The Y2K teen boppers look back on tracks (and their favourite behind-the-scenes memories) from Steps, Sisqo, and more
Whatever happened to Daphne & Celeste? At the turn of the millennium, sass-talking teens Karen ‘Daphne’ DiConcetto and Celeste Cruz released two of the era’s most demented pop songs, “Ooh Stick You” and “U.G.L.Y.” They followed up those two smashes – pitched-up playground taunts torn from the pages of Malcolm McLaren’s wrong-pop rulebook – with a quickie album, and vanished amid a hail of projectiles at Reading Festival in 2000, never to be seen again.
Until now, that is. Teaming with production wunderkind Max Tundra, DiConcetto and Cruz return this month with a new album – and it might just be the pop event of 2018, Rihanna’s schedule notwithstanding. Musically more evolved and only marginally less rude than their previous offerings, Daphne & Celeste Save the World finds the pair musing on string theory, succulents, and the tedium of a world without Daphne & Celeste. They even, on the cheekily titled “Whatever Happened to Yazz?”, manage to make a song about pop stars from the past sound sneakily poignant. And whoever expected that from a Daphne & Celeste record?
To honour this most unexpected of comebacks, we asked the pair to re-re-wind to the year 2000, and the epochal pop compilation Now That’s What I Call Music! 45 – that’s the one that features “Ooh Stick You” and 44 other songs that aren’t as good. What did the older, wiser Daphne & Celeste make of it all?
“It was a simpler time,” say the pair, still the only group that can dish top-drawer anecdotes about Steps one minute and Marilyn Manson the next. “The Vengaboys? We definitely met them... I don’t think they spoke English.”
TOM JONES & THE STEREOPHONICS, “MAMA TOLD ME NOT TO COME”
Daphne: Looking at the tracklisting for this it seems like this was a really interesting time in UK music. Like, none of it even makes any sense! ‘Natural Blues’ by Moby on a record with Sisqo’s ‘Thong Song’? Tom Jones featuring the Stereophonics? Really?! Looking back, though, I think the most exciting thing playing shows around that time was there was a real run-in between Stereophonics, Travis, and Coldplay. No one could tell which one of those very similar bands was gonna come out on top. I’m still surprised Coldplay won that one, I thought it was gonna be Travis.
I do wonder if a lot of those guys are in some way to blame for the basic busker phenomenon you sing about in your new single, ‘BB’.
Celeste: I would agree! Wow. That’s a huge insight for all of us.
Daphne: I really hope that people listen to the lyrics of ‘BB’. I’m glad you did, but you’re a music journalist, so (your opinion counts for nothing).
How do you explain the whole basic busker thing? How have we ended up inhabiting a world where Beyoncé needs Ed Sheeran to have a number-one hit?
Celeste: Because it’s easy! It’s easy to listen to, it’s easy to relate to, easy to remember, easy to forget... I mean, there’s a place for everything, you know? But you can make commercially viable music and still have artistic merit! That’s the friendly reminder of ‘BB’.
Daphne: That’s all we’re saying.
GERI HALLIWELL, “BAG IT UP”
Daphne: Oh look, Geri Halliwell’s on here! I was always into Ginger Spice. She was very campy – she had this one where she was in a coffin, which was very cool (‘Look at Me’). Celeste was more into Scary (at the time).
Daphne, would I be right in reading your hairdo from that period as a bit of a tribute to Geri?
Daphne: More of a nod to Zelda Fitzgerald.
Celeste: We did very much like some of Ginger’s solo stuff – we should probably call her Geri now, right? She doesn’t have to go by Ginger any more.
Daphne: (laughing) They still have to live with those names! We can relate to that a little bit. We were just signing albums and I wrote my name as Karen.
That’s interesting actually. Why was Celeste allowed to keep her name but yours had to go?
Daphne: It’s just one of the many mysteries (with us). When we were first doing ‘Ooh Stick You’ we had this bit at the start where we were like, ‘Hey! This is my friend blah-blah and I’m blah-blah,’ so when we recorded it in New York we kept coming up with names, like Gertrude and Apple, Daphne and Thelma... We were just kind of messing around, and then when we got to the UK I was told that my name was Daphne and I was two years younger. So that was surprising. But it’s not like I was told my name was entirely too dull or anything! It was just insinuated.
‘Karen & Celeste’ sounds like a folk duo to me.
Celeste: That’s what people kept saying, that it sounds more like a Carpenters-type band. That’s what the next album is called! It’ll be out 15 years from now.
STEPS, “SAY YOU’LL BE MINE”
Daphne: Steps are awesome. We actually toured with them, their craft service was some of the best craft service I’ve had in my life.
