The EP’s title is symbolic of the Montréal-based punk-rock quartet: the NOBRO girls live their truth in a raw, authentic way, through their music as much as in their daily lives. The fast, spirited way they play is the perfect embodiment of an expression used by snowy mountain boarder aficionados: “shred some gnar,” which refers to hurtling down said mountain with exceptional speed and enthusiasm, especially when the conditions are sub-optimal. And, in the rock world, shred is also used to describe the exceptional technique of guitar virtuosos.
“Playing really fast and in an impressive way is our mojo, generally speaking,” says percussionist and keyboardist Lisandre Bourdages with a smile in her voice.
And as far as sub-optimal conditions are concerned, let’s just say that being an all-female band in a predominantly male realm, NOBRO has its work cut out for it. “We’re women in the punk world – of course we had to make a place for ourselves,” says Bourdages. “It’s also a nod to all the ‘brown’ shows we did. The conditions are never optimal in the beginning.”
“Rock is a way of life,” continues singer-guitarist Karolane Charbonneau. “When you love it, you play it, no matter what the conditions are!”
Which is why the tale of NOBRO is, first and foremost, a story about determination. A seasoned musician in her own right, singer and bassist Kathryn McCaughey waited a good while before finding the perfect combination of people to achieve her dream of forming an all-female punk band. Founded in 2014, the group underwent various shuffles before settling down in its current, stable form after Karolane Charbonneau joined the already solid core of McCaughey, Bourdages and drummer Sarah Dion.
“It’s been a couple of years that I knew deep down that I wanted to be in a punk band. I wanted to let off steam, and express myself in a different way,” says Charbonneau, the newest member of the band, who also plays with Comment Debord. “You can’t lack self-confidence to play a NOBRO tune. Kathryn’s energy is unbelievable. We could ask any slightly insecure girl on stage with us and she’d feel like she fits in immediately. When we play, it’s like the world no longer exists.”
“The minute you start talking to Kathryn, she makes you feel self-confident,” confirms Bourdages who, alongside Sarah Dion, also plays in the all-female trio Les Shirley. “Even if she doesn’t know you, she’ll believe in your potential. She props up all the women around her.”
In and of itself, the music on this second EP is made to boost your confidence. Live Your Truth Shred Some Gnar considerably amplifies the ardour and intensity of 2020’s Sick Hustle through its lively mix of garage rock, irreverent punk à la Ramones, and’ 60s pop-rock.
Once again, the quartet tapped Thomas D’Arcy (July Talk, The Sheepdogs) to produce their EP. The recording sessions were held 18 months ago at D’Arcy’s Taurus Recording studio. “We gave ourselves two weeks to do everything,” says Bourdages. “We wanted to take some time to live in the moment and try out those songs. We recorded all the instruments by playing together. That’s probably what gives it this raw feeling.” “We didn’t do that for the previous EP, and I think it shows,” adds Charbonneau.
She’s also taking her first steps as the main singer-songwriter of a NOBRO song, on top of having penned the band’s first song in French (“Bye Bye Baby”). “Something happened in my life, a major breakup, and I really wasn’t doing well,” she explains. “Kathryn came by my place often. One day she said, ‘I think this is the perfect time to write a song. It’s going to be powerful!’ I was unsure at first – I’m a really shy person – but I decided to accept the challenge. But when the time came to sing the song in our rehearsal space, I just couldn’t do it! Kathryn would yell, ‘You can do it!’ to me.”
In the end, the whole exercise turned out to be therapeutic for Charbonneau. “A classic breakup song is a good way to let go of your emotions,” she says. “It really helped me to play it live, and scream it at the top of my lungs.”
All NOBRO songs have this liberating aspect, from the epic Gospel intro of “Better Each Day” to the psychedelic trip of “Life Is a Voyage,” that joyously concludes the EP. McCaughey’s frank, straight-to-the-point lyrics are a perfect fit for the project’s festive, raw, almost savage spirit. “Kathryn has lived, and that allows her to write solid lyrics. She’s been wild and done a lot of stuff,” says Bourdages. “But in the end, we’re not that wild.”
“We know how to party, though. We just don’t party every day,” adds Charbonneau. “Maybe we’re not truly a punk band, in the end.”