Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Interview: Jamie Bahr, vocalist and bassist of Danger*Cakes

The fabulous Jamie Bahr
Image courtesy of Cherrybones Photography (c)
Readers may recall the name Jamie Bahr from a previous interview with her partner (in crime) Drew Edwards, in which case you will already know that she is glamorous, creative and brilliant. As well as possessing such attributes, Jamie is the frontwoman of Danger*Cakes, a band of feisty pin-up psychobilly sirens tearing up dance floors in their home state of Texas and beyond.

You are the founder of 'all-girl rock'n'roll orchestra' Danger*Cakes - what led to the formation of the group described as 'the hottest unsigned band in Texas'?

I relocated from upstate New York to Austin, Texas after I left my heart at SXSW in 2009. I was on tour with Punk Blues Review, playing our first show in Austin when I met my husband-to-be, Mr. Drew Edwards.I loved playing with PBR, but knew I had bigger fish to fry.

My sights were set on making my dream project, Danger*Cakes, a reality but couldn’t find the right people to make it work in New York. That’s when fate stepped in and two months later, I moved to Austin. Together, Drew and I immediately started looking for musicians. I was hopeful, since I was moving to the “Live Music Capital of the World” that finding female musicians would be as easy as pie, but boy, was I wrong.

It was definitely a labor of love, and that labor was a lot of digging and sifting.But through hard work and perseverance, we found the right ladies.Some say I’m lucky to have found everyone, but I know we worked very hard for that luck and still continue to do so.

The band's sound is a fusion of rockabilly, jazz, soul and blues (with nicknames ranging from Swing-Punk to Psycho-Jazz), and influences ranging from Dolly Parton to The Ramones! Was it always your intention to create such a mix? How would you personally describe the Danger*Cakes sound?

I always call it old school, Rock ‘N’ Roll! So many people are surprised to see a brass section in a Rock and Roll band that they assume we must play Classical, Jazz or be some sort of throwback from the ‘90’s Swing Revival. I’m sure there’s some in there from a little of column A, a little of column B. But that’s what Rock ‘N’ Roll is! I have a LittleRichard concert poster from the ‘50’s that says “Little Richard and his Orchestra!” That’s why I coined the term “Rock ‘N’ Roll Orchestra”, in homage. The music I write is the product of compounding all of my influences, not all at the same time (that would just be gauche and pretentious) but in a way that’s going to move you or at least make you want to move. I mean that in both the figurative and literal sense.

With a year of performing as vocalist of Danger*Cakes under your belt, what has been your greatest highlight?

Playing the Freak Show Festival was really the icing on the cake of a great first year.We had our very first show on Halloween night the year before so it was a great way to celebrate our first birthday.

How long have you been playing the upright bass?

It’s been just over two years. My fiancĂ©, Drew, bought me my first upright bass for Christmas after I had spent months unsuccessfully searching for a female bassist for the band. I’ve always loved the upright bass and thought it might be fun to learn, but never really gave it much thought until it was preventing the creation of my dream project. I’d played other instruments, but never while I sang, which definitely took some getting used to. But it’s been a very empowering experience.
Jamie and Beatrix, courtesy of His Ruin
You're also the lady in charge of songwriting for the group. How would you describe the songwriting process?

I keep it simple, I write the lyrics and melody first, then create lead sheets for the ladies with the lyrics and chord progressions and we go from there. We all work together in an improvisational setting until we figure out what we like and how we like it.

Which song are you currently the most proud of?

I’m most proud of “Judas Kiss” because the melody is evocative of a Be-Bop song, with a Doo-Wop hook and a whole lot of jive.

What can we expect from a Danger*Cakes live show?

Energy! Our music is fun and exciting without being shallow.It’s not everyday you see seven women on a stage, so we are a sight to behold. But all in all, it’s our passion that makes our live show such a spectacle. There’s something so magical about the synergy that comes from a group of individuals playing actual instruments. It’s that synergy that makes Rock ‘N’ Roll so special. It’s like the American Dream; a melting pot of music influences from musicians of different cultures. We live in a day of convenience and technology, and I can tell you first hand, it’s not actually convenient carrying around an upright bass that’s bigger than you. But we resist the canned sounds of synthesized instruments. It’ll never be the same as seeing a live band because you’re missing out on that convergence of energy and the human spirit. That’s what you get at a Danger*Cakes show, served hot and fresh.

