Kate Nash has recently undergone laser heart surgery. Part of it happened on the operating table, and part of it happened in the transition between being a young girl and becoming a woman. The latter happens to us all, through heartbreak and self-discovery, and how the scars heal will often define our personality and relationships for the rest of our lives. The stitches Kate chose to bind her heart back together with came from making her third album, ‘Girl Talk’, on which she asserts her strength and vulnerability in equal measures. Kate gave us some time to talk about it, ahead of her Norwich gig this week…
So Kate, we’re doing this interview ahead of your gig in Norwich later this week. It wasn’t that long ago that you came to Norwich last – what’s made you get back on the road again so quickly?Well I’m just touring my record at the minute really, and the shows have been going really well. I just think touring’s the most important way to get in touch with fans and get your message out there, you know. I really believe in live performance and my live shows; in my opinion, it’s the best it’s been, so I just want to get it on the road really.
This seems like very old news now, but I have wanted to interview you since I interviewed Emmy the Great a couple of years back –- Oh cool -
- She told me about the part you both played after the London riots, in the clean up, helping repair the local community. Lots of musicians would have just sent a supportive tweet, or something, but not you!Yeah, I just felt really passionate about it, because I was born in London, I’ve lived in London my whole life and I was just really upset about what had happened, you know, like everybody was. It just seems like… I was really upset and I was like, ‘I want to do something,’ like, to make a change, or make things better. There was a few people in London who were doing riot clean-ups and I have a car, so I was like, ‘I’m gonna be here, if anything needs collecting.’ And I collected stuff for everyone who had their stuff destroyed in the fires. People came and met me and I was just waiting there, with my car, to pick stuff up and I brought it to this, like, big Leisure Centre where you could drop off food and stuff and everything you’d brought to be collected. It felt really nice turning it into something positive and I think it actually showed London’s true spirit because actually, there were way more people there for the clean-up than for the riots. London does get a bad rep but we do care, you know, we really care about our community.
I want to focus now on ‘Girl Talk’, your latest album, which you’re obviously bringing to share with us this Thursday. Beyond its title, it is a very female-centric album, it’s fair to say, isn’t it?Yeah, definitely, yeah.
But even if you looked at the progression of your three albums – and this is in the loosest possible terms – you’ve kinda gone from girl nextdoor, to girl group with that real 60s girl band sound, to something closer to Riot Grrl now. Has that evolution been organic, or something you’ve really had to work towards?I think it felt pretty natural; I’ve always just been growing and changing and now I’m a bit older – I’m 26 now – so I felt like it was really easy to create the songs I wanted to create on this record. I was also going through a really shit time, so it was something I could really throw myself in to, 100%. My energy had been really sucked out of me from other things in my life, then suddenly I had it all back and I was like, ‘I’m just gonna throw it all into this,’ and that was like my coping mechanism. It was really easy and really clear, what I wanted to create, you know. Like I said, that really helped.
I think ‘Sister’ is my favourite, sonically, from the album. I was listening to your track commentary on Spotify and you said that when you wrote that track, you knew that was what you wanted the whole album to sound like. Did it take you a long time to get onto that path?Yeah, it did take a long… well it was actually maybe only three or four songs, or something, but I was writing these songs and I couldn’t really write the song that I wanted to. It was like, ‘oh, this isn’t right, this isn’t right,’ – I wrote maybe four songs that weren’t quite working, then I went into the rehearsal room and bashed out this song. I started playing bass and thought, ‘right, this is it! This is what I want the record to be like.’ I think, like, realising you can change – like before, I’d maybe write the song and that’d be the song, and then with some of these songs, I’d write them and the lyrics would stay the same and the idea of the song would stay the same, but the music would completely change. I just became a bit more of a dictator, if that makes sense, even just to myself. I think that’s just developing over time, you know, having more studio experience and having been on tour for like, seven years now – I really listen to music in a different way. I’m just more skilled and more educated, I guess.
So if ‘Sister’ was the sound that you were like, ‘yeah, this is where I want it to be,’ what was holding you back from you doing that before, or what opened the gate for you to do it?I don’t know, I think it just came from writing a few songs that just weren’t quite right. It’s just like, you just keep going, you know what I mean? It’s just like when you’re trying to create anything, or write anything – your first draft might not be what you want it to be and then you get there suddenly. I couldn’t really say; I think it’s just like being passionate and being kind of angry and fuelled and just going for it. There wasn’t just one moment; it was more like a progression of time, I think.
