If there is such a musical genre as lesbian classics, the Montreal-based electronica outfit Lesbians on Ecstasy is well on its way to referencing the whole lot of it. The band has already gained recognition for reimagining hits from the likes of the Indigo Girls, k.d. lang and Melissa Etheridge on its self-titled debut album, and Lesbians on Ecstasy’s remix album, Giggles in the Dark, featured contributions from Le Tigre, Scream Club, 1-Speed Bike, Kids on TV, and Tracy and the Plastics.
Their latest release, We Know You Know — a reference to an early ’70s Meg Christian album — delves further back into the lesbian musical canon and was released on April 10 on Alien8 Records. The band worked with some material from Olivia Records, one of the earliest women’s music labels, and what band leader Bernie Bankrupt described as “more women-with-a-Y music from the ’70s.”
It was less familiar terrain than the lesbian music icons of the ’90s, but the band members enjoyed their journey, perhaps more captivated by the culture than the music itself. “It’s sort of interesting listening to what those ladies were talking about,” Bernie said. “And also they had really extensive liner notes and really wanted to make what they were doing obvious to people. They really wanted to make their process available to anyone who consumed their music.”
The cultural references and sampling in the band’s material can make for some complicated copyright issues, so you probably won’t see them performing on The L Word anytime soon. They were approached by the show, but plans fell through when Showtime was unable to get clearance for the songs they wanted to use.
Bernie wasn’t surprised. “We take our own copyright risks,” she said, “but of course Showtime would be much more on the line. They have much deeper pockets than we do.” But Bernie proudly notes that Lesbians on Ecstasy’s music “has been used in an exceptional amount of independent lesbian pornography.”
The band recently toured California, performed at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, headed over to England in March, and then will follow up some mid-Atlantic gigs with a rock opera at the International Contemporary Art Biennale in Montreal in May 2007.
Asked to describe Lesbians on Ecstasy’s approach to lesbian classics, Bernie said: “There are some that we love and some that we hate, and some that we love to hate, and some that we’ve grown to love. I mean, I don’t really like that song ‘Constant Craving,’ but when you work with a song so much, you develop a new appreciation for it. Sometimes we’ve tried to work with something because we like the idea of it, but if we don’t have a strong emotional reaction to it, it’s hard to get into it. You get bored really quick.”
Bernie handles the synths while Fruity Frankie does the vocals, Jackie the Jackhammer is on drums, and Veronique Mystique plays bass. Jackie and Frankie hail from Montreal, Veronique comes from Quebec, and Bernie grew up in British Columbia. All are in their early 30s.
The women — except for Veronique, who hadn’t yet joined the band — first came together in 2003 to play one show at a Montreal women’s electronic art event called Maids in Cyberspace. There weren’t a lot of women playing electronic music at the time, and the event organizers were scrambling for acts.
“They were looking for more women so they asked us if we had something we’d like to perform, knowing we were people who were messing around with computers and stuff anyway,” Bernie recalled. “It was sort of in that spirit that we thought, ‘OK, let’s just do something. We have this opportunity. It would be really fun to do electronic lesbian music.'”