Jamie Bahr, singer and upright bass player for Danger*Cakes, an Austin, Texas-based, all-female rock n’ roll band talks hopeless romanticism, how South by Southwest changed her life, sexy band geeks, hipster Lost Boys, and accessorizing.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: You’re the lead singer of Danger*Cakes and you play upright bass. How many total gals are there in the band? What are the names of the other band members and what instruments do they play?
JB: We’re an all-female band made up of five members: Jeremie Fletcher is on guitar, Tina Marie Bartolucci plays alto and tenor sax, Erin Knight plays trumpet and Violin and Laney Santana is on the drums.
Q: You’re originally from New York, but as luck would have it, you met “the most wonderful man [you’ve] ever laid eyes on” while on tour in Austin in 2009 with your previous band, and you two hit it off so well that you moved to Austin shortly thereafter to be with him and attempt to start the band of your dreams. The two of you are now married and he played a large role in the development of the band. How quickly did the move come about? Did your friends or family think you were crazy?
JB: Everyone thought I was crazy! But really, I’m a hopeless romantic, which my friends and family all know. I took the road less traveled and it took me down I-35 to Austin. I met Drew at a club called Headhunters, currently known as Metal & Lace, a dirty dive bar downtown during SXSW. Not exactly the place you think you’re going to meet the man of your dreams, but I did on St. Patrick’s Day of 2009!
I was setting up on stage when I saw him come in. I got off stage and walked to the back of the bar near where he was standing and learned the hard way that you don’t get the option of ginger ale in Texas, and mixing coke, sprite and bitters doesn’t count. It’s gross and definitely not what I was expecting when I went to take my much needed sip of liquid courage. But it worked enough to give me the guts to tap him on the shoulder. He was wearing a black work shirt that said, “Al’s Grave Digging, We Dig ‘Em Deeper”. I said, “Hey, nice shirt”, to which he bashfully replied, “Oh, it’s not that great. I got it at Hot Topic.” He was adorable. It was enough to start up a brief conversation. I handed him my card, bid him adieu and made my way to the stage join the rest of PBR (Punk Blues Review) and belted out our best.
We have a very gothic love story. We met at Headhunters, had our first date at the Bat Bridge, our first kiss was at a skate park called the Broken Neck and eleven months later, Drew would propose to me at the Alamo Ritz at the premier of “The Wolfman”. But what would you expect from Mr. Drew Edwards, creator of Halloween Man?
After our Southby romance, I flew back home to New York. Drew was the first person to call after my plane landed. Every night we talked for at least six hours, discussing everything from our pasts to our hopes and dreams and I knew I wanted to pursue them in Austin with Drew. Seven very sleep-deprived weeks later, Drew flew to New York to help me with the move and to meet my family so he could prove he wasn’t a serial killer. Everyone basically took to him right away, although my mother thought he had a lot of tattoos for someone who wasn’t in the Navy, whatever that means. We packed up my little Toyota Echo and headed south and arrived in Austin exactly two months after we first met. We married last April.
Q: The story of the formation of your band is quite fascinating! After relocating to Austin you posted an ad on Craigslist that was apparently so eye-catching that it garnered attention, albeit negative, from The Onion’s A.V. Club? Could you elaborate on that story for our readers, as well as how everything eventually panned out so that you had a complete lineup?
JB: Drew and I put up fliers all over Austin and on ads on Craigslist that said, “In Search Of Sexy Band Geeks. . .” to recruit for Danger*Cakes.
The flier said:
“Were you the kind of girl who played in the school marching band instead of cheerleading at the game? Were you more about showing off your chops than showing off your fanny? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, wink wink). Have you grown to be a classy lady who
knows not only how to carry herself, but can also carry a tune? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then Danger*Cakes is looking for you. Danger*Cakes is an urban big band of sorts. We know just how to tickle the auricle fancy by combining a strapping rhythm section with a rich and luscious brass ensemble, all fronted by a nice big slice of cheesecake by the name of Jamie B! Add a side of soul with a dollop of punk pin-up and voilà! We are currently keeping an eye out for a percussionist, pianist, and rhythm guitarist, but if you’re someone who knows how to handle their instrument and can throw some spice into the mix, then by all means, please drop us a line. We look forward to making your acquaintance. Bon appétit!”