I want to talk to you a little about the Rock ‘n’ Roll for Girls After-School Club, which is a great project and much needed… But first, it actually seems like there’s been some good girls doing some good things for us recently. In the last year or so, Savages, Haim, Vivian Girls – they’ve been a really dominant force. Do you feel a turning point?Yeah, but like, I think the more the better. It needs to get to a point where it’s not so surprising and it’s like, ‘wow, there’s 10 girls doing really well,’ ‘cause there’s always loads and loads of male bands doing well everywhere. There’s usually a list of about 10 girls doing well, and that’s really great, but it needs to be less of a surprise I think.
Yeah, it’s possibly got to get to the point where I can’t name them all…!Yeah, exactly!
I’m a bit of a Pinterest browser myself, and I thought I’d search for you on there. What I thought was interesting is that you’re pinned both for your style, and also under boards tagged with ‘inspiration’, or ‘life quotes’ – you don’t often get women that fall into both camps, it could be said…Yeah, I think that’s really cool! I’ve always been both into style and fashion, beauty and girly things and then also always been quite politically minded and opinionated. I’ve always wanted to change the world with passion, and believe in revolution and stuff, so that’s cool. I think it’s cool to be able to be both of those things because a lot of the time, it feels like you’re not allowed to be both, like if you want to talk about make-up and clothes, that you’re silly. Girls get put down, like, the world ‘girly’ gets used as an insult a lot of the time, like when people say, “she’s so girly,” you feel like you’re being insulted. I think that should be a compliment.
It does seem that you can’t always be aligned to feminism and also care about how you look –- But you can, you just have to decide that for yourself. To me, feminism is all about writing your own book of it, really. It’s about some basic things that everyone agrees on, then there are a lot of politics within feminism that people are going to disagree on, but the most important things – like, the big stuff – are the ones that people are striving for and are writing their own books and having their own opinions on.
So to ask you a little bit about your recent surgery – and it sounds like a horrific thing – you had part of your heart lasered off, didn’t you? I’m sure you’ve thought about it metaphorically as well –- Yeah, literally and metaphorically, yeah…
I wondered whether there was a part of your heart that you thought you’d be better off without? Like a vulnerability that you don’t quite like?Erm… no, I think that vulnerability in people is such an important human quality and I never want to switch that off. I’ve been burnt – not just from having laser surgery but in life too, and I think it’s really important to not get bitter. I mean really, you can’t trust everyone and the only way you learn that you can’t is unfortunately by being hurt and screwed over. All you can do is grow through those experiences and be a stronger person and know yourself better. As you get older, you start to notice more red flags and as long as you’re learning from your experiences… I’d just advise people to not make the same mistakes again, and you can’t necessarily know if you’re going to make them again, but as long as you’ve learnt and grown and you have respect for yourself, then if there’s that red flag with someone, then you actually look out for them. I wouldn’t necessarily get rid of any of the vulnerability though because I think that means you experience more and the more that you feel and experience with people, the more rich your life will eventually be, you know?
I’ve been looking at something that looks like a lot of fun – you’re in the upcoming film, Powder Room [with Sheridan Smith, Jaime Winstone, Oona Chaplin etc] - I was watching the trailer and it looks like a real giggle to do…Yeah it was; I’m really looking forward to the premiere and stuff. But yeah, it was such a cool movie to do and the director, MJ, was awesome too. Then the cast – Jaime, Sheridan, Oona… everyone was just so nice to each other, so welcoming and it was really fun just leading up to Christmas, it would be all the girls eating and gossiping in the green room and it was just really awesome.
It seems like the dialogue was really natural and the situation it was set in too – it’s something we can all identify with being set in a ladies’ toilets. Did that help you, seeing as you’re quite new to the acting world?Yeah, it was really cool; I think a lot of people will relate to it because it’s about feeling quite lost and being in a bit of a mess, and some of them don’t really know what they’re doing but friendship prevails, or whatever! I think loads of girls come out of that being like, ‘that’s like me,’ blah, blah, blah, blah…
Now Kate, just to finish with – there’s a big knockout fisticuffs fight going on, on Thursday night. You’re in the red corner, and then Ghostpoet, Bastille, Ty and loads of others are in the blue. There’s loads of gigs on that night, but I want you to come out fighting – what do you get at a Kate Nash gig that you won’t get at the others?Erm, I think my show is just about having as much fun as possible and I think my live show is really good, like, I’ve got an all-girl band who are amazing and all-female support band who are awesome as well. It’s all about feeling part of a group, part of a gang and wanting to make everyone feel good about themselves as well. So yeah, my live show is really good - better than anyone else’s, so come to mine!
Emma R. Garwood
Kate Nash comes to The Waterfront this Thursday 10th October. For tickets, go to www.waterfrontnorwich.co.uk