January 4, 2014 by Skiing the band
You may have heard about a band in Berlin called Brabrabra. They have just released a cassette tape of 9 original masterpieces on Kitchenleg Records and are playing shows around Berlin.
I first saw them about a year or so ago. I don’t remember where because it was such an amazing concert, all I could think about was the music, not the venue or who I was with, or when or why or anything. All I know is, while watching them play I knew that this energetic, fresh, dynamic, and spazzy band was going to be my new favorite. They didn’t sound like anything else happening now, in Berlin or anywhere. It kinda reminded me of what Skiing (my band) sounded like when it was just me and Dianna, but not quite. It kinda reminded me of the Marine Girls and The Frumpies, and maybe the Go Team or if Beat Happening had keyboards and Katrina Pastel whisper-singing instead of Calvin bellowing, but comparisons felt trite and never really captured exactly who this band was.
So fast forward a year, and here we are with their music on speed-dial and all that energy documented in the form of a super well recorded cassette. And I am a lucky boy. Lucky to listen and lucky to share an interview I had with them this past December. Scroll to the bottom to stream their cassette, “Mango.”
3 Cheers for BraBraBra
Everett: How did you form?
Federica: I think we formed just by chance. Susanna and me, we were neighbors and sometimes we met, had tea, played a little bit. We were actually trying to learn accordion together. Then one day we wrote what then become “Sorel”, and by that time, Saiko joined us. She’s the sister of Tatsumi, one of Susanna’s flatmates. Tatsumi was erroneosly thinking that we really had a band, and he organized us a show! We kinda of took up the challenge, and had our first gig after playing maybe two months in my living room, with just 6 songs, but all by us! We had fun and we had the sensation that it was something good for our lives, so we kept on going, and we started to practice in a real practice room. I think in the beginning we were more lo-fi and chaotic, now we write songs that seem like songs, but still are a bit sloppy, that, as a fan of the Slits or Y Pants, I consider very necessary.
Saiko: Fede und Susanna asked me to play with them, bacause I was also wearing glasses like them. I have never played in a band before, I can’t play any instruments, but I thought I might try hitting the drums…I simply liked the idea to start something with the people I like.
Susanna: we were born out of a casual and amateurish accordeon ensemble that me and frederica tried to form in a moment of madness, and out of saiko’s aura.
Everett: Who are you, and who plays what?
Federica: I play guitar, bass and sing in some songs.
Saiko: I hit drums and tweet rarely some words.
Susanna: i play keys, bass and sing, and i play drums just in a couple of songs.
Everett: How do you write your songs?
Federica: We wrote all the songs together. We improvise or jam a lot when we practice…so when it comes up an idea that we like, we start to arrange it, and the song somehow takes form. Of course now is almost two years that we play together, so it feels more and more confortable and we are adjusted more and more to eachother’s style/taste. I have to say that this has always been a very natural process.
Saiko: with mach-mit method and mood.
Susanna: There is no fixed process, someone comes up with a very primitive ideas and the others play something on it, until we are more or less happy with what we hear.
Everett: What are your songs about?
Susanna: love, anger, poetry and prose.
Saiko: about us, I think
Federica: The songs are about very strange things going on in the life of a slighly thirty-ish girl. Sometimes one of us complains with her girlfriends/bandmates about a guy (as most girls do), and this whole thing inspires a song. It’s much more rad than just being comforted! Susanna writes most of lyrics. I’m kinda proud to have the maternity of “Lack of God”, I’m really dragging my struggle and suffering of being an atheist in every single music project I have! I guess we got a story behind every song… for instance “Braces” is about being a teenager with braces, glasses, and very unpopular at school.
Everett: Why is it important for you to be in a band?
Federica: I remember maybe 3 months in 15 years since I played that I was band-less. It was terrible! I’m a little bit like that girl that can’t be single, I can’t be without a band, I’d feel lost.
Saiko: oh to play in a band was something new for me, but I descovered it is so nice to play with the others! we can share experiences like when we dance together, and the music we can make by ourselves!!!!
