i’ve mentioned before how much i adore front woman of Danger*Cakes, jamie bahr (in fact, i’ve used the term girl crush more than once). the more i get to know her, the more the admiration grows. a very busy lady, i am honored she took the time to sit down and allow me to pick her brain for a why we love austin artist spotlight. it is with great pleasure, i bring you a few notes from the one and only, lovely jamie bahr.
for those that have just been introduced to you, where are you originally from? When did you move to ATX?
I moved to Austin from Kingston, New York in May of 2009 after leaving my heart here during that year’s SXSW festival. It’s been home ever since.
i’m guessing (granted i’m not much of a singer… my husband generally laughs at me and then tries his hardest to ignore me when i belt out a tune) that your pipes are a natural talent. when did you discover your voice?
I believe everyone just has to find their voice and learn how to consciously control it. I’ve always loved to sing and perform, ever since I can remember. I was a strange kid. My family’s house was right next to a cemetery. I’d play outside in our backyard or in the cemetery and sing my little heart out. Hey, it was a captive audience.
I think people often go through a phase, where you hear a recording of your voice and you think “God, that’s what I sound like?!”; half surprised, half unnerved. And you look to everyone else to reflect some sort positive validation. And I always got it from my teachers, family, and friends, even from random strangers and animals. Yes, I kind of have a touch of that Disney Princess superpower where animals and children flock to me, especially when I sing. I certainly was born with raw talent, but I had to learn how to control my voice and be mindful of the power behind it. So I took voice lessons throughout school and college and now I give them through some great homegrown Austin organizations, the non-profits Girls Rock Austin and Kids In a New Groove, as well as my private program, Heart & Soul School of Music.
what was your first band?
I had always been a soloist in school, but it wasn’t until college that I started performing in bands. And once I started, I bounced around singing in all different kinds. But my very first band was the Unswung Heroes, comprised of a bunch of my fellow music students from SUNY New Paltz. We only had one gig at the Uptown Kingston Jazz Festival and played all jazz standards. But that was how I got introduced to the Altercation Records crew and eventually teamed up with Punk Blues Review who was looking for a new lead singer. They were the first band I ever toured or recorded an album with and the one that brought me to Austin in the first place.
a little birdie told me you might be working on putting together a second band… can you tell us a little more about this new project?
I’m still in the writing phases, but I’m starting to work on my solo project, Jamie Bahr and the Bad Decisions. It’ll be an original soul outfit. I love rocking out with Danger*Cakes. Our music pulls you up on the dance floor, slaps you around a little bit and you’re all the better for it, but I’m excited to get to do some slow ballads once in a while. Those are the songs I really love to sing. They ones that tear your heart out and then put you to bed.
you are on the Board of Directors of the amazing, Girls Rock Austin. tell us a little about your role there and what Girls Rock does.
Girls Rock Austin is a social justice and empowerment organization. Our primary program is a summer camp for girls, genderfluid/non-binary, and trans youth, ages eight to seventeen. In one week, campers learn an instrument, form a band, write and original song and play a show, plus participate in awesome workshops on a variety of topics like music video production, screen-printing, self-defense, women in music history, or body image and the media. In addition they learn how to work together in a group and be supportive and constructive without tearing someone else down. Through mentorship and creative expression we provide the next generation of our community with a safe space to gain leadership and collaboration skills, share their own stories and be heard, to try new things and really be themselves, sometimes for the first time.
Girls Rock Austin and the Girls Rock Camp Alliance are creating a social change not only in our local community, but the world at large. Girls Rock Austin serves around 200 campers each summer with nearly fifty percent receiving some form of scholarship to help keep to our mission of empowering all girls through music. We’re a grassroots non-profit organization that depends on the generosity of individual donors, foundations and corporate sponsors in addition to our own fundraising to keep the program afloat. As a member of the board, I aid in the fundraising and organizational duties and was the chairperson for GRA’s Second Annual Girls Rock-A-Thon last year, our largest fundraiser that helps provide the necessary resources we need to sustain and expand our program. Danger*Cakes performed alongside Austin’s own Ume and The Mrs. at Cheer Up Charlie’s and we raised almost $8,000. I live Girls Rock Camp, it’s a cause we’re all passionate about. All of the members of Danger*Cakes have volunteered at the camps. I myself have been a voice instructor, a band coach and the songwriting workshop leader for the last five years.
you also teach at Kids in a New Groove. what do you teach there? what’s your favorite part of teaching kiddos?
