"After a couple of false starts, a savage bone-breaking accident and slow recuperation, the album was written in a fairly concentrated period of time" We chat with She Makes War
We're not gonna lie, Laura Kidd is one of our favourite artists. You likely know her as She Makes War, and after the release of her new album, Brace For Impact, more people will have heard of her. Laura took some time away from getting ready for the album release day to answer some questions, including telling us a bit about a seriously painful sounding bone break. And, more happily, how she made the new album.
Hey Laura! How're you today?
I’m sitting in my new home studio with a cup of delicious decaf and the sun pouring through the window, enjoying the heady anticipation of releasing an album in just four days. I’m feeling good! [Ed note: the album is OUT NOW!]
We haven't spoken to you in a while, what’s happened in the two years since we last spoke?
I broke my foot, toured relentlessly, wrote and recorded my new album Brace For Impact, spent a long, sticky summer in Indonesia, launched an amazingly successful Pledge campaign (people are amazing!), toured Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, moved house, got married and adventured around the Canadian Rockies.
Phew. Not much then... So what can you tell us about your new album Brace For Impact? How was the recording process?
After a couple of false starts, a savage bone-breaking accident and slow recuperation, the album was written in a fairly concentrated period of time - around six months - and recorded in two chunks in March and May of 2017. I wrote and rough demoed the songs in my home studio, then when I knew which songs were definitely going on the album I went back and re-demoed them, writing all the instrumental and drum parts, finalising lyrics and recording vocal harmonies. I have a lot to say through my lyrics but also through the music itself, so I love this approach - there’s room for happy accidents and bursts of inspiration at the end but the pieces of music are fully formed when I get into the paid studio, where time is very precious. I was delighted to work with Dan Austin again, who did a tremendous job mixing my last album Direction Of Travel. He’s a great producer in his own right but very respectful when someone else is in the driving seat, so he was happy for me to produce while he engineered and mixed. The album wouldn’t sound as huge as it does without his expertise, and the days we spent together in the studios (Joe’s Garage and J&J in Bristol) were honestly the happiest and most supported I’ve ever felt in that sort of environment. He’s a wonder.
Where did the album title come from?
I was driving on tour in May 2016, zooming down a motorway somewhere between Glasgow and Manchester with lots of time to think about the way we all suspend our disbelief when it comes to driving, because if we could fully comprehend the risks involved we might think twice. I thought that was an interesting metaphor for the state of the world, and the phrase “brace for impact” just kept rolling around in my brain. I broke my foot one month later after soundchecking to support The Brian Jonestown Massacre, braved a summer of radio sessions and festival slots then went on tour supporting one of my favourite artists EVER, Carina Round (Puscifer), performing shows wearing a knee crutch and hobbling around on crutches the rest of the time. On the last date of our tour we played in Brighton, and the phrase “brace for impact” was scrawled in the ladies’ toilets. I don’t believe in fate, but that was a message I couldn’t ignore.
The new album and lead single ‘Devastate Me’ starts with the lyric “This is a song for the heavy-hearted”. You could almost replace the word song with album; it overall feels quite an emotional, raw piece of work. Were you writing from experience or was it written from what you see around you?
It’s interesting that you get that feeling from it. I never write happy songs, but I’ve been getting a big-hearted, melancholy, kindly and caring sort of vibe off this album. Every song is written from direct experiences I’ve had with a songwriter’s eye on finding the universal truth within, to make the lessons potentially useful for others as well. Whenever I’m having a horrible time I turn to melancholy music for solace, so it’s inevitable that I make that sort of music myself.
I recently found out that some of my favourite artists, like Hannah from punk band Creeper, Becky from Milk Teeth etc all have part-time jobs even though they have toured the world. How and why is that happening in your opinion, surely being a musician can be a full-time profession in 2018?
I’m shocked you’ve only just realised this, but there is a weird trend for artists to pretend they don’t do anything else in their lives but play gigs and rehearse, which is blatantly untrue. Most musicians have other jobs, it’s really hard to make a full living making whatever music you like! My project has grown very organically and sustainably, so it’s a large portion of my income now, but I’ve always juggled (thankfully interesting and creative) freelance work alongside my musical project - it means I can pay for fun things like food plus there’s no chance of me disappearing up my own arse.
You regularly tour with some fantastic musicians like Ginger Wildheart and The Levellers, if you could tour with anyone that you haven’t, who would it be?
My favourite artists are people who are actually standing up and saying something. I played with Nadine Shah in London a few years ago and would love to tour with her. And how about Depeche Mode, Smashing Pumpkins, The Breeders and Suede?
You have quite a presence across social media, as an independent artist, do you see this as a necessary evil or is it something you embrace?
I started blogging a long time ago and when social media became a thing I was really into Twitter. It’s only in the past few years I’ve started thinking of it as any kind of evil - it’s got a lot more shouty and people seem glued to it in an unhealthy way. It’s an odd thing, using it to share information about music. On the one hand you’re just trying to get the word out about shows and stuff, and though it’s less effective than it was, it still gives us a lot of power to connect with people which is amazing, but on the other hand, by participating in it you’re hoping/expecting/wanting lots of people to be online all the time so you can reach them with your messages. I think people should be spending a lot more time away from the internet, engaging more with their surroundings and the people they love, creating long-form works instead of being happy with spewing out a few tweets a day, looking after their physical and mental health and not having their attention stolen and their brains buzzing with information overload. But I still want them to know my album is coming out and to come along to my shows if they want to!
Also, with social media and streaming music being so readily available, do you think the term ‘underground music/scene’ is still valid? Is music too easy to consume (making it seem too throwaway)?
I don’t really hear anyone discussing the underground music scene, but while yes we all have the tools at our disposal to potentially reach a lot of people, we’re not well known, so arguably are very much still underground. Music is definitely too easy to consume in a throwaway fashion, more than ever before - Spotify playlists are the best example of this. Artists want to be on playlists because the potential for getting millions of listens is there. But think about it - if a playlist is on, how many times is someone going to look up from whatever they’re doing and make a note of who they’re listening to? I know of artists who have millions upon millions of streams but can’t sell 50 tickets to a show in their hometown. Thankfully there are a lot of people - of all ages I might add - who value music and want to support the people who make it. They’re the best ones!
And finally, what’s the best bit about living in Bristol?
Bristol is my creative HQ and my jumping off point for travelling wherever my music takes me. It’s friendly and manageable, feels artistic and fun and on a sunny day you just can’t beat sitting by the harbour and watching the boats go by.
She Makes War new album, Brace For Impact, is out now, it's available from all streaming services and stores to buy.
To find out more about Laura you can visit her website, follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, or see what she's up to on Instagram.