NOBRO is high energy doom pop from Montreal, Quebec, and opened for LA surf-skate punk legends FIDLAR on their fall 2019 North American tour. In September 2018, Sarah and her friend Allysa got a chance to sit down to chat with vocalist Kathryn McCaughey and drummer Sarah Dion after a show in Chicago. You can listen to this interview here!
Note: This interview mentions sexual assault in the music scene.
So what instrument do you play?
Kathryn: I play the bass and I’m the lead singer.
How’d you all meet?
Kathryn: We met in Montreal, that’s where we’re from, and I wanted to start a band, so I just started looking for people, and to get this arrangement together took a couple years, but yeah, just through friends and friends of friends. It’s specifically a girl band, which was really challenging in and of itself because there’s not a lot of female musicians, so it was a lot of casting wide nets.
Sarah: It’s really cool that you guys are all girls.
Kathryn: Yeah! Of course, yeah.
If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing?
Kathryn: Honestly, I’d probably be in school.
Sarah: Do you have an idea of what you’d be studying?
Kathryn: I don’t know, it was by accident you know, like playing music was a total fluke. My life just like headed one way. I used to play hockey, like university hockey, and I was at university and going down this path, and I didn’t want to do that, so I just jackknifed it. I’d probably be living in the suburbs, being with my sister, stuff like that.
How’d you get connected with FIDLAR?
Kathryn: I messaged them on Instagram.
What’s your favorite place to eat on tour?
Kathryn: I don’t know, Whole Foods, maybe.
Sarah: They have really good mochi.
Kathryn: And brunch, yeah
Favorite song to play live?
Kathryn: I don’t know, they’re all my favorite, that’s hard. Have you guys ever heard of MC5? We play a cover of their song “Kick Up the Jams”.
What can we expect from the future?
Kathryn: I don’t know. Maybe a record? I don’t know. It’s just kind of like, whatever happens. Should there be a plan?
Sarah: I don’t know. That’s up to you!
Kathryn: It’s just like, one thing at a time.
Any tour stories?
Kathryn: Well, this is our first big tour. It’s not even that big, but this is like, the first kind of trip that we all took together. We’ve done a few shows out of town, but just one-offs. Hmm. Yesterday, we played our first show on the tour and we were driving to the venue and I actually drove the wrong way on a one way and we almost died and I almost killed us, so that was a good way to start off.
Sarah: We thought we were gonna die on the ride here too, honestly.
I was wondering if you could talk about your experience as a woman in the music scene and maybe how to make things safer.
Sarah: I know Zac [Carper, of FIDLAR] has his whole schtick, but I don’t know if you have your own.
Kathryn: I don’t know, it’s tough out there, being a woman in general is really hard. Like you just face a lot of sexism, people’s prejudices—
[At this point, the drummer, also named Sarah, walked in]
Kathryn: Sarah, this is Sarah.
Sarah Dion: Hi, I was looking for food, I’m so sorry.
Kathryn: Maybe Sarah could answer this last question.
Sarah Dion: What was that?
Sarah: Talk about your experience as a woman in the music scene and maybe how to make things safer.
Sarah Dion: Safer? You just don’t have to give a fuck about anyone. What’s safe? It’s boring. But for real, I don’t know. What do you mean?
Sarah: Well I mean like, last week The Orwells, which was a pretty big indie rock band from here, got outed as like, basically raping a bunch of fans after shows. Zac was talking about it a little bit onstage.
Kathryn: Oh wow, we didn’t hear that. We were down here. So what happened?
Sarah: Basically, what I heard is that talk had been going on for a while, there was graffiti in bar bathrooms that said “The Orwells are Rapists” and stuff on social media. I heard that they actually named their last record Terrible Human Beings because they were like, “The Chicago music scene disowned us and we don’t know why” but it was because they had been sexually assaulting people. But then a bunch of women came forward at once and put together a Google doc with all of the stories from different girls, and when it got published they disbanded.
Kathryn: What? Holy fuck.
Sarah Dion: Well, I’m gonna answer better and more serious than I just did. I’ve never like, lived a situation like this. You gotta be prepared and have each other’s back.
Kathryn: And you just gotta stay around good people, you know what I mean? Like just what your mom would tell you. Like don’t hang out with, I don’t know, Joey from down the street.
Kathryn: I mean it’s true! Like just don’t go near sketchy people ever, even if they play music. Don’t go near that.
Sarah Dion: What you do have power over is taking care of your bandmates and friends. It’s just the four of us, and no one else, it’s super DIY. What you can do is take care of each other.
Allysa: In our friend group Sarah is the mom.
Who would you say is the mom of your group?
Kathryn: I don’t know, I would say Sarah.
Sarah Dion (to Kathryn): I would say you.
Kathryn: We’re just a couple of moms on a road trip.
Sarah: Definitely one of us.
Kathryn: Do you guys play music?
Allysa: I played the trombone in junior high.
Kathryn: That’s amazing.
Sarah: I don’t play music.
Kathryn: Why not?
Sarah: I don’t know, I felt like my whole drive sort of with writing. I love music and I love being around it but when I was playing guitar, it just didn’t feel right, you know? And then I got into making zines and I was like oh yeah, this is where my place in the scene is. This is where I belong.
Kathryn: Who are your favorite authors? Do you have any in particular?
Sarah: Fuck, that’s a hard one. Right now I’m reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, it’s really good.
Kathryn: There’s this woman named Joyce Johnson. She was like, a girlfriend of Jack Kerouac’s in the 50s and 60s, and she wrote a book called Minor Characters. It’s her memoir about hanging out with the beat generation, just being in the orbit. Because she was a woman, she was always pushed to the side. And it’s her account of what happened. It’s really, really good, she’s an amazing writer. You should read that book, it will fucking change your life.
Sarah: Yeah, I’m definitely going to. [Sarah did read this book and it did change her life!]
Another great title by Joyce Johnson is Come and Join the Dance.