At first glance, Nervous Nancy is a ecclectic assortment of personality, dyed hair, and talent to spare. This four-piece student band is determined to keep punk alive. It all started this past February, when lead singer and guitarist Ada Levine made a post in the McGill University Entering Class of 2017 group calling for band members. Somehow, to the amazement of Nervous Nancy themselves, they found each other and hit it off. With Ada Levine on guitar and vocals, Nes Aliu on bass, Tara Cohen on lead guitar, Emily Gittings on drums, and Robbie Dow on stand-in drums, Nervous Nancy is here to stay.
On stage, Nervous Nancy embodies a free and empowering energy, but this freedom is not without its battles. Gender divisions continue to plague the Montreal punk scene, making the community challenging for femme-centric bands to navigate.
“The experience is quite belittling. I know it’s not like […] they’re trying [to demean us]. But I feel like just being a girl in the world […] you just get so used to […] having your opinion put down and told that what you say or think doesn’t matter,” Aliu said. “The scene isn’t [as] inviting to girls as it is to guys.”
Though punk bands such as Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney have cleaved out spaces for femmes in the predominantly misogynistic mainstream punk scene, issues of discrimination are still prevalent in national and local circles. It may seem like these gender divisions have been done away with, but sadly, the band finds that they constantly having to prove themselves in a male-dominated world of punk.
“It just sucks because I feel like we always say this but we don’t want being ‘the girl band’ [to define us],” Levine said. “But now I feel like every interview we do is about it because all our experiences have been shaped by that [reality.]”
The band spoke further on the subject of gender, noting how punk isn’t necessarily something a classical ‘girl’ would find herself involved with.
“It’s like any other gender role thing, where girls tend to go towards [a certain thing] because that’s what they experience,” Gittings said.
Nervous Nancy is a force to be reckoned with and their experiences as women have shaped their music. This lived reality is what sets them apart from their male counterparts, like Societal Siege, BBQ Pope, or any other smattering of skate-punk boy bands.
The group noted that the girl punk genre represents unique creative avenues for women, and explained how they try to do their part in keeping the messages of that movement alive.
“I feel like, it’s cool that our music can be so related to girls [….] like, I fucking love the line, ‘When I feel ugly, I feel mean.’ It’s like […] guys don’t feel like that as often. It’s not something that’s as relatable for dudes, and I feel like that’s kind of okay,” Dow said. “I see how excited all the girls in the crowd get and it’s nice to have something that is so fucking relatable to you personally.”
At the same time, the band admitted that in the beginning they were hesitant to use the term ‘girl punk.’
“We definitely don’t want to say that, like, the only characteristic as a band that we have is being a girl band,” Levine said.
The weight of the term ‘girl band’ or ‘girl punk’ can more often than not be subjugated to sexist reservations or judgements, but a ‘girl band’ is so much more than its composition.
It is difficult to not feel a sense of respect and inspiration after attending a Nervous Nancy show or simply listening to their music. The love they have for each other, for their music, and the punk scene itself despite the prejudices that still exist within it is evident.
“I have passion baby!” Levine said. “That’s all that matters.”
Nervous Nancy will perform at Piranha Bar Nov. 15.