MUSIC | Kate Nash
When Kate Nash says her ultimate goal is “to make a significant difference to the attitude of a generation”, I don’t for a second doubt she will.
You see, Kate became an instant indie darling with her infection and offbeat hit pop song Foundations and debut album Made of Brick back in 2007 at just 19 years of age. Since then, while continuing to forge a successful career in the music world, Kate has also used her public platform to speak out on feminism and used music to empower girls everywhere. Just look at her Kate Nash Rock ‘n’ Roll for Girls After School Music Club, which encourages young girls, who are musically minded but feel, in some cases, too insecure to be in a band, to do just that. Or at her Agony Aunt podcasts, where Kate and pal Paula Trounce answer fan’s problems and questions online.
How on earth she manages to balance a successful career with activism – plus film acting and blogging – is anyone’s guess. “There really isn’t enough time [in the day],” she sighs, adding “I don’t know [how I do it all] either”. And yet, with her third album about to be released, midway through a tour and recovering from “a minor injury”, Kate – one of the hardest working musicians and certainly one of the nicest – found time to sit down and chat with us.
Hi Kate, thanks for speaking with us. We’re besotted with Underestimate the Girl, which is the first song from your forthcoming album. It sounds grungier, edgier and angrier than your earlier indie-pop songs and I was wondering how this new musical direction came about. Were there any particular influences?
The influence was genuinely just how pissed off I was at the time. I’d already finished the record at that time and I had a really bad day/week on top of an already stressful few months so it was just kind of an explosion. I think music is the most healthy way to deal with stress, anger and depression.
When it was released online, people had a real immediate and polarising reaction. People were really vocal in loving or loathing the song, I guess in part because it sounded so different. Were you surprised the song garnered such a strong reaction?
Yes and no, I guess. To be honest I was just so excited to be releasing something the day before a tour. I didn’t even consider what people might think of it. I was just really into the song and proud of it and wanted it out there. When it came out, it was pretty wild. It was an exciting time. The reaction fit perfectly with the lyrics of the song about everyone playing it so safe. It’s like people are really afraid of change and react pretty badly to a woman expressing aggression. But it actually saved me about six months of PR work to do! And plus, I’ve always believed if everyone likes what you’re doing, you’re doing something wrong. My true fans really got it and it’s good to sift out the fakers every now and then.
How do you deal with pressures of being in the public eye?
I have a great family and friends and I’ve just never really felt comfortable with too much media attention, so I shy away from a lot of it. I don’t go to “celeb hang outs" or to places I know there’ll be paps. I find that weird. I have such a busy schedule, I’d rather hang out with my real friends or family or bunny rabbit or even my TV.
I think a lot of girls look up to you, not only because they like your music but also because you’re a strong successful female artist, who doesn’t shy away from saying what you think or to call yourself the f-word – a ‘feminist’. I’m wondering if you feel a responsibility to be a good role model?
I’ve always felt a like I have a responsibility to my fans. I’ve always kind of thought that if you have a platform to speak on, then you should. I think that no one can be or should be perfect and one of the most important things about being a role model is having flaws. You should make mistakes and know that you’re allowed to do that and so is everyone else. But having an opinion is important and kind of preaching that everyone should just be themselves is my vibe.
Did you have good role models growing up, who were they?
My mum was always very outspoken and political and is a nurse so has a very practical and caring outlook on life.
In 2011 you started the Kate Nash Rock ‘n’ Roll for Girls After School Music Club, which helped girls, who wanted to be musicians but perhaps felt they couldn’t for various reasons, realise their dreams. What did you learn from the experience?
How insecure our youth have become. How much the bullying culture that we celebrate and indulge in this country has had a terrible effect on kids. It would make a cute 14-year-old girl say that she was too ugly to be a musician and give up on the idea of even writing a song let alone pursuing a music career. It’s time we did something about this.
We’re too excited to hear your new album when it comes out later this year. For now, what can you tell us about it?
I recorded it in LA in March with Tom Biller. We stayed in an amazing mansion in Echo Park with crazy antiques and taxidermy everywhere! It was the most incredible experience of my life and a very healing time. I hung out with loads of friends over there and we had an amazing two months. It’s definitely my best work so far. In a weird way, I didn’t think too much about what I was writing. There was a lot going on for me emotionally at the time so I just had to write to survive. I kind of puked this one out. I’m really excited about everyone hearing it.
What is the perfect scenario to listen to it in?
ROAD TRIP! Or in your bedroom daydreaming and writing in your diary pretending to do homework. Will finish nicely in bed with ‘Lullaby for an Insomniac’.
The title single from your new EP Death Proof has the same title as a Tarantino film. What’s the connection there?
I felt like the guitars were Tarantino-esque and Death Proof is my favourite of his movies. Also the song is about having your heart burnt off in a metaphorical and literal sense. I had my heart ripped out and broken and I also had surgery when I was a kid to burn off a section of my actual heart that was broken. I like the idea that I can’t be killed emotionally by someone. They can keep fucking with me and I will stay strong and not be broken down by someone else’s problems.
Whenever someone is being shitty to you they are projecting what they are uncomfortable about themselves onto you. It’s hard to see through that, but if you can, you really are emotionally death proof. I wanna see chicks standing up for themselves.
… Life is too short and there’s too much fun to be had to be treated like crap, you know? So yeah, my advice is be emotionally death proof. Don’t let the bastards get you down and break you. Fuck that. Love yourself more.
What ambitions do you have?
I wanna do more movies and records and a musical. I also wanna write a radio play. And, I believe in revolution. The ultimate thing for me to achieve would be to make a significant difference to the attitude of a generation.
Anything you’d like to add or tell XO Mag readers?
Kate’s new album Girl Talk will be released in March 2013. Her EP Death Proof is out now.
Words | Kelly Griffin
Photography | Jenny Brough for XO Magazine , Styling by Rachel Holland