BONDE DO ROLE with the DEATH SET at the Social (1100 Queen West), Sunday (May 18). $10. 416-532-4474. Rating: NNNNN
The trouble for Brazilian baile-funk party kids Bonde do Rolê started last December when singer Marina Ribatski suddenly quit the band in the middle of a much-hyped tour, leaving remaining members Pedro D’Eyrot and Rodrigo Gorky high and dry.
“Marina left us because the band wasn’t what she wanted for her life,” says the always affable D’Eyrot, who’s chatting on a pool-side phone before a gig in Gainsville, Florida.
For the fun-loving duo, the solution was to convince Brazilian MTV to produce a way less glamorous version of Rock Star INXS about their search for a new singer. The twist was that instead of finding one new member, they added two new vocalists, Ana Bernardino and Laura Taylor.
While D’Eyrot speaks fondly of the experience, he admits that he still gets flak from the girls over the excessive and absurd audition process.
“Ana and Laura are always asking, ‘How come you fucking retards made us be part of a reality show?’
The audition process was unusual, to say the least.
“We made them eat some really nasty, unhealthy barbecued street meat,” he laughs, “the kind where they don’t give a fuck about being sanitary, like they keep their money in the same drawer as the meat. It was really gross and tasted terrible. We also made them take sexy pictures on top of trash cans and hit on construction workers.”
If that sounds a tad exploitive, keep in mind that the show was essentially a double dare. The boys had to do everything they made the girls do.
In terms of musicality, D’Eyrot says the switch adds new dynamics to Bonde do Rolê.
“Ana and Laura complement each other, because Laura has this mellow, sexy voice, and Ana has this really strong voice that’s like a kick in the groin.”
Bonde do Rolê, hailing from the streets of Curitiba, Brazil, burst onto the indie-dance scene in 2006. Combining elements of funk carioca with rock riffs, the band was offered a spot opening for Diplo on a full-out European tour after playing only five local shows. Their meteoric rise actually made D’Eyrot’s mother suspicious.
“My mom was like, ‘How come you’ve only done five shows and now this guy wants to fly you to Europe? Does he want you to smuggle drugs? Are you selling drugs?’”
While this seems like your typical maternal overreaction, her fears were somewhat well-founded, given that certain styles of funk carioca are tied to the drug cartels that run parts of Rio.
“It’s not all parties and it’s not all styles,” D’Eyrot explains, “but one style called proibidão is used as propaganda for drug dealer factions.”
He assures me that Bonde do Rolê’s songs aren’t about any of that. “It’s party music. It’s all about having fun.”
That said, their party lyrics recently landed the band in hot water in Australia. Their song Gasolina was featured in a TV underwear ad, and complaints poured in from the Portuguese community.
“The whole thing was totally crazy,” says D’Eyrot, “We say ‘piranha,’ which is Portuguese slang for ‘prostitute,’ and we use the word ‘aranha,’ which means ‘spider,’ but that’s also Portuguese slang for ‘pussy.’ We’re simply saying ‘Come play with my spider and I’ll bite you like a piranha.’” The ad was recut with an instrumental version instead.
Despite that hiccup, the retooled Bonde do Rolê are really looking forward to their stop in Toronto next week.
“We want to see Canadian people naked at our show, because we love Canadian people and we don’t have Canadian people in Brazil.”
A brief history of baile funk
The Brazilian Portuguese term “baile” translates as “ball” or “dance party” and refers to the large street parties where certain styles of music are played. The myriad sub-styles featured at bailes are mostly branches of a genre known locally as “funk carioca,” or “funk from Rio.” Carioca has its roots in 60s African-American pop and was significantly updated by the deep electro beats of Miami bass. In Rio, funk carioca is just called funk, and the Brazilian government has tried to crack down on it becausee of ties between massive all-night bailes and powerful drug lords. One style, proibidão (“prohibited”), uses rapid-fire Portuguese rap lyrics written specifically as propaganda to glorify and normalize the political dominance of drug dealers in the area and to bring in new recruits by both romanticizing and sexualizing the ugly business.