BRATAKUS are Breagha on guitar and vocals and Onnagh on bass + a drum machine. They are sisters (Breagha and Onnagh, not the drum machine) and they have brought a lot of fresh and positive energy into the scene. Coming from a remote whisky village in Scotland they are serious about their beliefs, they mean what they sing and they are very active, both gigging and recording. Their debut LP is out now and soon many of you will have a chance to see them live in three gigs along with REALITY CRISIS and SEDITION in UK. So this interview is a good opporunity to get to know them better before the gigs.
SP: You come from a little town called Tomintoul. My only association is a whisky distillery of that name. One would never expect a punk band to be born in a village in the north of Scotland…
Onnagh: Yeah, most people only know of where we live if they’ve heard of the whisky, haha! There’s not much else there, definitely not any kind of a punk scene! Or anyone who shares the same kind of opinions/interests as us. That’s why we started playing with a drum machine, because there was no one else around who was into punk music and Breagha had been looking for a band for years, we just thought we’d try out doing it ourselves and see how it sounded.
Breagha: I started wanting to be in a band after watching the movie ‘School of Rock’ when I was a really young child. I had always been around bands ’cause our parents were both in the punk scene so it never seemed like something that I couldn’t do, or something that was only possible for certain types of people. Living in a remote location has upsides and downsides, we don’t need to hire a practice space because there’s no one around to hear us, but also it means we have to travel really far to be able to play and go to gigs!
SP: Since you mentioned parents, it’s no secret that your father was, or shall we say is, in a very well known and legendary punk band from Scotland. Do you take advantage of his experience when it comes to writing songs or releasing records, generally operating within the boundaries of the DIY punk scene?
Breagha: He’s definitely helped us loads with things like how to realese a record, organise gigs and he also has a lot of good contacts that have helped us along the way. Both our parents really help so much with the band and I don’t think we’d be able to do it (or at least it would be a lot more difficult) if they weren’t as supportive. It’s cool now though ’cause we play gigs with bands that Dad played with when he was younger like Cress, Anti-System and Doom, but we’re also part of the younger punk scene so we get to play with amazing new bands too, like Joyce Delaney, Sick of Talk, Anxiety and Gay Panic Defence.
Onnagh: Yeah, and we also have a little tour this month with Sedition and Reality Crisis from Japan. We’re playing Glasgow, London, Bradford and Sheffield with loads of really cool bands, so we’re really looking forward to doing that!
SP: Does he get involved in helping you with stuff operationally?
Onnagh: Yes, like Breagha said, he helps us out a lot, and he also runs the record label that we release all our stuff on which is called ‘Screaming Babies Records’ with us. He’s got a lot of good contacts for distrubution and stuff so it’s really handy right now since we just released our first album!
Breagha: He also drives us to pretty much every gig we play, he taught me how to programme our drums and helped us record both our EPs at home. We’re very lucky because a lot of people in bands parents don’t even come to their gigs.
SP: Having grown up in a 100% punk family with both parents being punks must have shaped you as people. So being punk kids and now punk adults you must have a solid definition of punk for yourself? You’ve always been punk, ha ha and I get the impression you don’t know any other lifestyle.
Breagha: I suppose we don’t know any other lifestyle. A lot of people think the way our family works is quite strange, but to us it’s totally normal to all go to punk gigs together, or for Dad’s band to practice in our dining room and stuff like that. It’s good ’cause it means we don’t argue about what to listen to on long car journeys cause we all like similar music, haha.
Onnagh: Yeah, haha, we like a lot of the same things as our parents and have a lot of similar interests, which I suppose is a bit unusual, but since me and Breagha were home educated we’ve always spent a lot of time with our family so I suppose that’s why we ended up so different from the people that live around us because we weren’t influenced by what everyone was into/doing in school.
SP: Was forming a punk band a natural thing to do for both of you or it came as a thought over decision?
Breagha: I tried to form bands with people basically my whole life and nothing worked out. No one really wanted to play the same kind of music as me and we could never sort out practices and stuff. Finally I decided to just do solo acoustic stuff, but that really wasn’t what I wanted to do. Pretty much all of Bratakus’ songs I wrote when I was doing my acoustic stuff and when Bratakus formed we just programmed drums for them and we had a whole sets worth of songs. When I played my acoustic songs I always heard them in my head how we play them now with Bratakus, so it was frustrating that I couldn’t achieve that at the time.
Onnagh: Yeah, when the idea first came about for me to play with Breagha it wasn’t supposed to be a permanent thing. We just thought since I played the bass that I could learn a couple of the songs and we could programme drums to go with them then record a demo for Breagha to give out to people to see if anyone wanted to do it with her, but the first time we plugged in and ran through the songs we realised it actually worked fine just the two of us, so we decided just to keep it how it was!
SP: What does the name of the band mean?
