Made up in whiteface with blood-red lipstick, "brother-and-sister" act Otto and Astrid Rot may look like kooks, but they're really "Berlin's Prince and Princess of Indie Rock," who are really Australian comedians Daniel Tobias and Clare Bartholomew.
Inspired by The Ramones, Iggy Pop and Kraftwerk, they roar on stage as Die Roten Punkte with their "Robot/Lion" tour at this year's Spoleto Festival USA. Otto and Astrid perform songs from their first two albums including "Rock Bang!," "Rock 'n' Roll Monster" and Astrid's "Oh My God Yeah" (a song composed of just those four words).
Taking a cue from yet another princess -- this time of pop -- Stefanie Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga), Tobias and Bartholomew cultivate all-consuming alter egos that somehow fulfill all their audience's most outlandish fantasies.
Their road to rock 'n' roll stardom began tragically, with their parents' death in a train crash (or from a lion attack, corrects Otto). While in a Berlin squat, Astrid stole musical instruments from another band, and the rest was history, or so she says.
"They had so many instruments, they didn't know what to do with them. I just thought, 'Well, I'll
borrow them for a while for Otto and I,' " says Astrid. Armed with their booty, the pair began playing together, if not with others in the squat. "No one really wanted to play with us. I'm not sure why," says Astrid.
Outcast from the rest of the squat, Otto and Astrid made songs straight out of the '80s with bits of Nena (of "99 Luftballons" fame), David Bowie and Iggy Pop thrown in. Astrid sings and plays the drums, glockenspiel, accordion and cowbell. Otto also sings while playing the guitar or keytar.
"We write about our lives and things that we do," says Astrid.
Cheeky songs such as "I Am in a Band," "Best Band in the World" and "Super Musikant (Super Musicians)" are performed complete with rock star posing, scissor kicks and covert swills of alcohol on stage. But it's songs such as "Burger Store Dinosaur" (including the lyrics "Can't you see, this is not me, can't you believe I'm more?") that keep audiences wondering, "Who is the real Die Roten Punkte?"
"It's about a little guy with big dreams," says Astrid, ducking the question.
"He's a little guy flipping burgers, but he has a big dream. Otto and I, we had a dream to be the best band in the whole world, and now it has all come true."
When asked directly about their true identity, both vehemently protest. "They're our managers," says Astrid.
While their songs are wonderfully simple ditties that stick to the mind like bad cases of last-song syndrome (true, even for the pair's most German song to date, "Ich bin nicht ein Roboter"), it is their dysfunctional brother-sister relationship that exponentially increases Die Roten Punkte's entertainment value.
Brother and sister bicker back and forth throughout any conversation, at times conveying more than just fraternal tension.
"I have lots of friends on the Internet. I have lots and lots of friends. I'm so close to finding the perfect girl, I know it," said Otto of his online habits.
"Otto doesn't really have time to find a girlfriend. He has a lot of jobs to do before and after the concert -- like he has to get all my costumes ready and he has to set up my drums and do the sound checking," butts in Astrid.
Otto's tech savvy has its upside. He's reportedly MySpace friends with musical legend John Lennon.
"Oh, yeah, that's true," confirms Otto.
Lennon's tip for great songwriting? Rhyming.
"He said, 'You know what, you should try this thing, it's really cool. If you get the word at the end of the sentence, then you get the next line, if you make it sound the same, it's called rhyming.'"
Armed with rhyme, if not reason, Die Roten Punkte promises to entertain with endearing zaniness and rock star glam. Expect a good time, just not straight answers. But in a rock concert who needs that anyway?
Carren Jao is a Goldring Arts Journalism Program writer. Reach her at email@example.com.
If you go
What: Die Roten PunkteWhere: Memminger AuditoriumWhen: Today, 10 p.m.; June 4, 11 p.m.; June 5, 10 p.m.Cost: $25