NOBRO opens their first-ever arena tour for Alexisonfire and The Distillers.
By Stephanie Starodub
Guitar reverb echoes throughout Bell MTS Place as the members of NOBRO take their positions under the blue stage lights. The all-female four-piece from Montreal doesn’t waste time with introductions. Instead, they let the music speak for them – powering through the first track in their opening set for Alexisonfire.
“What? You guys never seen a bunch of chicks shred on the guitar before?” shouts lead singer Kathryn McCaughey, playfully demanding a louder response from the 400 scattered fans in the pit below. She makes it clear that the band knows what they want and that they aren’t afraid to ask for it.
Since forming in 2014, NOBRO have toured alongside prominent alt-rockers like FIDLAR and PUP, establishing a positive reputation for themselves across North America. Their Winnipeg show, one of four tour dates alongside The Distillers, marks the band’s arena debut. Now gifted with a larger platform, NOBRO are looking to reach new fans and expand the space and perception of female rockers within the Canadian music scene.
“I came from a strict home,” says McCaughey, reflecting on the teenage years when music became most prevalent in her life. “Seeing punk rock women with mohawks, tattoos and lipstick like Brody Dalle [The Distillers] opened my eyes to the kind of person I could be. I want to empower people so getting to share a stage with the person that empowered me is an honor.”
NOBRO’s guitarist Karolane Carbonneau says that being an opening act, especially for a well-known heavyweight like Alexisonfire, can be overwhelming at times.
“In a way, opening bands have more pressure on them to deliver,” she says. “You just do whatever it takes to convince 1000 strangers how awesome you are.”
While the size of the venue has changed dramatically for NOBRO on this tour, McCaughey says the band’s overall mission has remained the same – be memorable.
NOBRO’s show is a whirlwind of thrashing hair, gritty guitar solos and shrieking Suzi Quatro-esque vocals which earn the band cheers from an intrigued Winnipeg crowd. The set isn’t without its stumbles (there are a few off-key moments), but what the band lack in technical refinement and experience, they more make up for in energy. The girls jump, and at times even roll around the stage (as demonstrated by McCaughey during “Don’t Die”). If you didn’t enter the show as an angsty blue-haired teen, then NOBRO left you feeling like one.
“We want to be taken as seriously as a heart attack,” she says, citing her own experiences from attending shows back home as inspiration. “When I’m at a gig and that first artist doesn’t hit, it changes the whole tone of my concert experience so if you’re going to tour with an A-lister then you have to bring you’re A-game.
Following a countdown from Sarah Dion, who alternates between drums and bass throughout the set, the group launch into their most recent single, “Marianna” – a rip-roaring tune inspired by the departure of the NOBRO’s former guitarist.
“We touched on more personal topics and experiences this time around,” says McCaughey, comparing the lyrics of “Marianna” to their previous release, “LALA.”
“We’re also not as afraid of experimenting with our sound as we were before,” says Lisandre Bourdages, the band’s percussionist, whose fast-paced bongo solos radiate through many of NOBRO’s recent songs. “We each have very diverse musical influences so we want that to come through in our music.”
With the upcoming release of their EP Sick Hustle on April 3rd, NOBRO hope to cultivate a more consistent image and sound for themselves. That said, they aren’t too concerned with letting genres or labels restrict them.
“I think music is less about putting yourself in a box and more about the attitudes and perspectives you embrace as an artist,” says McCaughey. “Call us what you want – garage, punk, alternative, whatever. Being punk is more about being an outlier and that’s the part we identify with.”