Astrid and Otto Røt are two musical orphans from Berlin. Or maybe not.
Their parents were killed by a train on her 12th birthday, Astrid explains. Or maybe eaten by lions, as Otto claims.
Together, the ersatz siblings form the music and comedy duo, Die Røten Pünkte, which is often compared to such acts as Spinal Tap and Flight of the Conchords.
They will kick off the Yukon Arts Centre 2012-13 performance season at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 8, with a show drawn mostly from their second album, Super Musikant (German for Super Musician).
“Here is our secret plan. You see, we’re going to come to Yukon and we’re going to make a big party, and it’s going to go very well,” Astrid claims.
Then they intend to return twice more, with music from their third CD, Kunst Rock (Hard Rock), followed by the fourth, Eurosmash!, slated for release this fall.
Audiences shouldn’t let the duo’s appearance, or the band’s name, mislead them.
“Our music is not so much really punk. I know our name is Die Røten Pünkte, but that means ‘The Red Dots’, it doesn’t mean ‘Die, Rotten Punk’,” she explains.
“Our music is a little bit Ramones and a little bit Iggy Pop. Actually some of our music, like ‘Astrid’s Drinking Song’, that’s like piano-accordion. That’s more like The Pogues.”
The scaled-down instruments they play are primary-school discards, Astrid claims.
“It was just easier for us to lift and carry. Also, I know I shouldn’t talk about it, but Otto does like to sleep with his guitars and the full-size guitars are too big for him,” she says.
“He likes to have one next to him, so if he thinks of a song in the middle of the night, he can just kind of lean over and play the chord. But sometimes, I have to say, those chords is just a terrible noise. It doesn’t really lead to much of much use.”
Perhaps because Otto is not present for the interview, she also confirms that the band’s name ‘The Red Dots’ came from his earlier problems with acne.
“Jah, but he won’t want me to tell you that. We were going to lots of clubs and he looked really like a young, spotty teenager, and so I put lots of makeup on him to look like Robert Smith, so everyone would think he was older, and I could sneak him into all the bars and clubs in Berlin to go and look at bands,” she reveals.
“And then he just liked that look so much, he won’t go out anywhere without it.”
How they became orphans is a matter of dispute.
“We were on the way to the zoo, and it was a very foggy day. Where we lived in Grünewald, it was very close to the station and, jah, our parents, they got run over by a train. It was awful.”
But Otto, three years her junior, remembers it quite differently.
“He perpetuates a bad story. He says that our parents were eaten by lions. It’s stupid, it’s ridiculous,” she insists.
“I think he has what they call arrested development. He was like crying for almost a year under the bedcovers after that day. And you know, I think he feels a little bit to blame, because he wanted so much to go to the lions.”
Audiences frequently request their poignant song, “The 4:15 to Spandau Will Not Run Today,” inspired by their parents’ untimely demise, whether by locomotive or lions.
“It is painful, but I think it is good to sing it, because it keeps the memory of our parents alive. Also, Otto and I really love to do that song, because it is like a piece of our history, so it makes us connected,” she says.
“Travelling the world and touring together can be really hard for a brother and sister. We fight a lot. But when we sing that song, we really are connected and we really rock out. I think it helps us.”
Astrid admits they were blacklisted in Germany after one of her cigarettes burned down the venue they were playing. They ended up touring extensively in such places as the Ukraine, Lithuania, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland before returning to Berlin.
“When you do well in other places, then your hometown, they welcome you back eventually. In the end, they love you again.”
Astrid admits her drinking habits disturbed her younger brother, but says she is now doing well.
“I learned a great word while I was on holiday, called ‘moderation’ and it means that you can just drink one drink, one at a time, one after the other. It’s working really well for me.”
She also no longer gets angry and throws drumsticks at people who laugh during their shows.
“I think it’s just culturally, we come across differently, and so people think it’s funny,” she suggests.
“But so long as they are rocking out to the music, that’s all that matters. And they do. I just hope that lots of people come, and we’re going to make a party,” Astrid promises.