Celeste: They had all of their favourite comfort foods, which was adorable I thought. It was a fun tour. H had a bit (in the set) where he flew. I think at that point it was probably unusual to have someone fly, wasn’t it?
Daphne: Now there’s someone flying at every show.
Celeste: Honestly, I think the year 2000 is the year pop went bankrupt, because they spent all the money on these elaborate shows. It really was the beginning of the end for music.
There’s a bit in the video for this one where they send up the bit from There’s Something About Mary where Cameron Diaz gets jizz in her hair. This is pretty edgy stuff from Steps, no?
Celeste: Look, that scene is no Last Tango in Paris, so it seems as though the edge factor is fairly consistent for Steps onstage and off.
Daphne: No one liked the first video we did for ‘Ooh Stick You’, so we had to do an alternative version. (The first one) was really dark and weird, we start off in an elevator with a bunch of creepy actors. There’s a bit where they superimpose my face on to a dog! Looking back it was actually kind of brilliant, it was really ahead of its time.
Celeste: That was an epic shoot – 23 hours on set! I’m pretty sure child labour laws were broken.
Daphne: There must have been at least 80 extras in that video. And so many of them went on to great things afterwards. One of them ended up on Coronation Street – Lee! I think his character (Jez Quigley) had issues with addiction in the show (he was a drug-dealer). I really hope that Lee is reading this.
Celeste: I doubt that very much.
SISQO, “THONG SONG”
Celeste: We met Sisqo on Top of the Pops; we had a photo taken with him. He was riding high on the ‘Thong Song’; Aaron Carter was there too that day. It was quite a thing. I think Tom Jones was there too. I don’t think I realised all the songs Tom Jones was responsible for at the time – he’s like a pretty impressive guy, right? But he was promoting ‘Sex Bomb’ or something and we were like, ‘This is not a hot track!’ So we got a picture with Sisqo and not Tom Jones, which kind of says everything. I’ve actually only got two autographs in my life, do you want to know what they were? The first was Marilyn Manson, we both got one from him.
Daphne: Oh yeah! He was very, very cool – we both got these autographs that he did with eyeliner. Mine just said ‘good luck’ or something stupid, but Celeste’s said ‘I enjoyed sodomising you,’ which I thought was way cooler.
Celeste: I had to look it up! Hahaha. Anyway the other autograph that I got was Rick, uh... Rick, uh... Rick Astley.
Daphne: Wow! Did you know he was gonna become a popular meme?
Celeste: No! How would I know that? Basically, H from Steps was having this birthday party where you had to dress up like past pop stars. He chose Adam Ant; he had such an incredible costume. We were Run-DMC, which was pretty cool. And Rick Astley came as himself.
Because he’s a pop star from the past?
Celeste: Yeah! He was such a good Rick Astley that he was Rick Astley.
BLINK-182, “ALL THE SMALL THINGS”
Celeste: We played Reading with Blink-182!
I saw them at Reading a few years back. They were burping into the mic and making fart jokes and I thought, ‘These guys must be pushing 40.’
Daphne: One of them (Tom DeLonge), I don’t know if he’s still in the band, is really into alien conspiracies. He’s got some really convincing stuff.
Celeste: Wait, what?!
Daphne: It’s all over the internet! He’s considered one of the preeminent UFO researchers.
Celeste: (Googling Tom DeLonge) Oh yeah! That’s why he left the band. His family have supported him... He set up an academy... That’s a great thing to do after you’ve had a pop career! The other guys are all stood around farting onstage and Tom is just trying to figure it all out. I’m learning a lot here. That’s good information.
AQUA, “CARTOON HEROES”
Celeste: We were definitely aware of Aqua, because we would both get compared to cartoon characters all the time. Well, let me take this back for a moment – we knew as much about Aqua as anybody did, because they were very enigmatic. I mean, what can you really know about Aqua?
Daphne: Definitely. I mean, how do you put that in a box, or an aquarium? It would be an aquarium, right?
I’ve got a lot of time for the bald guy in Aqua. He’s great.
Daphne: Funny you mention it. He is great and he’s actually DJing my wedding.
In this video, the group is taken out of cryogenic freezing to save the world. Is that basically what’s happened to you?
Celeste: Yes. All is revealed in our new music video...
Your new album is called Daphne and Celeste Save the World. But what are you saving it from?
Celeste: There are a couple of clues on the record. But really what we’re saving it from is unoriginality, to be honest. Pop music where no one really wants to say anything, people tiptoeing around things – what’s the point of creating art if that’s your way of going about it? Working with someone like Max Tundra has been really interesting because he hears things in such a unique way; it’s kind of fun to play around with that.
Daphne: At this point there’s literally evil all around! It’s more like, ‘Who aren’t we saving the world from?’
Balatonic release Daphne & Celeste Save The World on March 30