In conversation with NOBRO

From the first riff of their electric guitar, Montreal punk rock group NOBRO will have listeners feeling ready to dye their hair Manic Panic pink and stomp angrily down the street in a pair of Doc Martens. With uniquely powerful drums and the unexpected inclusion of bongos, NOBRO is pursuing their dream of becoming the most kick-ass all-female band of all time. 

Founded in 2014, NOBRO’s current members, vocalist and bassist Kathryn McCaughey, guitarist Karolane Carbonneau, drummer Sarah Dion, and percussionist Lisandre Bourdages have been successful in establishing a name for themselves in the Canadian punk rock scene, a feat made all the more impressive considering the male monopoly on the genre. The name NOBRO was born from the band’s commitment to maintain their female identity and provide a space for women to shred. 

“When we first started looking for female guitar players, there were a bunch of dudes that were like, ‘Oh, I’ll play guitar in your band or whatever’ and it was like, ‘No, bro,’” McCaughey said. “It was a joke, [and] now it’s our name.”

With the upcoming release of their EP Sick Hustle in April and the start of another Canadian tour this week, it is a busy time for NOBRO. The band has previously played with groups such as FIDLAR and Toronto rock band PUP. This time, NOBRO will be joined during their first arena tour by the Distillers and feminist punk group Pussy Riot, who rose to fame for their activism against the Russian government. 

For Pussy Riot, NOBRO, and other all-female punk bands like McGill’s Nervous Nancy, finding space in the music industry presents unique difficulties, but the experience can also be incredibly rewarding.

“[Being an all-girl band], it’s awesome, it’s really fun, and it’s also very challenging. When we’re able to [succeed], it’s like a huge accomplishment for us, [even] just finding female musicians that want to shred,” McCaughey said. “I’m sure in the next 10 years it’s gonna be a lot different [….] There’s such a big push for all kinds of people to pick up all kinds of instruments and play. But for us, it’s really important to maintain our all-female status because we like to challenge ourselves.”

On Jan. 17, the group announced their signing with Canadian independent record label, Dine Alone Records, and proceeded to drop the first single off of Sick Hustle, “Marianna.” Through the raucous guitar, fire bongo solos, and McCaughey’s powerful vocals, the song delivers a more personal insight into the band. 

“This EP is a little more personal than anything we’ve put out before. It dives into some mistakes,” McCaughey said. “‘Marianna’ is about the first guitar player in the band [.…] Right before we went to go play Way Home, she told us that she didn’t really want to play music anymore [….] She moved away and it was really hard for us so we kind of just wrote a song for her.” 

With so much happening for the band, NOBRO is on its way to carving out a new place for women in the Canadian punk scene. However, their main focus remains on creating new and exciting music over the coming years. 

“I just hope that we can keep writing the best music that we can [.…] it’s always about the songs and the music,” McCaughey said. “[Also], I don’t want to be a bartender for the rest of my life and I don’t have a plan B. I have a philosophy degree so this is it.”

NOBRO will perform at Le Ministère on Jan. 30 with UUBBUURRUU.

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