Steven Bernstein: Proud Member of the Pre-Computer Absorption Generation
AAJ: You have a Sex-Mob-style band.
SB: Yeah! It's Sex-Mob-style band. It's just a band that's these guys. We have hundreds and hundreds of tunes. It's interestingwe hadn't seen each other for two months, and we played in Europe at this really cool little festival where you play in these old barns outside of this small town and people bike from place to place. It was nice, because when you play a big concert or festival, you kind of have to go for your hits, because you're playing for a couple thousand people and you have to make those grand gestures to make it work. But we were playing in a small environment for a couple hundred people in an enclosed space, and man, we did four sets and we never repeated a song. And we hadn't seen each other for two months. But before we played, I was just saying, "Hey, remember this one? "Oh, yeah. You remember that part of it? "Yeah, right, that partI forgot about that.
We just have so many songs. There's such a huge library of stuff in that band after eleven years. I've written so many charts, and these guys all have incredible memories. They remember everything. Briggan's the only one who carries charts with him, and sometimes I'll carry some of the newer songs. Tony and Kenny don't carry anything; it's all in their heads. So it's amazing. We've had one rehearsal in eleven years, one actual rehearsal where we called a rehearsal at an actual rehearsal studio. Before we did Sex Mob Does Bond, we got together at the club that afternoon and ran some charts. But we did a concert of waltz music once, and I had these twelve-page charts, and they were exact transcriptions of Strauss waltzes. It was really complexyou had to go from this section to this section to this section. So I said, "You know, we're actually going to have to have a rehearsal. But in eleven years, that was our one rehearsal.
AAJ: That one seems kind of called-for.
SB: Yeah. But it's a pretty unique way of creating a bandit's being created onstage. With both bands, actually, but even more for Sex Mob, because we've been doing it onstage for eleven years.
AAJ: Sounds like some fortunate relationships to have.
SB: Yeah. Unfortunately, because everyone's so busy, we don't really play that much, but luckily now, whenever we play, we're either playing at Tonic for our friends or playing in Europe for a lot of money. We barely play the States; I've kind of given up on that. I don't really give a shit at this point. I'm not going to kill myself. I'm 44 years old; I make a really good living as a musician. If people don't want to pay me, I'm not going to go! I'm not going to bang my head against a wall. I can play with Lou Reed, and Levon Helm, and Rufus Wainwright, and write music for TV jingles, and make money doing that. I did it, I went on the roadSex Mob paid serious dues on the road, man. We went out there. We've never had a tour manager; I drive the van and I check the guys into the hotel. It's all self-propelled. The guys just believe in me. "You lead, we'll be there, man. At this point, I feel like everyone knows at this point that we're one of the really cool, unique bands in the world. We just do what we do, and I don't have anything to prove.
There are people who really like this music all over the world, and I know that. When we play a festival in Europe, and it's like, World Saxophone Quartet one night, and us the next night, and Mingus Dynasty the next nightthat's all you've got to say. And we're all part of the same community; when we're backstage, they all know Sex Mob. So I feel if the U.S. promoters can't figure it out, well then, forget it. Like I said, I'm not going to bang my head against a wall.
AAJ: It's tough touring in a van. And it's always harder for bands that play instrumental music.
SB: Yeah. There are very few people who get those art center gigs. And having a name like "Sex Mob well, my wife always says, "You did it. It's your fault. The great thing is that everyone knows the name. No one's going to forget the name "Sex Mob. But on the other hand, the art centers are just a little afraid of a band called Sex Mob. And people have told me that, because I've said so many political things onstage, they're a little afraid of that too. But I just do what I do, and I think it's paid off for me, so you have to take the good with the bad.
AAJ: Yes, and it's just too late to change the name to "The NYC Eclectic Improvisational Gentlemen.
SB: Exactly [laughing]. Every once in a while, we do somethinglike, they say, "we want you to do something at the school, but can we call you something else? So I say, "Yeah, we're the Love Gang. We played some high school in Vermont once, in some really progressive town like Burlington or something, and it said, "the Love Gang, also [laughing] known as S*x M*b.