Bratakus Interview: “Angry Young Girls”

bratakus interview

Bratakus’ self-released The Gigantopithecus EP is out now.

Anger is a gift and one that has been bestowed upon young Scottish punks Bratakus.  A few months back I stumbled across their particular blend of fury when they opened for Tuff Love in Glasgow and I was immediately smitten by their energy and aggression. Their sound is a sonic sledgehammer to the gut, thrashing power chords combined with a relentless drum machine, all dominated by singer Breagha Cuinn’s snarling growl which is as impressive as it is terrifying.

Tonight we’re in Aberdeen where Bratakus are supporting Bis, a band who they share several similarities with in terms of outlook and ethos even if their musical approach shoots from a different angle. Overblown is delighted to have the chance to catch up with sisters Breagha and Onnagh to delve a little deeper into what makes them tick. “Bratakus are a vegan, straightedge, riot grrrl punk band. I’m Breagha and I play guitar” explains Breagha, while her younger sister tells us “I’m Onnagh, and I play bass.” With the introductions out of the way, I quickly realise that their off-stage personas are the polar opposite of their on-stage presence, both are extremely polite, very well-spoken and enthusiastic. Not many sentences get finished without one or both of them bursting into laughter. They’re fun to interview.

Bratakus - Breagha & Onnagh Cuinn - Aberdeen Lemon Tree 27th March 2016
Bratakus – Breagha & Onnagh Cuinn – Aberdeen Lemon Tree 27th March 2016

Breagha’s musical ambitions are not a recent phenomenon, “Basically from birth I’ve been trying to form a band and failing cos I live in the middle of nowhere and nobody wants to play punk with me. When I was 16 I started gigging acoustically but it was never what I really wanted to do. In my head I could hear the songs the way we play them now but I had to play them acoustically. Finally I taught Onnagh to play bass and we thought let’s just get a drum machine and start a band. We’ve been playing for about a year now.” she explains.

As Breagha suggests, their existence in their current form owes as much to geography as anything else. They come from a small village in Moray called Tomintoul and even then they live outside the village. Whilst where anyone comes from is fairly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, it’s fair to say Tomintoul is not an area you’d expect a hardcore punk band to be born. I ask how all this developed, parental influence? “Yeah, kind of” says Breagha, “We grew up with our dad playing in various punk bands and our mum was always a part of the punk scene. She was always up the front, we grew up around that kind of music and I’ve always been a massive Distillers fan so this was always the kind of music I wanted to play.”

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Bratakus have been gigging regularly since their formation, thanks to Glasgow’s ever thriving music scene that has offered them lots of opportunities – although they’ve recently been further afield. “Three tour dates so very much a mini-tour” explains Onnagh, “we got down to England for the first time, we played in Leeds.” Breagha pitches in, “That was a very good gig. [We played with] our friend Brian from the band Quarantine and various different bands, he organised the tour and we went along with him. It was really successful and we sold lots of our EPs which was a nice surprise.”

The EP is the recently self-released Gigantopithecus, which is also the first on their own label, Screaming Babies Records. It’s very much a DIY release, with cut and paste artwork, and doodles of skulls and ghosts among other drawings. There’s a lyric sheet complete with an apology for the lyrics to ‘Food Chain’ (“Please excuse these lyrics, I wrote them when I was 13!”) which suggests a little embarrassment from Breagha, which is completely overshadowed by the bravery of printing them or the fact that she had written the song at such a young age. Her vocals aren’t always the most comprehensible, so the lyric sheet is a welcome addition. “This is probably the first time I’ve ever read Breagha’s lyrics” laughs Onnagh, “she’s so secretive about them.”

The EP is a great introduction to the band, their live performance is captured well in these recordings which are dripping with venom. The opening song ‘I Know Nothing’ holds nothing back. Lyrics like ‘I am just a stupid girl’ and ‘I’m getting sick of this hate we spread’ leading into the repeating refrain of ‘I know, I know nothing’. I ask about the origins of the song and where all the anger comes from. “It’s about veganism mainly, we’re vegan and that annoys a lot of people, it doesn’t go down well” explains Onnagh. Breagha picks up on the anger in the song, “but also being straightedge, being home educated and we’re feminists and these are all things that people just don’t really wanna hear, especially up where we live, it’s all farmers and gamekeepers. It’s not even just where we live, but especially there we are very much seen as the weirdos up on the hill, I don’t know what problem people have with it, it’s just cause it’s not what they do. They often just think that we’re just making things up (the reasons for our beliefs), like animals aren’t abused, you just made that up so that you can’t eat nice food. We’re just angry young girls. It’s from all the stuff that ‘I Know Nothing’ is about. The world is crappy right now and we’re really annoyed about it.”

Most of the musical influences Bratakus name check are notable feminist punks, such as Brody Dalle and Kathleen Hanna. Their music definitely carries a harder edge, with the Distillers certainly a strong reference point, but they’re more Black Flag than Bikini Kill. They do sound very similar to a blistering 90’s Glasgow based punk band called Pink Kross. Breagha laughs, “We only know of them, but we’ve been told we sound like them!”

Like their influences did before them, Bratakus aren’t sitting around waiting for other people to do their dirty work. They’re working hard to have their voices heard, to shout down the negativity around what they believe in, to use their anger and attitude as a positive and to do it in the best way possible, get on stage and make a glorious racket. So if anger is a gift, Bratakus is the gift that keeps on giving.

If you enjoyed this interview with Bratakus, you might enjoy our interview with Dilly Dally

Bratakus have self-released the Gigantopithecus EP, a bargain at just £2.50 so order it now here

Follow Bratakus on Facebook // Twitter

Catch Bratakus live at the following shows:
23rd April – Shadow Sound in Glasgow with Velveteen Riot and Killer Bangs
6th May – Audio in Glasgow with Doom, Cress, Disturbed and Iron System
7th May – Nice n’ Sleazy in Glasgow with Brian Curran, Surge, Lodge, Sick of Talk, Glue Rash and more
3rd July – Kelburn Garden Party in North Ayrshire

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