Music and style just two ways Bratboy makes sense of a weird world

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      Fashion has always been synonymous with rock and roll. Artists like David Bowie and Grace Jones have made indelible marks on both with their bold and singular styles. Vivienne Westwood, the late Queen of Punk, used clothing as a tool of resistance. The Ramones influenced generations of Converse- and leather-clad teens, as did Kurt Cobain with his flannel and ripped jeans. The list is truly endless—fashion and music have a powerful and reciprocal relationship, rooted in creativity, rebellion, and expression.

      It’s part of what Bratboy’s Bella Bébé and Megan Magdalena first connected over when they met in their early 20s. The Vancouver-based artists—whose striking disco-punk meets mod-goth aesthetic is a core tenet of the rock band’s creative vision—shared mutual friends and bandmates, and had admired each other’s music and style from afar.

      Magdalena—sitting at Di Beppe in Gastown, wearing a loose black knit sweater and intricately-detailed tights, her eyes lined in cobalt—recalls, one time, going to see multi-instrumentalist Bébé perform.

      “Bella was wearing an all-black catsuit that was undone to here,” the bassist and singer tells the Straight, pointing to her sternum and grinning across the table at Bébé, in a leopard print crewneck and leather blazer. “And she was playing duelling keyboards while singing. I think we definitely had crushes on each other. I was just like, ‘Wow, that woman is so cool.’ ”

      Soon after, Bébé and Magdalena started hanging out, and immediately became friends that were more like soul mates.

      “We have similar interests,” Bébé says. “You know when you’re growing up and going through life and you’re like, ‘I wish I had a friend who understood me’? That was Meg in a nutshell.” 

      Both Bébé and Magdalena have been longtime fixtures in Vancouver’s music scene, playing in handfuls of punk and rock bands including Jo Passed, the Sub Pop-signed outfit of Jo Hirabayashi. Magdalena is also a renowned photographer, whose work has appeared everywhere from PAPER to DAZED.

      Before Bratboy, Bébé and Magdalena performed under the moniker bb—their nickname for each other—but the brevity made it difficult for people to actually find their music. They enlisted the help of an online name generator, playing with combinations of words that came up. Bratboy—also the name of a snotty Power Rangers villain—was perfect, doubly so by the fact that it referenced their former name and that new bandmate, SSRIs drummer Tony Dallas, had the show’s theme as his ringtone.

      “I grew up with Tony in Burnaby,” Magdalena adds. “I’ve known Tony since I was, like, 14, maybe even younger. We were obsessed with Fake Shark — Real Zombie! and they would always play at the Croatian Cultural Centre. Me and Tony would meet up at the Fake Shark shows and just be in the front row together.” 

      Dallas, who eventually became the drummer for Fake Shark, was a huge supporter of Bébé and Magdalena, and frequently attended their shows. Before recording their debut album, Bratworld, right before the pandemic, the girls hired him as a session player. A month or so later, Dallas officially joined Bratboy.

      Dallas is very stylish, too, Magdalena adds, and will look for outfits to compliment her and Bébé’s often-matching costumes—which include fringe, leather, animal print, white tailored pantsuits, and cowboy hats—when they perform together.

      Bébé and Magdalena both had fashion-forward mothers—Bébé’s, a hippie and seamstress who “upholstered our whole house and car in leopard print,” and Magdalena’s, who was more punk and lived in London in the ’80s, catching Iggy Pop and Public Enemy gigs. Vogue editorials and Fashion Television, with host Jeanne Beker, were reference points alongside bands like AC/DC.

      In terms of style icons—aside from their moms—for Magdalena, it’s a tie between Alexa Chung and the Strokes. “An almost timeless style,” she nods, “but that’s always modern.”

      For Bébé, it’s a balance between feminine and masculine. “I’m like, Audrey Hepburn meets Kurt Cobain,” she says.

      But despite the importance that underscores the visual element of their work, Bratboy has received criticism from people who don’t like the way they dress.

      “We’re not trying to appease anyone, we’re trying to express ourselves and figure out who we are,” Bébé says.

      And fashion is also meant to be fun, she continues. “It’s finding your identity and being able to represent who you are and feeling comfortable in this weird world.” 

      They’re also aware of their privilege, Magdalena adds, with both her and Bébé being white and thin.

      “And I think also, with that, comes unwanted attention from men or unwanted hate from other women that think you’re doing it to get men. And it’s like, no—I’m just doing it for Bella.”

      “And yourself,” Bébé adds.

      It brings to mind the discourse around Billie Eilish, who has been constantly body shamed and judged for her style, whether it be baggy clothes or more feminine silhouettes.

      “Society will judge you no matter what,” Magdalena says. “You either don’t give a fuck or you give too much of a fuck, or you’re too boyish or you’re too girlish, or you don’t show enough skin, or you show too much skin. So it’s like, just do what you want to do.”

      Bratworld, which was released in April, is rooted in navigating how to express yourself. Bébé wrote all the songs, mostly over the course of her 20s. She’s a gorgeous lyricist, with poetic lines like, “Shooting stars/See them falling from your eyes/Love is lost/As it’s raining in July,” on the dark surf rock ballad, “1948”.

      “It encompasses a real coming of age for us,” Magdalena notes. Still, songs about unrequited love (“Victoria”) and blurry nights (“Moloko”) over a musical landscape of scuzzy arrangements, sweet melodies, and dreamy vocals—an intoxicating combination that combines Bratboy’s wide palette of influences, evoking something between the Runaways and the Go-Go’s—are anchored by experiences that are universally relevant.

      “The older I get, too, I want to relate and write for everyone,” Bébé says. “It’s why you connect through music and through lyrics.”

      “Drowning”—a country-tinged album highlight, which Bratboy describes as being “loaded”—abstractly alludes to loneliness, pain, and devastating heartache.

      “I really wanted to say something to someone,” Bébé says, “and was like, how can I do it in the most graceful way, that is not too—I’m not going to tell this person it’s about them. But it felt very empowering.”

      Bratboy plays the Khatsalano Street Party on Saturday (July 8).