NEW YORK — Sabina Sciubba speaks six different languages and sings in five: Italian, German, English, French and Spanish. Still, she wants to learn more.
“I know people who speak 17 languages, so I am not impressed with myself,” the Brazilian Girls lead singer recently told MTV News before singing her multilingual heart out to a sold-out crowd at Irving Plaza.
Sciubba is certainly enigmatic. Onstage, she’s like a towering, long-legged alien, shamelessly donning unitards, bustiers, jumpsuits, leggings and mini shorts made of spandex. She always covers her eyes — with veils, blindfolds, masks, big hats, poofy hair or big sunglasses. She’s even been known to wear a stocking over her face and sing through its scribbled-on lips.
In the new video for “Jique” — from Brazilian Girls’ latest album, Talk to la Bomb — Sciubba wears a leotard with black rectangles covering her private parts.
Offstage, Sciubba is a natural beauty with dark eyes and a deep, penetrating voice. She joked that she always covers her eyes because “I want to protect my anonymity because you never know, I might commit criminal action.
“In a way, it’s all a political statement,” she continued, more seriously. “Covering my eyes is a little bit of [a] joke and a little bit of an ’I can do whatever the f— I want because nobody is going to recognize me in the street’ thing.”
This free-for-all attitude is evident in many empowered, provocative female artists these days, including Imogen Heap, Allison Goldfrapp, Lily Allen and Peaches. Their sexy lyrics are often censored, their styles are anti-name-brand and their voices are real, not synthesized.
“Anti-pop, I like it,” said Sciubba of the band’s electronic-funk sound. “You get bored with everything when there is too much of it. We’ve seen enough of the starving-teenage type. Different times call for different icons.
“We present a movement — people want to see different sh–, you know?” she continued. “I love provocation. I’m into a woman being self-confident, but also being graceful and so hard to get that nobody would believe it.”
Brazilian Girls shows are defiantly theatrical. Sciubba dances around the stage like a drunken goddess, a dreadlocked Didi Gutman mans the keyboards, bassist Jesse Murphy might get naked — like he did recently on “Late Show With David Letterman” — and buzzhawked drummer Aaron Johnston jams hard. None of them is Brazilian. And they all live in New York. “I don’t know why we came up with the name,” Sciubba said. “I really don’t know.”
The band uses profanity in its song titles, and Sciubba sings in languages that most American audiences don’t understand. But the crowd loves it, and at the Irving Plaza show, several liberated women took off their tops and climbed onstage.
“I hope through my words that I am not coming across as vulgar,” said the Italian-born Sciubba, who was raised in Munich, Germany; Nice, France; and Rome. “Sex is being used to sell everything. It’s part of the joke of being called the Brazilian Girls.”
People might not recognize Sciubba on the street, but everyone’s talking about the new Axe deodorant commercial, which features the song “Lazy Lover” from the band’s self-titled debut album.
In it, a couple make out on a hilltop, only to roll over through an oily garage, tomato garden and off a cliff into the sea. Along the way, they pick up another woman.
Sciubba says she doesn’t watch television, but she doesn’t seem to mind capitalizing on it. “If I would make lots of money that would be great,” she said, evidently not worried about going mainstream.
Still, her favorite designers are anything but mainstream — Alexander McQueen, Imitation of Christ and Three as Four, who design most of her outfits. But she has no help backstage, doing all makeup and hair by herself.
“Sometimes it takes me 10 minutes, and sometimes it depends on what I’m going to be wearing,” she said. “I just always try to stay very anonymous-looking.”
Her greatest inspiration is Grace Jones (“To me, she is so cool, it’s scary”), and she thinks Eugene Hütz of punk band Gogol Bordello — he played the Ukrainian tour guide in 2005’s “Everything Is Illuminated” — is sexy. “And I think Beyoncé in particular is very talented and very beautiful,” she said. “She is almost a little bit of a miracle to me.”
Next up for Brazilian Girls? Their first European tour.
“We’ve toured America a lot, and we haven’t toured Europe at all,” Sciubba said. “There are things happening over there that we’re looking forward to. We’ve been waiting for that. I’m excited to go anywhere. I am so European.”