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NOBRO Releases First Single of New Album


September 15, 2023

Photograph: Daniel Esteban

NOBRO "Lets Do Drugs" Debut Single From Upcoming Album. 'Set Your Pussy Free'

Montreal new-age punk outfit NOBRO are back with their first single of 2023. “Let’s Do Drugs” is a tongue-in-cheek romp with crashing percussion, gnarled guitar lines, and raspy vocals. “A ‘dumb’ rock song about getting older,” vocalist and bassist Kathryn McCaughey explains that “it’s about wanting to have one more wild night, while having no business doing so and failing miserably. Musically it’s a middle ground between maybe ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)’ and ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ but only the dumbest bits of those songs, distilled into something even more dumb. It’s like shotgunning a beer then immediately puking on yourself.” 

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Montreal new-age punk outfit NOBRO were playing a show the day after the United States Supreme Court overturned the right to access an abortion in the country. The four band members, all women, were shaken and furious, but that night vocalist/bassist Kathryn McCaughey led a righteous toast against the decision: “This next song is dedicated to setting our vaginas free!”

It was a spur-of-the-moment response to the news, but the phrase stuck with McCaughey. It began to feel like something more than a throw-away slogan. It felt like something deeper, a defiant rallying cry to kick against the exhausting struggles of life. It felt like NOBRO’s debut full-length record, Set Your Pussy Free

Due out October 27 on Dine Alone Records, Set Your Pussy Free is a caustic, celebratory, glorious party-punk firework show. It’s a record about the ecstatic pursuit of personal escape and liberation even as the walls are closing in, a 21st century power-punk analog of Born To Run that rages against modern life’s restrictive pressures and dares them to a game of chicken. If a hurricane is bearing down on NOBRO, they’re spitting into it, arm-in-arm, with middle fingers raised. From the opening sleaze-rock thunder of title track “Set That Pussy Free” through to the sprinting glee of closer “Gimme More (Party Through The Pain),” bandmates McCaughey, Karolane Carbonneau (guitars), Lisandre Bourdage (keys/percussion), and Sarah Dion (drums) make clear that they aren’t interested in playing by whatever stupid rules have been set around them. 

“As a musician or artist or even a woman, you have to throw off the weight of societal pressures and expectations, especially as you get older,” says McCaughey. “You have to take risks and chances.”

NOBRO is the space where the four of them get to take those risks and chances. It’s a place for cultivating power and happiness in a hard, mean world. That means the stakes are high. “Music is where we lift each other up,” says McCaughey. “I wish it was more like a fairy tale. We just want this fucking thing to work. But we’re all gonna succeed together, or we’re all gonna fail together.”

McCaughey wrote most of Set Your Pussy Free with Toronto-based producer Thomas D’Arcy, and when it came time to record, there was only one name in consideration: Dave Schiffman (PUP, Rage Against The Machine). Schiffman agreed, and joined the band in Montreal for nearly a month to prep and record at Mixart Studios in the dead of winter. “We allowed ourselves to go in crazier directions, just to see where it would take us,” says Bourdage. She adds that because of how it was recorded—live off the floor, all four members playing at the same time, mistakes and all—it represents who NOBRO are more than any other release. 

Through the weeks of 12-hour studio days, McCaughey was still working full-time at a bar at night. It was a long month. “The desperation in my voice on the record is real,” she grins. “It was a struggle, but I felt like I stayed true to myself, you know?” 

The record’s opener establishes the tone with dark, grimy riffing and McCaughey’s all-too-real exhaustion: “Wanna think big, wanna dream big, but I gotta clean the puke out the bathroom sink,” she groans on the verse. The tongue-in-cheek romp “Let’s Do Drugs” gives way to a brain-melting power-punk internet spiral (“Delete Delete Delete”) that sets up “A.I. Sexbots,” a conga and bass driven reflection on doing your own thing.

It’s true that the desperation on the record is palpable, but so too is the joy. The road-dog punk-rock anthem “Where My Girls At” recounts the band’s formation and early days playing the dive bar circuit, selling t-shirts out of garbage bags and building the bonds that have taken the band to where they are today. “Where my girls at, where my girls at?/Gonna start me a rock and roll band!” McCaughey calls on the jubilant chorus. “Let’s Get Outta Here” furthers that energy with restrained verses that burst into a wide-open, keys-pounding chorus: “This day job ain’t doing much for me/If we get outta here I know we’ll be free/Let’s get outta here!”

Closer “Gimme More (Party Through The Pain)” is a warm, riotous celebration of love and companionship, as McCaughey belts, “If the whole world goes to shit, and we all say to hell with it, I know I got you, you got me, I got you, you got me, and we’re gonna fuckin’ party!” It ends the record with a reminder of what this is all about: finding moments where you feel free and happy, whatever that means for you.

“You can’t lose that childlike enthusiasm towards what you’re doing,” says McCaughey. “It’s so fun to play music and forget about your problems, even if it is momentarily. Even if you know that it’s not gonna make you happy long-term, for like a minute, you can maybe let yourself believe that you will be.”

Set Your Pussy Free is the culmination of years of work, hundreds of shows, and thousands of miles since the band’s creation in 2014. McCaughey, Carbonneau, Bourdage, and Dion have been building NOBRO into one of the most fierce and exciting bands in Canada. The new record rides the momentum from a string of blazing singles and EPs, capped with 2020’s Sick Hustle and 2022’s Live Your Truth Shred Some Gnar. 

Listeners big and small have been taking note: Iggy Pop played their track “Bye Bye Baby” on his BBC Radio 6 show, and a fictional band in the Netflix series The Imperfects covered their songs. Aside from taking their raucous live shows to every dive bar across Montreal, the band has also toured across North America and Europe with PUP, Alexisonfire, Billy Talent, Fidlar, and The OBGMs. In May 2023, they opened for Blink-182 at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. And they’re just getting started. 

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

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