I know it’s a bit flowery, but it was supposed to get your attention. And it definitely suited its purpose. Most of the women that have been in this band replied to that ad. But it also caught the eye of the Austin chapter of The Onion’s A.V. Club, who tore it apart on their website under a column about strange Craigslist ads. I’m a big fan of The Onion. It’s sitting in my bathroom right now. I can take a joke, but instead of the A.V. club poking fun at the ad, they said a lot of chauvinist and sexist things about what they assumed the band would be like. And begged me to give up so as to not unleash another Courtney Love onto the world. Obviously, I didn’t let it get to me and their predictions couldn’t be farther from the truth. Que sera sera!
Q: I love the all the variations of descriptions that I’ve seen of your band’s style – “swing punk,” “psycho jazz,” “neo-soul,” and you’ve been called “pin-up psychobilly sirens,” yet you are inclined to describe your style as more classic rock n’ roll, right? Isn’t that hard to explain to people who might be confused when they see the horn section? Please explain more to our readers about your notion of paying homage to Little Richard’s notion of the “rock n’ roll orchestra.”
JB: Not Classic Rock ‘n’ Roll; Old School. There’s no Lynyrd Skynyrd in our set. And the only song from the ‘70’s we’ve covered so far has been Blitzkrieg Bop. No, we’re old school; Roots music. And I say that because we’re up there doing what Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Ray Charles did. We’re taking our roots, the music we were spoon-fed growing up and combining it with what we’ve been exposed to; nature plus nurture. Of course it doesn’t sound exactly like the Roots Music of the ’50’s and ‘60’s, but a child isn’t going to be the exact same spitting image of its parent either. And we wouldn’t want that anyways. If we did, we’d be a cover band. Instead we take all of our influences and stew them together to breed something altogether new
and hopefully innovative, but with respect to where we’ve come from. That’s why we used to pay tribute to Little Richard in calling ourselves a Rock ‘N’ Roll orchestra, like he did with his band in the Fifties.
Q: What are the most notable differences between the music scenes in New York and in Texas? What has remained consistent in both states? Do you find yourself missing anything about New York?
JB: I saw a great meme recently online that said “What people think when I say I’m from New York” and it had a picture of Times Square. Then it said “What I mean when I say I’m from New York”, and underneath was a picture of the Catskill Mountains. The Hudson Valley is an
interesting place to grow up and I stayed in that area until I moved to Austin. I traversed many a music scene upstate. In college, I was a jazz major with a classical background playing around areas such as Kingston, New Paltz and Woodstock with a slew of different musicians from genres ranging from Jazz, Folk and Funk, to Rock, Metal and Punk. There were only a handful of venues to play at in each town if you were in a band and most clubs seem to prefer DJ’s over live music. There are so many talented people who reside there that have already made their mark in music and decide to retire or Summer there. But cost of living is pretty high. I’m a full-time musician in Austin. I supplement my income teaching private music lessons, but I would never have managed to do only that in New York, at least I hadn’t figured out how when I lived there. And it’s usually so cold from October to April which doesn’t make for the best conditions to perform.
I love Austin. Texas has taken some getting used to, but I was in love at first sight when I came to Austin. It has a Neverland-like quality that just captivates you, except all of the Lost Boys are
hipsters. I feel like my dreams really have come true here, as childish as that sounds. There’s a lot of opportunity to play out as there are clubs a plenty here, it being the “Live Music Capital of the World” and all. But because of that, the music scene is saturated with people chasing their dream of rock and roll stardom, not all of them talented. So desperate just to play and be heard, that they’re willing to play for free or worse yet, pay to play, which sets a poor standard to clubs. Why bother paying someone for their art when someone else is willing to dole theirs out for free? This type of attitude only hurts the arts and music scene.
I will always love New York and I do miss it at times. But it’s usually my friends and family up there that I’m missing, them and bagels and hard rolls.
Q: You self-produced your first EP “Just a Taste” and went the indie route, mostly selling it at shows, correct? You’re now signed with Deep Eddy records and just released your first full-length album, “Dessert First.” How exciting! Care to tell us about the process of landing the record deal and recording the album?
JB: Technically we don’t have a recording deal. We have a distribution deal with Deep Eddy Records. We raised the money to record the album ourselves and were very hands on with the mixing and production. Ted James is a great guy; really responsible and trustworthy. We’ve
played with his surf-rock band, The Nematoads numerous times. So when he approached us about distributing our album through his label, we knew he’d be a good ally. Now, our songs are being played throughout the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Spain and the UK and are available for
download on Amazon.com, Itunes and CdBaby. So we’re really excited that our music is getting heard by so many ears, near and far.
