From earth science to the main stage

Mile Delaney, Joe Boccagno and Mark Guerra performing on Oct. 8. Photo: Caitlin Tremblay

Delaney, Boccagno and Guerra performing on Oct. 8. Photo: Caitlin Tremblay

If the Beach Boys and the Ramones had a lovechild and that lovechild idolized the Kinks, he would grow up to be The Kezners, a hard-rocking, bass loving, ska sounding punk-ish band from the Bronx.

The Kezners are a group of four guys born and raised in the Bronx: Mike Delaney, 27, guitar, synth, harmonica and vocals; Alex Rivera, 26, guitar, synth, harmonica; Mark Guerra, 26, bass; Joe Boccagno, 26, drums and vocals.

Their look is as eclectic as their sound. Delaney recently wore bright red suspenders on stage while Boccagno wore a black dress shirt, which clashed a bit with Animal from the Muppets perched on his drum kit. Rivera wore a plaid, 1990s Eddie Vedder-type button down and Guerra rocked his bass in a “Bronx: only the strong survive” T-shirt.

The Kezners met 10 years ago at I.S. 192 in Throgs Neck and it’s this same school that inspired their name. They’re honoring David Kezner, their earth science teacher, who they all loved and was a source of inspiration. The band says he pushed them to be their best and to explore any and all of their interests, including music.

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Guerra, Delaney and Rivera started out as street performers. Photo: Caitlin Tremblay

They describe their music as “danceable upbeat rhythms with subject matter about life, death, personal growth and companionship.” They now have around 100 guests at each show—often playing gigs promoted and booked by Bronx Underground—but they still remember their rather modest beginnings.

“We started out as street performers, most notably playing outside Frank Bee’s costume shop during the Halloween season,” Boccagno said. “Sometimes the police would dig the music, but other times they would tell us to beat it.” This rough beginning influenced their performance style, which is full of stage jumping, head banging, sweating and Kevin Bacon-style “Footloose” dance moves—all meant to draw attention and keep people from looking away. It works. The Kezners, in an effort to remember their start, are playing Saturday shows this Halloween season outside of Frank Bee’s on East Tremont Avenue in Throgs Neck.

Back in their I.S. 192 days, the guys also received some pointers from professional musicians, thanks to Boccagno’s father, who would also take them to an old local bar, the Shannon Seaview, where members of David Peel’s Lower East Side band would hang out. They got to play with these experienced musicians, some who used to play with John Lennon, and began creating their own sound—moving from covering songs by their favorite bands to creating their own.

Throughout their career, the Kezners have played everywhere from basements to big stages. “We’ve played half-naked and in three-piece suits,” Boccagno said. “We even once lugged a heavy organ up several flights of stairs just so that we can use it on one song on Iona College radio.” Seven years ago they even played a burlesque show at New York City’s famed and now-defunct punk rock mecca CBGB, which closed in October 2006.

The Kezners have also experience a few near-death experiences while playing shows, specifically shows at Waterbury Estates, a housing community in Pelham Bay. “All the neighborhood kids would come out and the vibe was great,” Boccagno said. “Everyone was just so into the music that we would often crowd-surf during our own sets, which was always terrifying because of these low-hanging ceiling fans which they always had on high during the show. A few times, we came close to getting clocked by those fans.”

The Kezners performing for a large crowd on Oct. 8. Photo: Caitlin Tremblay

The Kezners now draw sizeable crowds. Photo: Caitlin Tremblay

Their followers love The Kezners beause of their unique, hard-rocking sound. “It’s fun, original music that not everyone is doing,” said Mazzola, 23, a Bronx-based drummer who goes by only his last name.

What’s refreshing about The Kezners is that they don’t seem solely focused on big money and big success, like most up-and-coming musicians. They seem happy playing for their Bronx base because they simply love playing music.

“We see ourselves playing together for as long as the good Lord wants us around,” Boccagno said. “Playing music is what we do and what we love and we hope to reach as many people that are willing to listen.”