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DC Girl Power Pop: The Music and Times of The Bam Bams

By Emily Shelton | 12/10/17 11:51am
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Photo by Brightest Young Things

Okay, but can we talk about The Bam Bams? The duo of Gabriela Torres and Ivy Lopez released their single through DC’s own Cricket Cemetery Records in 2012. Although The Bam Bams may have been a shooting star of a band, their music has a fun and timeless vibe. The single is only six minutes of material, but I found myself listening to it on repeat. There is something intoxicating about the dance-worthy beat and bright vocals and crunchy guitar riffs. Imagine a mix of Tacocat and Alvvays with the voice of Chelsea Nikkel.

Consistently, the duo uses playful but sometimes risky lyrics. With “Runaways,” the singer pleads a lover to ignore his mother’s distaste and throw away digression to enjoy the night. The message of her image of being a “toy” is based on the common belief that she gets around disputes that women who go out and enjoy life are not guilty of old fashioned judgments.

“Bobby’s Got a Secret” is about the singer’s crush turning out to be gay. Despite his efforts to hide it “Bobby’s heart is for the boys.” This song is actually my favorite on the album. Under the light and bouncy tone lies the pains of being closeted. As she faces the inevitability of sexuality, the singer exclaims at the end, “Bobby say it isn’t true! Bobby I love you!” 

Finally, with “Tickle Party!!!” the Bam Bams sign off with a quick tune that shows the sheer silliness of the single. The not-so-subtle invitation to a “tickle party” sends us off with a flurry of giggles and a riff reminiscent of The Beach Boys or the bubbly beats of The Supremes. They tune in to the truth that sexuality can be silly and fun for women, and that all of their music can be taken with a grain of salt.

The Bam Bams lived and died without a trace for the most part. There’s little to find of them other than a few cell phone records of a performance at The Black Cat, or a local story on a Baltimore house show. But the Bam Bams were a direct result of the world around them. Famous lo-fi femme pop acts like Alvvays and Princess Chelsea began their careers around the same time.

Around DC new record labels were opening their doors, Cricket Cemetery was about two years old when the single was released. Gay marriage was still a polarizing debate that was gaining traction in some states, but was three years away from national legalization. Women were (and still are) facing systemic double standards. And Torres claimed to be the “secret illegitimate child of Joey Ramone.” But in music, circumstance and bad luck play a heavy hand in the success of a band.

Even though The Bam Bams stopped producing music, their legacy will stick with local girl power pop bands for years to come.