What have been your best and worst live experiences?

Sometimes the best and worst are two sides of the same coin. I remember the first time the bridge of my bass collapsed on stage, mid-song about two songs into our set. We were playing outside on one of those infamous hundred degree Texan nights, rocking away to “In the Schoolyard” when I felt my strings go slack. I finished the second verse and went to lay Beatrix (my bass) down on the stage while the horns had their solos, but there really wasn’t enough room. I was still standing behind the bass, not close enough to reach the mic to finish out the song. In a knee-length dress, I threw my leg over the bass to step over it. In hindsight, it would have been much easier to have just stepped over the neck and grabbed the mic, but I threw my leg over Beatrix’s hips and literally impaled my inner thigh on the corner. I was stuck, but I didn’t panic. I grabbed her neck with one hand and threw up the other and began riding Beatrix like a bucking bronco. The crowd went wild, and it was enough movement to free my bleeding thigh from the bass. With adrenaline a-pumpin’, I grabbed the mic and belted out the last verse of the song.

I picked up Beatrix and gave her to my friend, Adam Burchfield of The Octanes to see if he could fix her up and continued the next few songs of the set sans bass. It was the first time I’d been on stage with Danger*Cakes without my bass in tow. It was intimidating but incredibly liberating. Adam fixed her up alright and Drew brought her back on stage so I could have her for the last few songs of the set. After we were done, I walked off the stage, badly bruised and still bleeding. I couldn’t believe how many people ran up to me to see if it had all been staged! I smiled and politely replied no.

That night could have gone in the memory bank labeled “Worst Shows Ever”, but instead I like to think of it as a “Courage under Fire” moment. However, I was a little irked to find out that the crowd thought I was basically humping my bass.
(c) His Ruin
What other musical projects are you / have you been pursuing?

I’ve been working on writing songs and possibly a score for a few independent films. My song, “Don’t Take Me Home” was in the closing credits of the indie film, Mockingbird and debuted at the Oklahoma City Film Festival. Besides that, I’m really involved with the non-profit organization, Kids In a New Groove (KING). We provide music lessons to children in foster care and those who have been recently adopted.

Who would you most like to collaborate with?

I’d really love to collaborate with Danny Elfman, Jack White or Danger Mouse. I’ve always been a fan of Elfman, especially his scores. I have a lot respect for Jack White and what he has accomplished. I love Wanda Jackson, and believe he is a big reason for her resurgence in popularity. As for Danger Mouse, I loved the production work done on St. Elsewhere. I recently heard about Danger Mouse’s recent Spaghetti Western concept album and was quite intrigued. I’d love to see what Danger Mouse would dream up for Danger*Cakes.

How did you discover the rockabilly scene? What was it that made you want to become a part of it?

I may have started off doing Classical music before I was seduced by Jazz, but my heart beats Rock ‘N’ Roll in all its glory. I don’t know if I’m more a part of it or it’s a part of me. But Rockabilly is Rock and Roll’s Country cousin, and I do live in Texas! So I guess I wandered into the Rockabilly scene to be around other people with like-minded interests and a passion for the music. For years people have been saying Rock is dead. Well if it is, then here comes the Rockin’ Zombie Apocalypse!

I love the band's glamorous, vintage-inspired stagewear! Is this how you dress from day to day? Why do you think there has been such a surge of recent interest in rockabilly and pin-up style?

I have a broad spectrum of music that I enjoy and am inspired by, which tends to be reflected in my sense of style. Just like my music, I combine aspects of different fashions from each genre into what I wear. But I do dress this way on a day to day basis. I have really weak ankles and am too much of a weeble wabble to wear a heel over three inches while carrying my bass, so I usually only wear kitten heels for shows and the occasional night out. Otherwise, I’m usually wearing a pair of Chuck Taylors or Converse All-Star sneakers that color-coordinate with whatever I’m wearing, whether that be a simple black dress or my favorite ripped-up Misfits T-shirt and a pencil skirt.

