Playing at the Thekla in Bristol on Saturday 26 March, multi-instrumentalist Laura Kidd (aka She Makes War) will be launching her latest album ‘Direction of Travel’.
There was something about the nineties. Britpop was gaining in velocity as the Top 40 charts flung out yet another catchy tune from the Gallagher brothers, Justine Frischmann or Damon Albarn. The punk era supposedly long gone and buried, yet a certain defiance remained – as band after band battled it out for top place in the hearts of the great British public.
For a certain Bristol based artist, those days are still as vivid now, as they ever were. Music that would both guide her own musical sensibilities, and provide her with the creative impetus to bring her own songs into being. Albeit, an ongoing process that didn’t really take full flight until just a few years ago, as Laura explains:
“I started telling penpals I was a songwriter when I was 12 years old – I’m not sure whether it ended up being true because I’m incapable of lying or that I told them that because it was something I always knew I’d end up doing!”
Drawing on influences as varied as the aforementioned Britpop days of the nineties, including Suede, Elastica and Blur, Laura also mentions artists across the pond – including The Breeders, Belly (happily reforming in the summer of 2016), Amanda Palmer and Kristin Hersh. As any teenager knows, songwriting can be a cathartic process – a means of emptying out the angst and pouring it into lyrics, or violently strumming a guitar (we can all relate to that).
“I wrote a bunch of awful songs when I was an older teen, and thankfully didn’t share them with anyone. It was only when I started really focusing on finishing demos for ‘Disarm’ (2010) that I realised I was making the music I’d always wanted to. So I kept going!” Laura adds.
“I don’t feel any pressure to conform to anything, probably because I’ve been forging my own path for so long now.”
Playing multiple instruments including bass, ukulele and electric guitar, as well as making looping seem like a breeze, Laura creates layers within her music which seem to resonate throughout the entire venue. Self assured on stage, don’t be surprised to find a glittery Laura striding through the crowds, loud-speaker in hand, before stomping back on stage in true Riot Grrl fashion. Her songs, as much a reflection on her own experiences as they are visual masterpieces when brought into light in the public arena, Laura has consistently avoided conformity – and this is exactly what makes her so appealing to her ever growing fan base:
“I have zero interest in what expectations the world may or may not have of me, I only care about making art that means something to me. I’m not trying to write the best chorus or bassline or cleverest lyric in the world, just to be the very best, most truthful version of me in musical form and hopefully affect other people with the heartfelt stories I tell in my songs.” Laura explains.
Laura has steadily and surely developed a loyal group of fans via her self-initiated (often relentless) touring schedule – both in the UK and within Germany, in particular. Having shot two music videos in Bristol, Laura can appreciate the diverse nature of the city and this inevitably feeds into her own music and film:
“The video for ‘Delete’ explored my favourite streets for graffiti and ‘Drown Me Out’ starred my favourite bar/eatery The Old Bookshop, my favourite dog walking area The Northern Slopes and my favourite boat spotting place Harbourside Walk. Bristol is a great city with some stunning scenery in and around it, there are no end of great places to make videos but it all depends on the song and the concept.” Laura explains.
A true professional when it comes to online and social media, Laura has used this to her advantage to reach her audiences. A believer in the value of simply getting out there, and making it happen – as opposed to waiting for that perfect (and often, unrealistic) moment to arrive, Laura has self released six albums to date (three of which are live recordings) and four EPs including 2015’s ‘Disarm’ featuring reworkings of original songs. The release of her latest album ‘Direction of Travel’ is set for April 2016:
“I’m really excited about the special guests on ‘Direction Of Travel’ who I invited on board after the songs were fully formed and recorded. I’ve wanted to have cello on my songs forever (I’m a big ELO / Blur fan) so it was great to finally have the budget and time to make that happen. I basically want cello on everything now.” Laura explains.
“‘Direction Of Travel’ is a very personal, very sad album but I think my audience relate to those feelings and appreciate my honesty.”
Interestingly, I didn’t ask about the story behind her ‘She Makes War’ stage name, but perhaps that is one to leave up to interpretation – and the same goes for her songs, which might start off from a place of personal truth yet evolve into something quite unexpected when unleashed into the world:
“That’s what I’m most excited about with having the new album released imminently, I really have no clue how it will make people feel or what it will encourage them to do. I have my interpretation of the songs, of course, but other peoples’ relationships with them is just as valid. ‘Direction Of Travel’ is a very personal, very sad album but I think my audience relate to those feelings and appreciate my honesty.” Laura says.
Laura has played alongside Viv Albertine, Tricky and The Levellers to name a few. Just recently, she toured briefly in the UK alongside Eliza Rickman, who accompanied her on the song ‘Paper Thin’ (taken from Laura’s forthcoming record) at the Louisiana, and last year, appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe with her one-woman show ‘Sh*t Girlfriend’. She’s a very busy lady, this much is true – and even finds the time to talk in the Houses of Parliament on the Bristol Live Music Census Report (phew!) You can find out more about that here.
It would be too easy to follow convention and repress the truth that so often remains dormant – but what would be the good in that? Some of the most memorable musical artists and innovative thinkers simply refused to give up their cause – and in doing so, carved a life based on throwing away the mould and fearlessly pursuing an instinct. David Bowie, being one, fine example:
“I was very sad to see Bowie go, I had the great fortune to be an extra in the episode of Extras he appeared in and he seemed like a thoroughly decent bloke with a great sense of humour, as well as being a staggeringly original and groundbreaking artist. And what a way he chose to say goodbye to us all – we’re very lucky.” Laura remembers.Life has a funny way of working out in the most unexpected of ways, and after Laura had a difficult year in 2014, she wouldn’t expect to be joining her own musical hero, Tanya Donelly (Belly, Throwing Muses, The Breeders) on stage at Bristol’s Trinity on the Throwing Muses tour in 2014 – but then, her teenage, pen-pal writing self might not have expected that either. This chance happening would lead to a further collaboration with the Boston based artist, Tanya Donelly, who is bringing her own band, Belly, back to the UK for a summer tour this year having released ‘Star’ in 1993 and ‘King’ in 1995. Joining forces for Laura’s song, ‘Paper Thin’, there will also be a music video to accompany – shot recently in New York and Boston:
“I’m passionate about creating visuals as well as music. Working with Tanya was a joy. Of course when I think about it it’s a surreal and exciting thing to have *that voice* on my song, after enjoying her music for so long, but in the moment we just chatted and laughed a lot and made a video and it was really fun. It means a lot that she likes my stuff and wanted to be involved.” Laura says.
Laura’s new, self-produced album includes collaborations with Mark Chadwick (The Levellers), The McCarricks (This Mortal Coil) and Clive Deamer (Portishead) and was mixed by Pixies’ producer Dan Austin. A body of work that Laura admits is her truest reflection of who she is, where she has been, and where she is heading. After all, its clue is in the title.
“My favourite part of being an artist is creating something new that wasn’t there before, it really is magical. Having done this for a while now I’m no longer surprised but am definitely delighted at the journeys my songs make when they head off into the world without me.” Laura says.
‘Direction of Travel’ is released on 8 April.
Laura Kidd (aka She Makes War) will be appearing at Bristol’s Thekla on Saturday 26 March with support from Bristol trio Jemima Surrender and Cousin Kula.
For tickets: www.bristolticketshop.co.uk
For more information on She Makes War: www.shemakeswar.com