What do you think a mix of a classically trained ex-opera singer, politically charged lyrics and dark rock sounds like? Probably not Emily Danger, but I can assure you, all of the ingredients are there and then some. This incredible Brooklyn-based band takes “dark cabaret rock” – a genre that you will want to spread like wildfire – to lengths you didn’t think were possible.
I chatted with the amazing Emily Danger herself, and I sat in awe as I unraveled more and more about the awesome feminist musician. If you are looking for an EP (or frankly, your new favorite band) look no further than Emily’s month-old release Peace Arch. You can read everything you would want to know about her below.
So I was looking at all the pictures from your most recent show – and it looked like quite the performance. Some artists just don’t have the energy that you have. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Since we use so many electronics, it’s always a fear that something will short. And this last show we actually lost all of our electronics. Everything that could have gone wrong before the show happened went wrong. My hard drive crashed and my pedal broke, but we fixed it before we got on stage. Sound check was perfect. And then we get on stage – done. Blackout. So we take like ten minutes and then decide “F*%k technology.” We went rogue and it turned out to be one of our best shows ever. It was so raw and the crowd knew what was going on – it was great.
What’s your thinking process before facing the crowd? How do you prepare for shows?
I’m such a mess before I go on, and it’s not just right before, it’s the entire day. I wake up a nervous wreck thinking irrational thoughts – like, “oh, I lost my voice” or “no one will be there” or “something will short.” Leading up to the show I’m a wreck and I regret every life choice I’ve ever made but the second I get on stage it’s all worth it. The audience really connects and I realize how much I love what I do.
So where do you draw inspiration from?
I love to read. I love prose from E.E. Cummings and I like Charles Bukowski’s flawed way of looking at life. Beyond that, I also look to women in politics like Hilary and Elizabeth Warren. And since I was raised doing a lot of musical theater and playing classical music, I look up to older theatrical women like Edith Piaf and Judy Garland – women who were really vulnerable on stage but had voices that you could hear them crying through. I mean a million things – I just love art.
Cool, musical theatre?
Yeah, I’ve been doing it since I was five. My mom was the star of our town and was the lead in everything, and I would be in the children’s chorus. And then in high school, I started seriously studying voice. Then in college I studied musical theatre and I did opera in graduate school. Now I don’t do any of that stuff at all – so some useful degrees I have.
When did you decide that you wanted to leave all that behind?
I just came to a point where I didn’t enjoy performing anymore. My husband actually described it really well; I would go up and I would sing fine, I’d sing beautifully but my eyes were totally disconnected from what I was saying. And when I was writing my own music sometimes I wasn’t singing perfect, but people listened.
It was a matter of my heart catching up to my voice, figuring out what I really wanted to do.
So writing music is a completely new thing?
I started writing music only about three years ago. But, once I started I knew it was for me. I’ve always written though. I’ve written a lot of protest pieces – I’ve written many an eloquent letter to the editor. I’m all about expressing my opinion, so writing lyrics came naturally. The first lyric I felt really good about was the lyrics to "Shed My Skin" our first single, and we got a really great response. So every day I just started to sit down and write. It’s a new development, but I think it’s a natural gift. And I’m still writing letters to the editor.
I’m really obsessed with this idea of you writing protest pieces. Would you consider a lot of what you write to be in the spirit of protest?
Yeah, a great deal of what I do is in the spirit of protest. My first EP was really personal. For this one, I was heavily influenced with the battle for gender equity and human rights violations, such as #BringBackOurGirls. Some of the lyrics might be from a personal place, but these things that happen affect me in a personal way. I have a really hard time reading the news and not having it affect my day. So while I’m writing it may not seem like it’s actively political, I can look back and connect the dots. It comes from a place of fighting; my entire life has been like that, so obviously it’s reflected in my music.
That’s awesome. Do you search anything else when writing music?
My music has a very obvious feminine viewpoint, but my other band member, Cameron, is very introverted and sweet – he feels the same way I do on a lot of issues. The two of us approach making music from a perspective that seeks to have our voices heard. He’s an extremely political guy so he’s helped me shape lyrics and he has some songs of his own as well.
I mean, it comes from that mainly. Coming from a very New York environment where we are constantly being fed information.
I have to ask - how do you describe your music?
Originally I came up with the term “dark cabaret rock.” We are definitely dark, we are clearly a rock band and cabaret because our live shows are made of up lights, electronics, I dance around like an idiot, Cameron is playing violin like it’s an electric guitar. It’s a show. It’s theatrical. For now, that’s our music. I’m sure I’ll change it immediately, but I think that best describes us now.
So how does the future look for Emily Danger?
Well we are touring. We also did this thing last year called Danger Fest for Halloween. It’s a costume festival that’s basically an excuse for us to have our favorite bands to play for us. It’s an entire day of music – last year we got Brooklyn Brewery to sponsor so like twenty bucks for open bar – so we’re hoping to do that again this year.
We are also working with a charity and there’s one you’ll love called “End Sex Trafficking Day.” They are based in Thailand and they pull girls who have been forced into sex slavery out of brothels. Some of the proceeds they will take back, so I am super excited. We’ve paired with them before, as more of a way to raise awareness, but this time it’s taking more of an initiative.
Lastly, I love your entire look. Your site, your outfits… I love it all.
Thank you! My husband is a visual artist and he is our creative director. He directed our last video, he does my eye makeup before shows, he did our last album cover… he’s awesome.
You have such a tight-knit community supporting you!
Yeah, from where we started as DIY band all those years ago – we’re lucky. We lucked out in meeting Devon Craig Johnson. It’s a fortunate thing to have an excellent producer and musician as one of our best friends. Devon also helps arrange our music and has a huge voice in the room when writing because we trust his opinion so much. We call him our "ghost member" of the band, same as my husband. The entire community is really Fleetwood Mac-y, singing songs to each other.
Watch the video of Peach Arch below and follow Emily Danger on their site, Twitter, Facebook, and Soundcloud. The band will be playing at an LA show at Hotel Cafe on Aug. 15 and they just added another show at the Mercury Lounge here in NYC on Sept. 7th.