I always joke that I’m neck deep in non-profit work. I’ve been a teacher with Kids In a New Groove since 2010. We provide private one-on-one music lessons and mentorship to children in foster care or who have been recently adopted into a permanent home. I teach voice, piano, flute and bass. Many children in the system get bounced around from foster home to foster home which can sometimes be for years. KING unites them with a music mentor who builds a lasting stable relationship of support and trust that helps each student succeed academically, emotionally and socially while they go through this tough period of transition.
For me the best part of teaching the kids is in those moments when they find themselves in a song. So much of music is about expression and communication. There’s a difference between learning how to play a song and performing the song. So much goes into the preparation of it all. A piece of sheet music is a map of an expression; a recipe for a moment or an experience. And when a student is able to take all of those written directions; the notes, the dynamics, the intentions of the song, and combine it with their own experience, a certain magic happens. And whether it happens in a living room or up on a stage, to be a witness of that moment, and to know you’ve aided in some part of that achievement is a beautiful thing.
how did Danger*Cakes come about? what is on the calendar for Danger*Cakes in 2016?
Sometimes I feel like I’m living the quintessential Austin dream. I was on tour with Punk Blues Review for SXSW 2009. I had been trying to start my own all-girl band back home but just wasn’t having any luck finding the right people and had thought about moving to the “Live Music Capital of the World” to get it started. I loved PBR but we were all going in different directions. And then fate stepped in when at our first SX show I met the love of my life, Mr. Drew Edwards, a handsome, sad eyed comic book writer and Texan, born and bred. We had quite the Austin gothic romance. We met at Headhunters. Our first date was watching the bats at sunset from the South Congress bridge, our first kiss at the Broken Neck skate park. He even proposed a year later at the premiere of The Wolfman at the Alamo Ritz and in the spring of 2012, we were married at the Umlauf Sculpture garden.
Drew and I are partners, in every way. We always support each other and our projects. He bought me my first upright bass our first Christmas together so I could learn how to play. I help with the editing and publishing of his comic and even wrote the foreword for the Halloween Man “Ray-Gun Gothic” Collection (Volume 1). So after he flew up to New York to help me move and drive across the country, we immediately started recruiting for Danger*Cakes.
The AV Club chose our “In Search of Sexy Band Geeks” ad in the Austin Craigslist Music forum to lampoon quite sexist and chauvinistically, but it got the right people’s attention and we’ve definitely made them eat crow with our accomplishments. We had our first show on Halloween 2010 for the tenth anniversary of “Halloween Man”. That was the first show Drew put on under Halloween Man Productions that got our foot in the door with the local Punk, Rockabilly and Psychobilly scenes here. Almost five and a half years later we’re still pluggin’ along, rocking out at festivals, clubs and car shows all over the United States. We’re playing at the Hot Rod Standoff II in Gonzales, Texas June 4th. And we’re finally hopping the pond to Europe this Fall for the Pueblos Blancos Music Festival in Spain for the Austin to Andalucia Tour, September 15th through 18th with more dates to be announced! I’m really excited about that. We’ve got a new EP and music video in the works and we’re holding true to our commitment to doing at least one benefit show a month.
i love hearing the story of how you and Drew met, as told by Drew. did you really punch Henry Rollins?
According to the legend, it was a roundhouse kick to the face, but I cannot confirm or deny the details of said event. Let’s just say, you don’t get fresh with Jamie Bahr.
AND… i know you to be a pinup model. tell me about that! how would someone that might be interested (asking for a friend…) in doing that break into it? how did you get into it?
One of the first jobs I had when I moved to Austin was at Hey Cupcake!, slinging cupcakes to the masses in a cute airstream trailer on South Congress. People were always asking to take my picture and I ended up on a few blogs getting called the “Cupcake Lady” and the “Sexy Betty Crocker”. Hey Cupcake! is a pretty popular tourist spot and I met so many people from all over the world. So we decided to do some cross promotional shoots for Kitsch ‘n Glam with photographer Bunni McLaughlin, as well as Vandoll’s and Dangerous FX, a fashion retailer from the UK and sponsor of Danger*Cakes, with Jme and Joey LaCombe of Cherrybones Photography. We’ve become good friends over the years and always love working with them. A picture from that shoot of myself hanging out of the airstream trailer holding a gun with a cupcake on the end of it was on the back cover of Bizarre Magazine. Jme shot the photos for Danger*Cakes’ interview with Playboy Mexico (February 2014) which was outfitted by our sponsor Pinup Girl Clothing as well as the cover for our new album, Quarter Life Crisis.
