Interview: Nervous Nancy

TW: sexual assault

Nervous Nancy is a female/queer punk band based in Montreal. Their sound is classically punky, but their lyrics center around the female experience and the angst and frustration that come along with it. The group is comprised of McGill students Robbie Dow on drums, Emily Gittings (also on drums and currently taking time off from the band), Tara Cohen on guitar, Ada Lovelace on vocals and guitar, and Concordia student Nes Aliou on bass. Catch their next show on November 15th at Piranha! 

Tell me about your songwriting process: What subject matter do you feel you’re drawn to?

Ada: The ongoing joke is that they [Tara and Emily] can’t hear the lyrics — like they don’t know what we talk about. [Nes and I] write the most. I tend to write a lot about the experience of being a girl. It’s pretty angsty shit.

Robbie: I think a big thing about being punk is being unapologetically transparent about how you’re feeling. 

Emily: It’s the honest shit that isn’t socially acceptable. It’s also an outlet, ‘cause it’s not like you want to be like that towards every person. 

Ada: I tend to think of it as an alter ego to my daily life. My whole stage presence is kind of a persona. But the more I do it, the more I feel like it’s getting closer to how I want to be in the world.

How do you feel about your position as a female/queer group within the music scene in Montreal or in general? 

Ada: Initially, when we started, we decided we weren’t going to acknowledge it. Then we started playing shows and at every show, we were the only band with a girl, even just one girl. And we were getting defined as [a female/queer group] even if we didn’t choose a label, so we started heavily leaning into it. It’s a whole issue to be upset about and channel into our music. 

Emily: I was playing a lot of music in Nashville before university. I was generally the only girl to touch an instrument most nights. People underestimate girls, but I found myself in a position where I could play the easiest shit and everyone’s going to think I’m really good. 

Ada: Can I tell our favorite band story? We went to a soundcheck and they tell us to show up at 6 o’clock and we do. We get there and the guy looks at us and is like “Where’s the band?” We’re all holding our guitars like “Hi, we’re in front of you.”

Tara: I think we feel excluded. When we’re waiting backstage, all the other bands – all dudes – get together and we’re kind of just left sitting there. They don’t really wanna mingle, and I wanna mingle!

Tell me about the Zine you’re handing out tonight: What’s the message? 

(TW: Sexual assault) 

Ada: Robbie called me one Wednesday and said “I have an extra ticket to the Pup show.” So we’re in the middle and I was kind of worried because I knew Pup had mosh pits, which I don’t do because they’re violent. Pup comes on stage and just immediately the crowd got so violent. Robbie was holding me but I was just not comfortable so I moved away. This fucking dude just grabbed me, shoved me into the person in front of me, and was grabbing me. I couldn’t breathe and he started touching me inappropriately, holding me so tight that I couldn’t move. 

Nes: And at that moment, you don’t realize how traumatic it is. And then you start processing it like an hour later and realize how fucked up that situation was.

Ada: Yeah, and you’re like “Well, that was sexual assault.” But I didn’t realize [it] at the time. So I elbowed him, turned around, and had enough room to kick him. I ran outside, found Nes, and we left. I got home and felt like the punk scene wasn’t the scene for me. I love punk with a passion, but I feel like I can’t go to a lot of the shows because I don’t feel safe or comfortable. I keep a journal, so I decided I was going to turn it into a zine with some experiences of my past year in the music scene. 

Robbie: I always grew up going to the most friendly and inclusive mosh pits ever and [that mosh pit] was honestly really shocking. I’m usually able to hold myself but with this one, even I got knocked down and was on the ground getting stomped on.

What’s up next for Nervous Nancy?

Tara: We’re always working on music. We want to record so we can apply to festivals for the summer.

Ada: EP coming soon!

Instagram: @nervous_nancy

Zine distributed at Nervous Nancy gig: “Pits of Hell: the diary or a girl in the music scene” by Ada Lovelace

Zine distributed at Nervous Nancy gig: “Pits of Hell: the diary or a girl in the music scene” by Ada Lovelace

All photos by Gordon Clarke.