Susanna: Starting to play in bands has completely changed my way of experiencing music. i was already playing an instrument, but i discovered a totally different world that lets me enjoy myself and share thoughts and feelings, communicate with friends i love and people in general on a different level.
Federica: Tough question. I think most of the time you would recognize a scene many years after, and sometimes was even created by some journalists. I’m not sure Suicide and Contorsions in early 80s were aware of being part of a scene, just to say. For sure you can’t create it, it’s a spontaneous process that have to start from the bottom. To reply at your question, I think Berlin is huge and musically there is everything, it’s very heterogenous, so I can’t really recognize a scene…and most of the bands/musicians I know are people that maybe stay in town some years and then leave, which makes things harder. I think in Berlin there is, in general, a kind of taste for casual encouters and occasional meetings, this is maybe because of the overwhelming variety of what is going on. Of course it’s awesome that there is music everywhere, you can’t really complain about that!
Susanna: I think there is space for people to express themselves and try things out, at least in my experience. and i think this means a lot.
Saiko: What does scene mean?
Federica:I’ve mostly played in girl bands, since high school, and was not a coincidence. As a girl, you would always feel a bit freaky if you want to play rock music, and playing with other girls that have experienced the typical macho bullshit like “good player for being a girl” you’re sure you got allies. Also, most of the girls have less access to a proper “rock education” or some strong model to copy (there is not a female Jimi Hendrix just to say) and I think they play just the way they want…this is not coincidental that some of the most intersting music comes from girls (I don’t need to repeat myself, but Raincoats, Slits, Sleater Kinney, Ut, Bush Tetras…). And, I think, still now, it’s a political act, means to not be passive. Also, it is a little bit an advantage. I saw the Magic Markers live last month: Elisa Ambrogio is such a wild guitar player (and she’s insanely expressive and I love her), and I thought that all this throwing the guitar or the ground and the overdrive at maximum made by a girl is still meaningful, while made by a straight white guy, it would be just pathetic. The fact is that we do have millions of reasons to be profoundly upset, still..it is exacly as that t-shirt that Kim Gordon once wore, “girls create punk, not british”.
Susanna: i don’t notice a big difference between playing in a girl band and in a mixed band, at least not in a negative sense. my perspective is the same as if i were playing with boys, what matters for me is fun, creativity and harmony.
What other bands do you like playing with in Berlin?
Federica: I like Skiing and their brother band Classic Muscle! I like Ruins of Krueger, Paro, The Gondors, The Fingers…I like a lot Epiphany Now. And, of course, I like Liquorice!
Susanna: i am a big fan of SKIING! love dancing at their gigs. and classic muscle, futaba nakayama, pacific strings, the anna thompsons, tatsumi ryusui..
What is the mission of Kitchen Leg records?
Federica: KLr is the record label I’ve started with Andrew of Ruins of Krueger. It was a lot of time I wanted to make a record label, my solo project DuChamp has been released by Boring Machines, a glorious one-man-full time worker label that now is recognized internationally, and since what he’s doing is so damn good, this give me the idea it is possible, starting from something small, and make it grow time after time. Andrew and me we are both musicians and music lovers since a long time, and I think we got to this point where we wanted to give back some of what we get, which means, being committed, go to the shows, buy records, write about music, organize shows, and so on. KLr is something we started with similar feelings: we want to produce good music, and have a recoinaissible aesthetic (like 4AD, but we used collages!), and just make it happens. Plus, Andrew and me we are old enough to remember the times before blogs or the compulsive mp3 download, when you would get just few informations from fanzines, or you would study carefully the only record you would be able to buy with your weekly money. I think for us, the idea of making tapes, and make collages artwork by hand, is a way to say how much we love music. And, sure, we are big fan of the Minuteman, since what I wrote is perfectly resumed in the wonderful “History lesson”! They are big part of our inspiration and aesthetic too.
Everett: OK, you are all going to a desert island, which luckily has a music player, which 2 records would you each choose and why?
Federica: Any record from Eliane Radigue, drone would never bore me. And “half machine lip moves” by the chrome
Saiko: noise addict / Young & Jaded
movie tones / the blossom filled streets