Onnagh: Bratakus was just a stupid word our Dad used to call us if we did anything bratty when we were younger! Not long after we’d formed, a friend of our Dad’s heard about us and offered to write a little bit about us on his website so asked us what we were called. We hadn’t been thinking about a name yet, but Bratakus was something Breagha had always said she’d thought would be a funny band name so we just went with that!
Breagha: It’s funny ’cause a few people have asked if it was Latin or something. We should start making up deep meanings for it and pretend that it isn’t just a made up word, haha. Once we had the name I thought it would be funny to have the logo as this grumpy looking mean baby and luckily Onnagh is an artist so she drew it up and the logo was born. She does all the art for the band which is cool. Our Dad is also a graphic designer so between the two of them we get all of our merch designs and posters and stuff.
SP: Your music has a lot of energy and anger. How angry are you and what pisses you off?
Onnagh: We’re angry about racism, sexism, homophobia, speciesism, that’s mainly what our songs are about, I think being in a band is a good way to turn your anger into something positive, and being in the punk scene has helped us meet a lot of likeminded people.
Breagha: When we were younger we were in a band with our two best friends called The Sirens, and we played a local talent show. When we got there we realised we were going to be very out of place, it was all people highland dancing and stuff. We performed an acoustic song that we wrote ourselves about playing ‘hide and seek’ and the judges didn’t really know what to say to us, so they actually said “That was so angry and punk it was like you were going to punch a wall…. Are you going to punch a wall?” as if punks go about punching walls all the time, haha. It was also not angry at all, just a joke song! I wonder what those judges would think about Bratakus…?
SP: You call yourself a Vegan Straight Edge band. Have you been vegan and straight edge all your life?
Onnagh: We were raised vegetarian and have never ate meat, and we’ve been vegan for about six years. Our parents and our little brother did it at the same time too because we just started reading up on what really goes on in the dairy and egg industry and realised that for the reasons we were vegetarian it would be hypocrytical for us not to go vegan as well.
Breagha: We have been straight edge our whole lives though. I just never got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t have fun without drinking. A lot of people ask us if we don’t drink because of Minor Threat, but we were already straight edge before we had even listened to them, they are now one of our favourite bands though!
SP: Living in a little town must be difficult for forming a punk band especially when you want to play with people with certain values in their lives. Was using a drum machine the result of no appropriate drummer around?
Breagha: Yes, definitley. As Onnagh said, at first she just learned the bass lines to my songs and we programmed the drums so I could make a demo to help me find people to be in a band with, but once we decided to do the band together we quickly realised that because of where we lived it was going to be much easier if we kept the programmed drums and didn’t try and find a real drummer. Now, we’re really happy playing with a drum machine. It does divide people’s opinions a lot though, haha.
Onnagh: Yeah, people seem to be either all for the drum machine or very against it! But it works for us. It’s funny ’cause the reason we started using the drum machine is because we didn’t know anyone who would drum for us and now we’re happy with the drum machine, we get offers all the time from people who want to drum for us! We’ve still never met anyone who lives close enough to us to make it convenient though, and even if we did, it’s kind of our thing that we play without a drummer now and we like it the way it is!
SP: Who writes songs in BRATAKUS? Do you work collectively or you split roles?
Onnagh: Breagha writes the songs and she programmes the drums, then we work out bass lines and backing vocals together.
Breagh: Usually I write a guitar riff, then I think of lyrics to go with it. I play it myself for a few days then I teach it to Onnagh if I still like it. After that I program the drums and we see if it all works together plugged-in, sometimes a song can sound good when we’re learning it, but when we plug in and play along with drums we realise it doesn’t work at alll and we need to change things about and re-work the way we’re playing it.
SP: Do you live together, is it like, everyday contact or do you see each other at rehearsals only?
Onnagh: We live together so we see each other every day really, we have all our amps and mics set up in Breagha’s bedroom which makes it easy to just plug in and practice any time.
Breagh: We do a lot of stuff together, practicing, travelling and playing gigs, so Onnagh is probably the person I spend the most time with. We barely even have time to hang-out with friends now unless they come to a gig. So luckily we get along!
SP: Sisterhood. How do you get on with each other? Watching you it seems like being all your lives together and now performing together it is a land of honey.
Breagha: As I said in the question above. We get along really well. I can’t imagine being in a band with someone you didn’t like or argued with all the time or something. I couldn’t handle that. It’s really good ’cause we have a similar sense of humour too.
Onnagh: Yeah it’s actually a bit of a problem cause we spend a lot of time laughing and joking when we should be practicing and getting stuff done for the band, we’re very easily distracted. But I guess that’s better than not being able to get stuff done ’cause we just argue all the time!
SP: How do you view present society worldwide? Brexit repercussions, refugees, far right in the mainstream, fear of nuclear war, etc – do you look positively into the future?
