Toronto's controller.controller have been garnishing critical praise here in the states and fueling dance frenzies north of the border for the last couple years but are only now making their second trip to New York. With their highly infectious melodies from female lead vocalist Nirmala Basnayake they prove that they are more than just the latest band to jump on the dancepunk bandwagon. Recalling the best of female rock vocalists from Debbie Harry to Chrissie Hynde, Nirmala's voice alternates from anxious and angry to pure sonic tenderness as the four boys behind her laydown seriously solid songs of punishing rhythm and dueling angular guitar work. Bust out your dancing shoes because with their nonstop four-on-the-floor disco beats and raging basslines, you won't be able to stand still for long.
Colwyn Llewellyn-Thomas (guitar), Jeff Scheven (drums), Ronnie Morris (bass), Scott Kaija (guitar) and Nirmala Basnayake (vocals).
Nirmala recently took some time out to answer some questions for Gothamist...
Let's get this out of the way, where did you band name originate?
"controller.controller" is the name of a Shotmaker song. We kept the odd punctuation and non-caps style intact. Ronnie brought the longest list of band names to the table - literally, because we really were sitting around a table when the decision was made - and this was the one we hated the least. We have grown to love it.
This is only your second trip to New York. Are you excited to be back?
Yes! We get to stay at the Off Soho Suites again!
What is your favorite/least favorite memory involving New York?
My very favorite personal memory involving New York is my first date with my husband (February 5, 2003). We had a fake birthday dinner at Rose of Bombay, went to see the Dismemberment Plan, and stayed up for twenty-five hours riding various subway lines and hanging out by the ocean on Coney Island. My favorite band memory is walking around the city by myself on one of our off days during our last trip, then meeting up with drummer Jeff, manager Linda and pal Catonia on a quest for ice cream. We ended up eating Magnolia cake.
What is your favorite/least favorite thing about playing shows in New York?
My favorite part is representing one of Toronto's (and Canada's) many sounds. Also: Talking to people who may or may not be insane outside the club. My least favorite thing is early load-in and soundcheck times that severely curb the possibilities of tracking down "Law & Order" shooting locales.
Your sound often gets compared to New York bands like The Rapture and !!!. Do you relate to the New York music scene or to the Toronto scene and bands like your labelmates Broken Social Scene?
It's flattering to be compared to The Rapture and !!! but I don't know if it's possible for us to relate to the New York scene beyond the common goal of having the music heard. That goal unifies the New York and Toronto scenes, I think, as well as pretty much every other scene in the world. We all just want to have our music heard, right?
You're known as a band that likes the crowd to dance. Do you find it easier or harder to get New Yorkers to shake it?
So far, it's been harder for us to make New Yorkers dance, but we've only visited NYC once before and maybe all your feets were tired after going to the !!! show. Hopefully we'll have better luck this time, though I feel like people should enjoy the show in their own way, even if it doesn't involve actual movement.
On Oct. 13th you have a daytime show at Piano's, a DJ set at Rothko, and then another show at 3am back at Piano's. What chemicals are you planning on taking to get you through this marathon?
Um, DayQuil. (So: acetaminophen; dextromethorphan; pseudoephedrine.)
Now its time for some fill-in-the-blank action:
You know youve made it when.
...the backlash begins!
Itll be time to pack up the gear for good when.
...it's all work and no play. Which, as we all know, makes us dull. It's also a cliche!
Ill never forget the first time I.
...tried to be clever while filling out one of these questionnaires.
Ill never forget the first time [insert another band members name here].
...Ronnie told me not to try so hard. (har har)
And finally, lets have some fun with word association. Give me your immediate feelings on the following (if youve got no discernable feelings, make something up that wont embarrass you in the morning):
My husband's people.
Bridge & Tunnel
Bloomberg/Smoking Ban/Noise Laws
M. Night Shyamalan's "Village!" (aka Margaret Peterson Haddix's Running Out Of Time, evidently).
Questions inspired by movies...
If you will, a brief justification of the ontological necessity of modern man's existential dilemma (in less than 10 words). (Reality Bites)
Remember when we used to like Winona Ryder films?
What came first, the music or the misery? (High Fidelity)
The misery. Always the misery.
A few quickies on the music tip:
Who would be in your ultimate music supergroup, your all-star Olympic team of rock?
Mary-Kate Olsen and a sequencer. They are called L'il Baggie. (Disclaimer: This is a name devised by my husband which I stole and used for my own purposes. It is in no way related to any and all recent allegations which have yet to be proven in a court of law.)
If you released a 7 what would you put on the cover?
A map of Eastern Europe. The song is titled "You Forgot It In Poland".
What was the first/last album you bought on the day it was released?
I can't remember the first album I bought on the day it was released though I remember Shake Records in Ottawa offering discounts on new releases bought during the first week. My first release-date record was probably, like, Duran Duran's Notorious. The last was Hot New Spirits by Tangiers. Also: Death From Above 1979's Romantic Rights EP, but we actually stole that from our mutual lawyer's office. (Right off her desk! Thanks, Jeff!)
controller. controller play TONIGHT @ CBGB's downstairs lounge @ 11:30.
This interview was done by Greg the Boyfriend. He is an egomaniac who likes to listen to music, ride bicycles, sleep with girls, and then write about it on his website. He also interviews Canadian bands for Gothamist. Sometimes.