Meet BRAT: "Barbiecore" upstarts making powerviolence pink | Revolver

Meet BRAT: "Barbiecore" upstarts making powerviolence pink

Inside the NOLA band flipping the look and feel of extreme metal
Brat 204 1600x900 main image , Vanessa Valadez
photograph by Vanessa Valadez

You've probably never seen a room of crowd-killers busting out their best moves for Cascada's Eurodance banger "Everytime We Touch" — but this is par for the course at a Brat gig.

The New Orleans four-piece, who released their debut LP Social Grace last week (March 15th), are carrying the flag for an aesthetic that they've named "bimboviolence" or "Barbiecore." Led by frontwoman Liz Selfish, they're incorporating unabashed expressions of femininity and pop frivolity into their extreme metal. 

In between reps of brutal, misanthropic deathgrind, Brat love to turn the bass up like they're in a nightclub and take a minute to party to pop samples — Shania Twain's "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" and Britney's "Toxic" are a couple more favorites — and you'll find the color pink front-and-center in all of their merch, press photos and record covers.

"I love pink. I love glitter. I love pop music," Selfish tells us over Zoom. "I think there's a lot of people out there that can relate — [but] there's not as much of that visible in metal or hardcore yet."

The band is completed by guitarist Brenner Moate, bassist Ian Hennessey and drummer Dustin Eagan; they formed after a karaoke night celebrating Moate's birthday in early 2020.

"Mostly I just thought it was fun and funny, and that's kinda always our main driving factor," she continues, "but even in creating that kind of branding, there was definitely the idea of, Is this going to be looked down upon because it's more feminine?"

Make no mistake, Brat have encountered their fair share of pissed-off metal bros, but for the most part, the response to Selfish and Company's hyper-pink, hyperviolent musical mash-up has been overwhelmingly positive.

After dropping a few EPs and singles, Prosthetic Records signed them for Social Grace. They've made fans of OG NOLA groove-metal crew Exhorder, and shared bills with everyone from Cro-Mags and Eyehategod to ACxDC and Escuela Grind.

With each off-the-chain performance they're winning over more and more folks: from young teens at their first shows to jaded old-heads.

"We're aware that there's a little bit of a gimmick with our band, because all too often you'll go to a heavy show and it's just kinda one-note," Eagan says.

"We're having fun and letting people in on the fun, and I think what we do is very disarming to a lot of really hardcore metal fans. It's awesome when we kinda turn people at the shows, and they're like, 'I didn't know what was happening with the Britney Spears sample or this blonde chick onstage, and y'all just blew me away.'"

brat uncropped 1, Vanessa Valadez
photograph by Vanessa Valadez

Of course, a gimmick is pointless if the music doesn't rip, and Social Grace is confirmation that Brat does indeed rip. The blast-beats are machine-gun tight; Selfish's vocals are guttural and mean; and riffs like the one in "Slow Heat" aim for the scrunched-up-face hall of fame.

Moate is responsible for the lyrics, which are a lot darker than the band's Barbie facade suggests. Across the album, he's lamenting the sins and the guilt of the human race — including the effects of the climate crisis he sees firsthand in his home state.

"In south Louisiana, we've all but destroyed the natural wonder of the bayou region," says Moate. "Rapidly accelerating erosion directly caused by industry and human activity will one day erase the land I grew up on, possibly in my lifetime."

It's dire stuff; but, Moate says, the effect of coating these heavy lyrical and musical ideas in bright-pink sugar at their shows is a life-affirming experience for the band members.

"Feeling nothing but darkness leads to despair, but feeling nothing but lightness leads to denial about how terrible things can be," Moate says. "Both of these things together, to me, embody the full human experience; that's why this band is so special to me."

The power of that feeling expands beyond the stage too. While fun is always at the forefront for Brat, it turns out their lighthearted and accessible approach to heavy music has had a deeper impact than they could have predicted.

"We've definitely had people tell us that they feel more comfortable or open at a show because of our aesthetic, particularly women or queer people, which has been really cool," Selfish says.

"I had someone come up to me at a show and tell me their daughter was struggling with their gender identity, and that showing her Brat helped her with just being able to be who you wanna be."

brat uncropped 2 , Vanessa Valadez
photograph by Vanessa Valadez

"There's a bunch of really cool comments, too, on some of our videos, of dads showing their daughters [and saying], 'This is how I want my kid to get into heavy music,'" adds Eagan. "You know, maybe Brat's that gateway band to something bigger, which is wild to think.

"It's pretty sick when we come on and we see a pit full of women or queer people, people who are underrepresented in our scene, just going apeshit," he sums up. "It's honestly a beautiful thing."