Breagha: I think you have to try and look positively at the future or all the horrific things that are happening right now would consume you and you wouldn’t be able to do anything to try and change them for the better. I think a big problem in today’s society is the media’s potrayal of what’s going on and how they twist things and push right-wing nazi views on people who are already looking for someone to blame for what’s going wrong in the world, so people start to hate the wrong people and things get worse and worse. We just have to hope that enough people start finding out the truth for themselves and stop believing the fascist lies that are being told to them before it’s too late.
Onnagh: I absolutely agree. We have a song about it called ‘Blindfold’ which is being released on an anti-fascist comp on Global Resistance Records at some point soon, along with many other great bands, so you should look out for that!
Breagha: On the other side, there are a lot of people organising protests, benefit gigs, charity events, spreading the word at gigs, writing fanzines and generally doing amazing work to help spread a positive message and really trying to make a difference.
SP: What do you do for a living? Do you have day to day jobs, do you freelance, or work is bullshit?
Breagha: We pretty much just do the band full time. A few times a year in the summer we waitress at a castle tea room near where we live, but that’s more to help them out because sometimes they need more staff. So, we don’t really make a lot of money right now, but we’re doing what we want to do.
Onnagh: Since we still live together with our parents we manage fine right now. It’s convenient not being tied to a job because we can spend more time doing stuff for the band, and we can pretty much play gigs whenever even at very short notice. (As long as we have time to book a seat on a bus if dad can’t drive us!)
SP: What are your musical tastes? You’ve played a few gigs so I guess you could recommend some good bands for us to check out?
Breagha & Onnagh: Like we said before, we’ve played with so many amazing bands, but some of our favourites are:
Gay Panic Defence – Kirkcaldy Queercore punks, who are singing about some very important stuff. An essential band. Amazing songs, amazing live preformances, amazing people! Gay Panic Defence everybody. Check them out on Bandcamp or even better, go see them live!
Sick of Talk – Glasgow Hardcore at its finest. Sick of Talk play fast, short punk songs that leave you wanting more. Their energetic performances and brilliant songs make it hard for you to leave one of their gigs and not be a huge fan. They recently released a self-titled 7” which we highly recommend, our favourite song on it is ‘Hell-O’, which our whole family spends our lives walking around humming the riff to now!
Brian Curran – Proper acoustic punk. Brian Curran has been involved in the Glasgow punk scene for many years playing in bands like Disaffect, Quarantine, Debris, Ruin and briefly in Scatha, now he’s playing solo acoustic punk that has everything you could hope for, shouty vocals & catchy choruses. His latest releases ‘The Triad of Impairments’ are 3 amazing EP’s titled ‘Imagination’, ‘Communication’ and ‘Interaction’ which are three of the main things that affect people with autism. All money made from selling these EP’s goes to support the Scottish Autism charity.
Joyce Delaney – DIY Bubblegum pop from Glasgow; Joyce Delaney are as hysterically funny as they are musically talented. Their catchy songs about life will not only make you laugh out loud, but will also be stuck in your head for a long time! The chat between the songs is equally as important to the overall Joyce Delaney experience as the songs themselves. They don’t have a lot recorded right now, but check out what they do have on Bandcamp!
Anxiety – Glasgow Noise Punk. Anxiety are all insanely good musicians and performers. At their gigs, a wall of distorted sound confronts you as vocals shouted into 2 mics punch over the top. You never quite know what you’re going to get at an Anxiety gig, but it will definitely be a spectacle as singer Michael does not restrict himself to the stage or conventional punk dance norms. Not to be missed! Go listen to their latest release ‘Wild Life’.
The Twistettes – More 2 piece sister rock from Scotland! Catchy sing along songs, chunky, heavy bass lines and pounding drums. The Twistettes in no way lack power by not having a guitarist. They’ve toured all over Scotland, England and even been to Korea! They have an album out right now called ‘Jilt the Jive’.
Insufferable – A treat for all the senses. Look them up and see for yourselves.
The Fnords – Surf Punk Scream Queens, The Fnords play fast, energetic songs about horror films and other ghoulish subjects that you can’t help but dance to. The first time we ever saw them play during their opening song, while the singer Sarah was screaming the chorus “I like to die!” her finger caught on her guitar strings and burst open spraying blood all over her white scratch plate. We were instant fans. They are just about to release something new, but in the meantime have a listen to their album ‘Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Fnords’.
Hex – Female fronted hardcore from Leeds, we hadn’t heard anything about them before we played with them in a tiny venue in Aberdeen last year. They were totally brilliant and the whole room agreed which made for a very fun gig! They released an EP called ‘La Voision’ in July this year.
SP: What are the plans for BRATAKUS for 2018. A tour, festivals? More recordings? Wider line up?
Onnagh: We have a lot of gigs lined up for next year already that we’re looking forward to! We’re going to Gran Canaria in January to play a couple of gigs which will be amazing, and we’re hoping to maybe organise a tour in Scandinavia too. We’ve not long released our first album,so we’re just focusing on promoting that for now, but we do have a few songs already lined up for when we record our next album!
Breagha: Thanks so much for doing this interview. Vegetable rights and peace…. Bratakus x