I’d say if you’re looking to get into Pinup, start with connecting with photographers, designers, craftspeople and boutiques in your community and branch out from there. Talk to them, become friends and help each other. That’s how you create a scene.
Danger*Cakes has recently put out a new album- Quarter Life Crisis. what is the story behind it? what influenced the name? any new influences for the music? will you be touring with it? where can we find be the album?
Quarter Life Crisis is our suitably named first studio album. It felt like every aspect was fraught with frustration and was truly made with our blood, sweat and tears. Those who know us know how true that really is. We did everything completely independently and boy, was it a learning experience. The majority of it was recorded in the home studio of Darryl Shaw-Rockley in the Summer of 2014. I recorded my vocals and bass part on the hottest few days of the year. We couldn’t run the AC because it would get picked up on the recording. It was well over 100 degrees inside that hot box. My fingers blistered from the sweat and humidity so I covered them in a baking soda paste to dry them out. It helped but it would dry and crumble everywhere, getting all over me. I was hot, sweaty and gritty, the perfect Rock ‘n’ Roll formula. But we ended up scrapping those bass recordings after a microphone glitch and re-recording it at The Bubble with Frenchie Smith and Sean Rolie mixing and eventually mastering it with Nick Landis at Terra Nova.
As you can imagine, I was super excited for the finished product. I had written the songs over the last few years with the band while we were out on the road and was involved with every aspect of it. My hands were all over that cookie jar. The album is dark and fast; great driving music. So when Matt Eskey from Any & All Media called to say that the CDs were in and we could pick them up, I hurried on over in our tour van who we lovingly referred to as Sandy. We drove all over the country in that van. So how fitting was it that bringing that album home would be her last ride? A teenage girl following a boy on a motorcycle, texting while driving hit me almost head on, totalling Sandy and leaving me in physical therapy for injuries that spanned the entire left side of my body for over five months. Those injuries still make playing the upright bass uncomfortable and downright painful at times, but I’m a tough cookie and we pressed on. We filmed our first music video, “Runaround Girl”, five days after the accident. I can see the pain in my eyes and always look to see if I did a good enough makeup job to cover the bruising each time I watch it. But we toured throughout Texas, Colorado, Arkansas, and the Midwest last year to promote and build momentum for the album.
Then we suffered another blow in November when our drummer lost her father to cancer. He was our Band Dad and everyone needed time to just grieve and heal after that loss, so we took our first real break from playing out in five years. It really felt like Quarter Life Crisis was life imitating art imitating life. A lot of bands don’t come back from those kinds of set backs, but we’re Danger*Cakes and we persevere. The new year has given us a new outlook and we’re already back up to our old shenanigans and some new ones! The new EP and music video should be out this summer and you can find Quarter Life Crisis as well as our debut live album, Dessert First on CDBaby and iTunes, but the best way to get one is definitely at one of our shows.
where do you find your spare time? when you do get a free moment, what do you like to do?
I don’t think of myself as having spare time because I’m always busy doing something. I’m a chronic multi-tasker and am always trying to cram ten pounds of stuff into a five pound bag. My time management skills reflect that. But when I do get a little downtime, I love to bake decadent birthday cakes and have recently taking up painting in water colors while taking long baths.
and, of course, why do you love Austin?
I’ve loved Austin ever since I first stepped off the plane. Maybe it’s because Austin has been the setting for my own personal love story for the last seven years, some of the best of my life. But I just love the sense of whimsy and childlike wonder of so many of its inhabitants. It’s reflected in everything from from its food to its architecture. It’s Neverland for adults.
thank you, jamie, i appreciate your time and everything you do to make this world a better place with all the beautiful things you do and the talent you share with everyone.
with love, as always,
*all photos provided by jamie bahr and Danger*Cakes