Bassist juggles multiple bands and diverse genres

St. Louis bass player Simon Chervitz.


Simon Chervitz plays bass guitar in so many local bands, it makes you wonder how he manages to keep the rhythm. There’s the Cara Louise Band (Americana); Defeated County (indie-rock); Spatula (prog-rock); and Illphonics (hip-hop fusion). Plus “a tap dance company, MoSTLy tap, and a bunch of other songwriters,” he said. 

As he puts it, “I’m always looking for another gig.”

His work with Illphonics recently attracted the attention of Tony Visconti, who has produced albums for artists such as T-Rex, Iggy Pop and the Moody Blues. He also produced David Bowie’s Grammy-winning final album, “Blackstar.” Visconti told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he was working with Illphonics pro bono because he believes “in the band that much. And these guys need a break. They should be big stars by now.”

The Jewish Light decided to launch its Under-36 series, a regular feature about millennial Jews connected to St. Louis, by interviewing Chervitz, who is 32. 

How did you get into music?

I’ve always had an interest in music. I was listening to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus when I was 13 and took my bar mitzvah money and bought a bass guitar and started playing in the school jazz band and have been playing ever since.

You play in a variety of bands – hip-hop, alt-country, prog rock/jam band, etc. What’s it like to play bass in all these different genres?

Playing bass is about where rhythm and harmony meet, so basically you just hold the groove down so everyone else can do their thing pretty much regardless of genre. Sometimes the songs need busier parts, but I’m also happy to just play whole notes under chords, too.

Is there one project you’re most excited about right now? If so, why?

I’m probably most excited about what’s going on with Illphonics’ newest recordings as we’ve been working with a producer [Tony Visconti] who has been involved in some amazing albums dating back decades, stuff everyone has heard and enjoyed. Whether they knew it or not, he produced them.

How did Illphonics first get connected to Tony Visconti?

We met Tony at our unplugged show at the Kranzberg Arts Center a few years back. He had been working with a wonderfully talented artist, Kristeen Young, also out of St. Louis — check her stuff out. She was in town, and they came out to the show, and we followed up to feature her on a song on the album we were working on at the time. But she was in New York at the time and he engineered her part on our song “Sweet Missouri,” and thankfully he was interested in working with us again.

What’s it been like working with him?

Tony is amazing to work with. He has a great energy about him and an abundance of knowledge about how to make a record. It was truly a privilege. He also has the best stories about his time in the recording industry. 

How do you react to him saying that you “should be big stars by now”?

It feels good to have your talent recognized, especially by someone who you respect so much.

Could you talk a little bit about your experience growing up in the Jewish community?

Sure. I grew up going to Sunday school at Shaare Zedek and then Hebrew school at BSKI. It was cool, I guess, though I’m not sure I appreciated it at the time. I think that stuff helped make me the inquisitive, kinda funny person that I am today. 

What’s your connection to Judaism like today?

Aside from having a more personal reason to be concerned about the rise of the alt-right? It’s a jumping off point for part of my worldview. Though I do consider myself a bunch of other things before being Jewish, it’s definitely on the list. And if they start making lists, I realize that I’d be on them. Hope this isn’t too irreverent. 

This story is part of our “36 and Under” series, which highlights interesting Jews age 36 and under who either live in St. Louis or have spent a significant amount of time here. If you would like to recommend someone for this intermittent feature, email [email protected].