Q: In addition to being a musician, you’ve also done pin-up modeling, including being asked to be the model and spokeswoman for Dangerous FX, a U.K.-based full-figured, vintage-inspired clothing line. You’re also very outspoken about body positivity, and you said in a past interview, “I do my best to promote a good sense of body image in women of all sizes and they have taken notice. I’ve had countless women thank me for showing them how to embrace their curves and ample figures. It’s the best feeling to know you’ve helped shape the way someone sees themselves for the better.” Have you always been so body confident? What advice can you offer our readers who are struggling with that issue?
JB: I’m not always confident. Doubt is an ugly mother. And as with most women, my weight fluctuates. But I’ve realized that the times I’m most hurtful to myself don’t always coincide with how much I weigh. It’s usually when I’m upset about outside stresses with my career or problems in relationships with family or friends. It’s during those types of scenarios that the anxiety takes over and I find any way to insult myself, regardless if I’m a size twelve or twenty. But I am also of the mind that if you’re not willing to change your situation, you shouldn’t complain about it. I try to resolve problems as soon as possible instead of procrastinating and having all of that stress and worry fester over into other aspects of my life.
I also try to take pride in my appearance. I like to look presentable and put together, which makes me feel that way as a result. If you’re looking for fashion tips for the full-figured female, I’d say avoid loud prints, black is always slimming, dress for your shape and size and always accessorize. But the best advice I can give you is to be good to yourself, like you would be to a good friend. It’s hard to always be nice, sometimes it may not be deserved, but a good friend
comforts you when you’re down, and tells you you’re beautiful when you’re feeling ugly. But they’re also honest with you in confronting not always the most pleasant subjects and helping you with resolving them.
Q: In keeping with your band name, you love baking cakes, especially for your friends’ birthdays. What are some of your favorite (or most often requested) cake recipes? What is your favorite birthday cake to receive?
JB: I insisted on making my own birthday cake this year. Everyone was all upset about it, but I wanted my carrot cake recipe with cream cheese frosting which is my absolute favorite. And I have yet to have a carrot cake anywhere that’s as good as mine. I’ve also had a rash of requests for German’s chocolate cake (which isn’t actually German like the name implies). I have a recipe from the 1940’s that belonged to Drew’s grandmother. It’s a decadent cake that would stop your heart if you have more than one slice in a sitting. But it’s absolutely delicious.
Q: In your rare free time, I understand that you’re an instructor at two different non- profits, Kids in a New Groove (K.I.N.G.) and Girls Rock Camp Austin. Please tell us more about these two causes. What is your favorite memory from working with both of these groups?
JB: I’m involved year round with Kids In a New Groove and during the Summers with Girls Rock Camp Austin. Kids In a New Groove is a non-profit organization that provides children who have been recently adopted or are in foster care with mentoring and music lessons on the
instrument of their choice. It was the first music program I became involved with when I moved to Austin and I do everything I can to support the program and its cause. I feel that music education should not be a privilege, but a necessity in every child’s life. But it’s extremely crucial for those who have suffered hardships as so many foster kids have, to have a positive and healthy outlet to channel their emotions.
Girls Rock Camp Austin is a non-profit that helps build girls’ self-esteem through music creation and performance. It’s been a great experience. In five days, we teach the girls how to write a song and play it on the instrument of their choice (out of guitar, piano, bass or drums) in a group setting. They then learn the process of what they need to do to be in a performing band by participating in different music workshops and practicing before their performance for their friends and family on that sixth day.
I have to say my favorite memories of working with each program are the student’s recitals and performances. I love the look of their faces during their performance, how excited and nervous they are. And after they’ve finished, their look of pride and accomplishment. Knowing that I had something to do with that look always makes me misty with joy.
Q: What’s next for Danger*Cakes? What’s next for Jamie Bahr?
JB: Well, Danger*Cakes is already writing songs for our next album and we’re working on our very first music video for the song, “Judas Kiss”. We’re also in negotiations with a production company for some of our songs to be used in a few independent films. SXSW is just around the corner, which is always an exciting time and we’re in the process of setting up tours on the West Coast for late May, early June and the East Coast in August. We’ll be heading back to Louisiana at the end of March.
As for me, I’m busy planning my own adventures, sans band. I have a shoot coming up for Dangerous FX, but I’m looking to broaden my creative horizons so who knows where that’s going to take me. My New Year’s resolution this year was to relax more and worry less, so I’m
still trying to keep that in mind. Drew and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary April 5th, so we’re hoping to get out of dodge for some much deserved rest and relaxation. Who knows where life will take us.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?