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Pass Kontrol brings the dance party beat back home

The theatrical, roving dance-party band Pass Kontrol, which plays primarily in the friendly venues of Bushwick and Williamsburg, would prefer to be nowhere else. A recent road trip to Toronto might keep it that way.

“We were stopped at the border trying to get into Canada,” said Oliver Ralli, the frontman and guitarist of Pass Kontrol. “They thought we had drugs. I guess we look like the type of people who smuggle drugs into Canada.”

At the time, Tony Delorenzo, the band’s keyboardist, was wearing sunglasses and had recently shaved his head. Ralli was wearing a hemp necklace and had long curly hair.

“We didn’t have any drugs,” Delorenzo said. “We were interrogated for an hour. It was the middle of a ten-hour drive and we were playing a show that night.”

Pass Kontrol has been playing shows at The Bushwick Starr, Space Space, Duck Duck and other small venues in North Brooklyn since the band formed three years ago. Ralli, a Bushwick resident, enjoys playing in his neighborhood much more than playing in venues in the Lower East Side where music industry professionals hold showcases for bands looking to sign to a label.

“Just to play in Manhattan to get seen by an A and R guy, that’s not fulfilling,” Ralli said. “You’re thrown in with other bands you don’t know and you play your 40-minute set and then you leave while the next band and their fans come on. It feels kind of anonymous.”

Instead, Pass Kontrol has developed a growing following of Bushwick fans who enjoy their self-referential songs such as F--- the Train, Dudes on Bikes and B-38, named after the bus line.

“Adam [Brown, the drummer] came up with the song, early in the morning, trying to get to work, sitting on the bed, staring up at the ceiling,” Delorenzo said.

“That’s something that everyone can relate to,” Ralli said. “The subway gets you down sometimes.”

For Ralli and the other members of Pass Kontrol, trying different instruments and exploring other media is critical to maintaining their prolific output. During their shows, band members will change instruments as Ralli would hop over to tackle the drums and Brown would take Ralli’s guitar, forming “The Dirty Switcheroo,” and playing their songs in a different way.

“The idea came from messing around in the studio,” Ralli said. “As a band, we try to stay really loose. It’s fun to get together and play on different instruments.”

The band has produced and recorded five EPs in their Maspeth, Queens, studio, launched a new blog, www.PassKontrolblog.com, collaborated with writers and actors on scoring literary readings and made several fake commercials and short films, including a film about life in Paris set in Bushwick.

“The occasional backdrop of the Empire State Building kind of throws it off,” Ralli said. “We have shots of Bushwick and Maspeth on Flushing Avenue towards our studio, which is not Paris, but in our fantasy it is. If I could literally cross [Wyckoff Avenue] and be in Paris I would.

On June 21 the party continues as Pass Kontrol will play outside Northeast Kingdom and then inside Pete’s Candy Store later that night. Pass Kontrol is promising “romantic songs crafted from the finest materials” and “sexy sexy love all night long.”

“Whenever we play, it’s about all your friends coming out and having a good time,” Ralli said. “That’s really fulfilling. All our friends are out here.”

Pass Kontrol will play at Northeast Kingdom (18 Wyckoff Avenue) from 1 to 4 pm. on June 21 and at Pete’s Candy Store (709 Lorimer Street) at 9 p.m. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/passkontrol.

Pass Kontrol takes the stage at Duck Duck Photo

by Aaron Short

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