Dope dyke foursome Lesbians On Ecstasy savour expanding fan base and MiMi nods
We certainly don’t need Spin magazine or The New York Times to tell us how hard the Montreal music scene has rocked this year – the evidence is in our face.
Want proof? Forget about that scrawny, shaggy indie-boy Arcade parade and check out the estro-powered attitude of Lesbians On Ecstasy, a totally over-the-top party phenomenon that could only have come from La Belle Province. Since hitting the club scene with their live act last year, the dynamic dyke quartet have taken partyers in Montreal – and beyond – on their own special trip. Jacking up Sapphic sass with the dark beats of drum’n'bass, and infusing dance music with a political edge, the leather-sporting, whip-wielding Lezzies have redefined dance and dyke culture with their sex-charged, lesbian-inspired brand of electro ecstasy that seduces even straight dudes into submission.
After dropping their debut disc with homegrown indie Alien8, touring North America with Le Tigre and being heralded by The Advocate as the number one gay band of the year, the Lezzies on X have just received Montreal kudos with two MiMi nominations, one for best songwriting and the other for best new electro album. Their star is rising fast, furious and high.
But that doesn’t mean the foursome – comprised of frontwoman Fruity Frankie (DJ Lynne T.), self-professed nerdy keyboard noodler Bernie Bankrupt, former rockers Jackie "the Jackhammer" and Veronique Mystique, as well as the group’s mascot, a feathery bird-pen called Speedy – don’t have time to laze around on a Saturday morning for coffee and croissants in fine Montreal slackerdom style. All are comfortably seated around Bernie’s retro kitchen table in her equipment-cluttered Parc X apartment, playing off one another in that special way reserved for bands and sports teams.
Hour Your music and performance fuse polar opposites – the granola-crunching earnestness of lesbo folkies like Tracy Chapman, the snarly punk rawk attitude of riot grrrls like Team Dresch and the post-queer electro politicking of Le Tigre. You’re obviously drawn to the dark and sweaty aesthetic of drum’n'bass – do you have any Sapphic classics you think work better within an electronic framework?
Fruity Frankie The song that makes me laugh the hardest is Closer to Dark (their version of the Indigo Girls’ Prince of Darkness). That was one of the first we wrote. Bernie and I spent hours singing the tune until we realized the song deserved a drum’n'bass spin. Those lyrics – "My place is of the sun/ this place is of the dark…" It’s like we said, "What can we possibly do to make this song more absurd?" So we added helicopters, a choir, a hardcore band…
Bernie Bankrupt It’s total teenage fantasy music.
Hour But your music also seems to be commenting directly on who has access to certain kinds of music, or who controls certain "scenes."
BB Remix culture and sampling or re-recording for the dance floor – we didn’t invent those ideas or the technical aspects. We poached the template and applied it to our community. But our influences seem more blatant and at odds with convention since we’re dykes referencing lesbian music, because for the most part in the industry – especially in electronica – it’s mainly men poaching men. Early in our career, I told a DJ/producer friend of ours we got our first gig in NY through friends, and he dismissed it as "one of those lesbian connections." Uh, how do you get a DJ gig in NY? Oh yeah, it’s your straight dude friends! How come that isn’t equally pejorative?
Jackie Jackhammer So basically, it’s all about [whispering] the gay mafia…
BB Yeah, thank God one of us slept with someone in Portland.
Hour So, do you think people get that you’re trying to fill a void in the lesbian dance scene?
BB What lesbian dance scene? [Riotous laughter ensues]
Veronique Mystique The lesbian jig?
JJ The dyke two-step?
BB Really, there are no lesbian bars in the city, so we’re all about mixing things up – both scenes and spaces and the music itself. The crowds at our shows are really diverse.
VM My favourite audience response is: "I’m totally not gay, but you guys are great. I’m straight as a bar."
Hour You also charm the ladies – queer and straight.
BB We have been trying to get onto an Olivia cruise [a huge commercial cruise liner for gay women]. I mean for God’s sake, somebody hook us up! How crazy would it be for us in our chaps, with our whips, to be doing the entertainment on an Olivia cruise?! Thousands of women stuck on a boat for a week. Every night they’d have to listen to our rendition of k.d.’s Constant Craving! [They proceed to sing it]
Hour Speaking of lesbian havens, what was it like playing notorious all-women’s Smith College?
Everyone Lynn signed some boobies! [more laughter] And Jackhammer signed a stomach!
BB And one pair of boobs [Fruity Frankie] signed was… [whispering] fake!
FF Yup, there was some feedback boiiing to it. Uh, yeah, so Smith was a lot of short-shorts and breast baring!
Hour But that seems like it’d be the exception to touring in the States. It’s such a weird time to be gay in America. On the one hand, you have same-sex marriage dividing the country, but on the other, there are tons of great queer bands that have emerged.
JJ We’ve been struck by how diverse it is and how there are meccas, like Olympia, these enclaves of cool, fun, progressive-thinking people doing a lot of activism and art. Although there are just as many pockets of extreme right-wing people.
BB It’s unfortunate that the Bush/Iraq thing has painted America as this monolith. Everywhere we went, even in the far south, people were opposed to the government. We noticed that tons of people are so envious of us being Canadian – they have this romantic notion of what it is to live here. I mean Canada has a right-wing presence that’s very strong as well! It’s not some idyllic dream world. Sure, we’re lucky to live in Montreal – it’s a very open city. But there are still divides… between the anglo and franco lesbians, or in the Village, between homos and dykes. Still, in the States, creating an openly queer space was something very inspiring for people, and something I think we take for granted. It’s still important, not just in gay clubs and bars, to create spaces for women and queers and flirting and dancing.
Hour You guys have remained fervently bound to a DIY/indie process of making music. Are you ever frustrated by the music industry in Canada?
BB In terms of distribution and promotion, sure. I mean how many times can a lesbian band play Toronto and Montreal? We rely on touring in the U.S. to survive.
Hour Le Tigre are one of the few political, queer-focused bands to move beyond cult indie status and make serious headway in the mainstream. What was it like touring with them?
BB It’s inspiring. They have a tour manager and a bus. We have problems finding a sober lesbian to drive our car!
Hour Are you surprised by your recent MiMi nod?
BB Yes! The music community can be harsh sometimes. It feels like we’ve received an exceptional and surprising amount of support from unlikely channels – we never expected much attention from things like the MiMis or our DJ friends. We are surprised and very happy that those avenues have stepped up to support us as well.
Lesbians On Ecstasy
Play at the MiMi Awards Gala at La Tulipe (4530 Papineau), March 13
DJ Lynne T.
At Wunderbar at W Hotel (901 Square Victoria), March 20
With Bernie and DJ Headmaster at CO-ED at Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent), March 14
At Femme Fridays at Parking Pub (1296 Amherst), March 18