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Interview: Brakes

9th October 2008

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Brakes are an angry band. A really, really angry punk band that tug on elements of blues, country, folk and soul. Intriguing, yes, but far from being from the unambiguous, controversy courting, Sex Pistolian school of punk rock, Brakes are carving out a politically incorrect, religion-damning, anti-war niche all of their own - a niche they had the chance to explore in what lead singer and guitarist Eamon calls the ‘do whatever you want to do, as long as it's good’ attitude that was knocking around Brighton at the time of their conception.

Sure it’s true that many-a band have played the, “I know everything about world events and politics, so I’m going to shout about it” card (particularly in recent years, thanks to the widely perceived notion that the Bush administration got it all a bit wrong) but there’s more to Brakes than snarls and power chords. I’d say it’s down to the fact that they’ve written a whole load of white-knuckle guitar anthems. However the band says, “We’re doing what we believe in doing, regardless of demographic surveys or advertising agendas. What sets us apart? We don't sound like a third rate Libertines”. And that they most certainly do not.

So with this image established in your mind of some kind of heroic, anti-this, pro-that, rock monster, it might blow your mind to hear lyrics like ‘porcupine or pineapple / porcupine or pineapple/ spikey spikey! / who won the war?’ - a line taken from probably the most demented anti war song ever created, ‘Porcupine or pineapple’.

Indeed the band has a taste for the zanier side of song-writing but where there often seems insanity, you’re likely to find concealed meaning. Eamon’s explanation for the song is of few words, but takes Brakes off of the aforementioned ‘monster’ pedestal and back onto a human one; “the best way to deal with fear is to ridicule it.

In fact songs like this are strewn over both of their albums, the difference between their debut Give Blood and latest creation The Beatific Visions being less to do with them discontinuing their relationship with anger, and more to do with a transition to considering world events rather than localised attacks on individuals.

Where previously we heard ‘I can’t stand to stand beside you’ (targeting hypocrites), ‘Heard about your band’ (about name-dropping rock types) and ‘Hi how are you’ (on the annoying cliquey sort) - all painfully familiar characters - we now have ‘Margarita’ (politics and control), ‘Porcupine or pineapple’ and ‘Cease and Desist’. It’s the latter, and latest single, ‘Cease and desist’ that Eamon seems most open about today and he offers the motive behind the writing of a song around religion.

“Well, there seems to be a lot of 'my God's better than your God' type shit going on at the moment. And I wanted to write a song about a drunken gambling God, based on the God that appears in The Book of Job in the Old Testament, that fucks everything up.”

For those of you not up on your Old Testament, Job is a most unfortunate individual. It is said that God listens to Satan’s advice, permitting him to wreak havoc in his life, and the story ultimately considers the futility in trying to understand God’s power. He continues, “I'm fed up of all these Gods that call for mass murder, either by dropping bombs or strapping bombs to humans. Why believe in one of those? What good is that going to do? What good is God?”

But before we all get carried away and start tearing up pictures of The Pope on live television, let’s not forget that attitude alone can’t cover up bad music (exhibit A, Towers of London), so it’s a good job that Brakes take no prisoners in combining guitar anthems and a politically savvy mindset with a passion of ineffable proportion. Eamon is the first to admit, “the whole punk attitude is infused in us”, but ultimately they’re “just trying to reflect these war torn, God bothering, suicidal times whilst also trying to write good love songs."

Make no mistake that Brakes have a lot to say. And they mean every word.

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