More evidence that the continent is hipper than the states: Le Tigre, like Citizen Dick, is huge in Europe right now.
"It's those major cities in Europe where people really get it," says Le Tigre's Johanna Fateman. "Places like Berlin and London and Paris."
(And of course Prague-where everything cool is revered and Levi's may still be the official currency.)
What people "really get" is the live bonanza that is a Le Tigre show: loud noises, cool costumes, trippy lights.
Made up of Fateman, Bikini Kill founder and quintessential riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna and J.D. Samson, Le Tigre wasn't built for the casual listener. Their music exists somewhere near the center of modern rock's four cardinal directions-Public Enemy, Sonic Youth, Beck and The Plasmatics. But since the band's debut almost a decade ago, Le Tigre has turned down the overt feminist rage and upped the obscure samples, loops and hip-hop beats.
Fateman freely admits that the world of pop culture is a mercenary environment. Not mainstream, not underground, Le Tigre mines both worlds for its sound (a great example of this is "New Kicks" off 2004's This Island-a full-on, rump-shaking dance tune built out of anti-war speeches by Susan Sarandon, Al Sharpton and others).
"I like the way things get all mixed up," says Fateman. "We like to cut things up-odd sounds, guitars or bass so that it locks with the beat in a different way. We may start with a long guitar riff and then cut it up into pieces so it's something totally different."
The trio works on every track as a team, picking out samples, creating beats, adding keyboards, guitar riffs and, finally, vocals. Songs can take hours or months to complete as they swap laptops back and forth.
Out of these patchwork beginnings, the band composes pro-peace rants, anti-authority rallying cries and homages to grrrl power. With their rebel-rousing reputation, Le Tigre shocked a lot of fans when This Island was distributed by major label Universal.
"Corporations have these kinds of evil geniuses at the heads of them," says Fateman. "They know that it doesn't really matter what the content of your record is. They know there's a market for everything. There's the anti-Bush market, there's the anti-war market, and enough of those people buy records to make it work for the evil geniuses."
Fateman sounds sad and bitter, but she's not. She says the record was done when the band signed with Universal so the album wasn't about the record company enforcing its vision of what Le Tigre should be.
"We did agonize over the decision for a long time, but it just got to be a huge drag to worry about the business stuff all the time," she explains. "Now, I actually feel really great about it. We went into the major label situation in a really mature and adult way and made it work for us. It would be sadder, if we went into it with all these illusions.... In the end, we're just artists and we just wanted money to make our art."
The upside to being backed by a major is getting to work with hotshot producers like Nick Sansano (who's manned the mixing boards for Public Enemy, Ice Cube and Sonic Youth) and Ric Ocasek (who you may remember from a humble late-'70s outfit called The Cars). Currently, Le Tigre's in the studio with Missy Elliott.
"Like I said, we agonized over the decision to work with a major, but look what it's done for us," says Fateman. "We're now working with someone as amazing as Missy Elliott."Le Tigre plays with Electrelane at Soma, 7 p.m. on July 24. $17. 619-220-8497.