The three women weren’t expecting anything lasting to come of the one-time gig, but the response from it was overwhelmingly positive, and the band got more show offers that very night.
"It just kind of took off on its own, which is an exciting thing," Bernie said. "I’ve been in the arts and performance; I studied theater and the arts; and you work really hard for a long time, and when something happens like that â€” where it just kind of takes off on its own â€” it’s hard to deny that impulse because you spend a lot of time knocking on doors and trying to make something happen. So that was how we all felt: I guess we’re onto something here. People really like it; let’s run with it and see where it goes. And then now we’re sort of still doing it."
Nearly four years after that first gig, the genre, as well as the industry as a whole, is still overwhelmingly male-focused. "I was trying to put together a mixed CD last night and use mostly lady-run labels and musicians," Bernie said, "and it’s actually just really hard to come up with five women-run or women-focused labels globally. Not even speaking just to electronic music."
Lesbians on Ecstasy is far from your typical electronic band. Everything the band samples they play live, sampling the ideas rather than actual recordings, so you won’t hear CD playback or sequencing at their shows.
It was a conscious decision the band made from the beginning. "When we first started, we wanted to play electronic music but we wanted to play it live," Bernie said. "We don’t want to get up there and have playback. We want to be performing the music, and obviously with electronic music it’s a bit of a weird challenge to try and do that."
Apparently Montreal is home to a large minimal-techno-and-laptop music scene, "where there’s a lot of dudes sitting onstage behind laptops making music â€” which is often really good music, but in terms of a performance or a show, it’s really incredibly boring to watch," Bernie said. "So we just decided that that was something that we didn’t want to do. So it forced us from the beginning to be creative with how we were going to work with the material we chose to work with."
The band members take an archivist or researcher’s approach to gathering new material. "We start by collecting records," Bernie explained. "We all have really big record collections. We start trying to find new things and reading liner notes and figuring out what musician played here and trying to collect everything in that same vein. And then we just sit and listen, listen, listen and try and pick out is there a note or a riff or some words that inspire us about this song? It could be in a positive way or a negative way, but we try and find those nuggets that really appeal to us."
Bernie uses a vintage Ensoniq ASR10 sampler that loads off floppy discs. "It has an amazing sound," she said, "but, oh my God, it is so unreliable, it’s insane. And when it crashes, you have to reload the entire operating system from scratch off of Zip disk. And in shows we have to [in a sing-song voice] keep talking. I’m still loading. â€¦"
After a recent upgrade to her Mac, Bernie had to resample and rebuild the band’s entire repertoire from scratch because her software was no longer compatible with her new operating system.
Even though they initially decided to play live, Lesbians on Ecstasy is getting ready to break their own rules. "I think it’s interesting that we restricted ourselves to how we perform, but I think it also meant that we restricted the music a bit," Bernie explained. "So, we’re interested in letting go of our own rules and playing with more samples and more loops and gear that would allow us more flexibility onstage and enable us to build more complex songs."
Watch their video for "Pants in the Sun":