“Can’t Tell Me No” is the rowdy leadoff single from Portland garage-punk quartet Summer Cannibals’ fourth album, which has the same name as the song. In it, Cannibals bandleader, singer and guitarist Jessica Boudreaux tells a story about reclaiming her voice and establishing boundaries after ending an unhealthy personal and creative relationship.
“Drag me down/ You’re a weight on my back/ There’s no saving/ Just had to get the fuck out,” she sings over musical territory first mapped out by bands like Sleater-Kinney.
“It’s about doing the right thing,” Boudreaux says in a press release, “even when it’s terrifying.”
In fact, after ending her relationship, Boudreaux scrapped an entire Summer Cannibals album, starting from scratch. Can’t Tell Me No, out June 28, is the result.
The music is slightly grungey Pacific Northwest guitar rock that feels familiar but also new, centered mainly on Boudreaux’s electric personality and especially in her high-energy performance. Little kiss-off notes are scattered throughout the record.
“I don’t wanna be one of many/ I know it’s selfish but I like to be it,” Boudreaux sings over crunchy power chords on the song “One of Many.”
“I don’t wanna be one of many/ I feel the words leave and then I panic” — words that are personal yet universal enough to scaffold the decision-making process of anyone who knows what they must do, yet struggles with taking the difficult first step.
Boudreaux invites you in but also keeps her distance, and this spirit of independence runs throughout the record.
It’s even reflected in the album art: a picture of Boudreaux when she was a young girl with sunglasses on, punk rock attitude in full effect. “My attitude has leaned that way since I was tiny,” she tells me via email, admitting she came to rock ‘n’ roll relatively late.
Boudreaux grew up in Louisiana, listening to pop and country music. “I’ve always connected to and loved music,” she says. She was also a competitive dancer. “My first memories of music clicking were probably through that.”
Summer Cannibals’ last record, Full of It, came out in 2016. Boudreaux writes music all the time, just not always for Summer Cannibals. “That’s definitely streaky for me,” she says, partially explaining the three-year gap between albums.
Sometimes the songs evolve to the point they’re unrecognizable, though “sometimes the song that ends up on the album is almost identical to the initial demo,” she says.
Boudreaux says the way she is on stage isn’t anything like the way she is in her day-to-day life, but it’s still very much a part of who she is. “It’s just a part of my personality that I reserve for stage,” she says, calling her band’s pre-show rituals pretty “un-rock ‘n’ roll.”
“We stretch a lot!” she says. “I like to make sure I eat a good meal so I keep my blood sugar up. That’s about it.”
Summer Cannibals preview Can’t Tell Me No with LA’s Blushh 7 pm Sunday, June 16, at Sessions Music Lounge; $10 advance, $12 door, 21-plus.
Summer Cannibals with LA’s Blushh
Sunday, June 16 • 7 pm
Sessions Music Lounge
$10 advance, $12 door