I think the recent interest of Pin-up and Rockabilly styles has come about because people are tired of the same old routine. The economy is lousy. We’re cynical and untrusting of our government and each other. We’re over-worked, under-paid and under-insured. And on top of all that, we’re constantly being bombarded about the obesity epidemic. Yes, the measurements and weight of an average woman today are larger than past generations, yet the average print ad model is smaller than ever. This reflection of our society just adds a second helping of discontent and self-loathing onto our already full plates. So what can you do to spruce up a day of discontent? Get dolled up and go dancing! Pin-up styles are best suited for women with full-figured physiques and ample curves. I know I feel good when I look my best and I’m sure that goes for other people as well. It may not change your situation, but it’ll definitely change your outlook, which could potentially lead to a change in situation. And isn’t that exactly what we’re all hoping for right now?

As a confident, successful and stylish woman, do you have any advice to impart to younger readers?

Fashion is like food. Sure, it’s easy and cheap to eat at a drive-thru restaurant, but you do that everyday and you’re going to look and feel like the same level of quality as that burger and fries. Wouldn’t it be nicer to enjoy a dish of something that’s healthier and more delicious? Something that leaves your appetite truly appeased? Style is just like that. You want to find something that reflects your interests. Don’t just grab anything off the rack and buy it just because it’s cheap and it fits. Look at the quality of what you’re buying and don’t buy disposable. You want it to last, not fall apart the first time you wear it or throw it in the wash. My weight, like most women’s, fluctuates all the time. So I like movable materials that fit well, but aren’t too tight. And if you’re looking to show off those curves, the most inexpensive way to spruce up an old outfit are new accessories, especially belts.I love thick wasted belts. They cinch your waste just enough to help give you more of a svelte shape without being uncomfortable. And of course, Spanx are a full-figured gal’s not-so secret weapon. But what’s most important is to dress in what makes you feel confident and classy. There’s no better accessory than confidence.
(c) Cherrybones Photography
What's up next in the works for Danger*Cakes? Touring? Recording? Shooting a video?

We’re about to start working on our first full-length album, Dessert First. We will also be shooting a video within the next two months for our first single, “My Boyfriend is a Zombie!” Drew and I are tying the knot in April, so Danger*Cakes will be putting off any out of state or out of the country touring until after that. I’m hoping to tour nationally by the summer and tour in Europe before the year is out. There’s a lot of work to be done before that point. We do have a lot of exciting shows in Austin and Dallas in the upcoming months, including opening for Grammy nominated, Ruby Dee and The Snake Handlers on March 30th at Rusty’s. I am thrilled by the way 2012 is already shaping up!

You have an upcoming show (this Friday!) at Elysium, Austin's premier Goth club! You've played at Goth venues before - what sort of response do you usually get?

We’ve played a ton of different venues ranging from Goth to Reggae and Metal to Honky-Tonk and we always seem to get the same reactions of enthusiasm and delight! I’m sure there will be a time and a place where we go over like a lead balloon and that will definitely be a lesson in humility. But so far, people have been very supportive. I’ve had nothing but good experiences in Goth venues. Korova is San Antonio is one of my favorites and I’d like to play the Lizard Lounge in Dallas. I’m really excited about the Monster Masquerade at Elysium on Friday, January 27th. We’ll be playing with The Ghost Storys, The Crypt Creeps and Los Bones. There will be a monster-themed art show and classic monster movies being projected on two different screens. It’s my birthday shindig and it’s going to be a ball!

Anything you'd like to add?

If you’re jonesing for a taste of Danger*Cakes, please contact us and we’ll try to plan a show in a city near you! We love getting to know our fans and look forward to making your future acquaintance. So don’t be shy, find us on the interwebs via Facebook and ReverbNation!


Julietslace said...

I need her hair in my life!

Abilene said...

Totally unrelated but Amy, you got mentioned at Gothic Charm School. :o

Drew said...

That's my girl!

Chloris said...

Hot damn I need everything about this band in my life!!

Anonymous said...

haha, I was going to tell the same thing that abilene. you seriously gotta check it out.

Anonymous said...

btw, "fashion is like food" <3 perfect.

Predator said...

I really like her whole Betty Boop kind of look. Plus, she appears to be a zombie movie fan. That is hot!

Anonymous said...

I know this has nothing to do with your post, but Jillian Venters is talking about you at Gothic Charm School!

Anonymous said...

Tell her cali needs gothabilly and Dangercakes!

Sidewynder said...

Nice to see a curvy girl sporting this look for a change. She is a total doll! I would love for them to come to Florida!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who think it's wicked awesome when a girl plays doublebass?

Byron said...

Marilyn Monroe meets psychobilly. Nice! I hope she comes my way.

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