my wife and plan to have something out soon.

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