Sao Paulo’s Bonde do Rolê really wants to get with Kanye West.
“Some people in our band love him more than just a friend,” jokes DJ Rodrigo Gorky of a new earworm they’ve conjured, simply entitled “Kanye,” which appears on their new album, Tropicalbacanal.
With its festive, Beastie Boys-inspired production and style, the record is a stirring, strange blast of Brazilian funk Carioca and agit-pop attitude. Comprised of Gorky and MCs Pedro D’Eyrot and Laura Taylor, Bonde do Rolê take having fun seriously, earnestly mining all manner of sounds for their multi-layered, tricky-to-categorize songs.
“There’s this Brazilian expression that we use to describe it, which is ‘a salad,’” D’Eyrot explains. “Because, in the salad, you can put everything and call it a salad as long as it’s not cooked. We put a lot of raw material in it and call it ‘salad music.’”
Indeed, the rules have been thrown out on Tropicalbacanal, the band’s third album. It’s a bold coming out party for the Diplo protégés, whose sense of humour and open ears have drawn notable guests, including Das Racist, Ce' Cile, Caetano Veloso, Poolside and the Death Set, all of whom get in on the fun.
“I don’t believe that we can write sad songs,” Gorky says. “We’re not sad people. C’mon, we live in a beautiful country, we get to do the things we love doing the most and get paid for it.”
“For the first time in our lives, people are starting to think we’re first world,” adds D’Eyrot. “So, there’s an economic boom going on.”
Interchanging between English and Portuguese, the meaning of Bonde do Rolê songs won’t always be clear to some listeners. For instance, “Baby Don’t Deny It” contains a seemingly obvious message about dancing the night away, while other songs work on a couple of levels.
“We talk a lot about food and sex,” Taylor says simply.
“We talk about cute things as well,” adds Gorky, “especially the songs in English; there’s some cute songs.”
“Like ‘Banana Woman’?” D’Eyrot asks, chuckling.
“Like ‘Banana Woman!’” Gorky exclaims. “Which is about trannies.”
“The record has two names and it depends how you wanna convey it,” Taylor explains. “If you wanna see it nice, there’s the ‘Tropical’ side of things and if you want the dirty side, ‘Bacanal’ in Portuguese means ‘a big orgy.’ So, our whole album is double-sided. If you wanna listen to ‘Banana Woman’ and think it’s about bananas you can, but you can also read into it and see that we’re talking about a woman with a banana, which is her penis.”
Huge hip-hop fans who cite early records by A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and 2 Live Crew as major influences, Bonde do Rolê is also renowned for working with Diplo and releasing music on his Mad Decent imprint. Though he had a hand in producing some of their past work, Diplo has taken on more of an advisory role with the band these days.
“We go to him and are like, ‘This is the song,’ and he’s like, ‘Nah, this is wack. You guys need to change this or that,’” Gorky explains. “And we keep showing him the songs until he says ‘Oh, this is cool,’ and then, off to the next one.”
For listeners – or tourism buffs – wondering if Bonde do Rolê's work reflects some particular aspect of life in Sao Paulo, the answer is yes. On one hand, Tropicalbacanal contains free-spirited songs one might expect to hear blaring out of car stereos on a blissful Saturday night. On the other, they’re a visceral reaction to more than just a culture.
“I think it’s very tropical,” Taylor says of the album. “All the songs are like, ‘hot songs.’ We don’t have any cold songs. So the heat influences us a lot because we live in a tropical climate.”
“We’re glad the record’s come out during your summer so you can feel what we’re talking about,” Gorky adds. “They’re all really summer-y and when you listen to them in the winter, they make you hotter.”
After working so hard on creating the album, Bonde do Rolê has relatively modest and morally responsible objectives for the rest of 2012.
“We know we’re not gonna be as big as Beyoncé but we want to have the opportunity to travel around the world again and share the record,” Gorky says.
“Spread the love,” adds Taylor.
“Spread the love and try and not make babies,” D’Eyrot clarifies, and we all laugh.
Keep tabs on Bonde do Rolê via their Facebook page. The band plays a Mad Decent block party in Chicago on August 18.
BDR To hear the full conversation, you have two options. You can download an MP3 if you right-click and “Save target as.” Or to stream it, press play.
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on Aug 17, 2012