We caught up with Bristol-based gloom-pop multi-instrumentalist Laura Kidd, otherwise known as She Makes War, ahead of her appearances in Bristol this month
She Makes War’s Laura Kidd has taken the UK by storm with her latest album, Direction of Travel, released in April this year. Now in the midst of her autumn/winter tour, which includes stops at Bristol’s Louisana and 20th Century Flicks, we take the chance to discuss instrumental experiments, the meaning behind her music and her love of the ‘cello…
How would you describe your sound?
Tearstained, grungey pop music with big melodies, harmonies and cinematic arrangements.
Have any other artists inspired your creative process?
I love Radiohead, Blur, Carina Round, Hanne Hukkelberg, Bjork, Suede and many others who create their own distinctive musical world.
What’s the meaning behind the name She Makes War?
…because love is a battlefield.
What would be your dream collaboration?
I’ve always wanted to feature on a Prodigy album.
‘Cold Shoulder’, from She Makes War’s latest album, Direction of Travel (2016)
You’re a solo artist and you played almost all of the instruments on your latest album, Direction of Travel. Are there any instruments you would love to be able to play but haven’t had the chance?
I adore the cello – I wanted to learn it when I was a child but school gave me violin lessons instead, so I played that until I was 17 (and switched over to playing in indie rock bands). I could learn now of course, but I think I’d be too impatient for it to sound gorgeous straight away so I could play it on my next album. I’ve been teaching myself to play the drums too and need to spend more time doing that – it feels so good.
How do you go about writing your songs? Is there a clear process each time or do you like to experiment?
Generally they come from sitting down with an instrument and messing about with some musical ideas, then a vocal melody will pop into my head and inform where the music goes next. I’m in the middle of writing album 4 at the moment and am taking it in turns spending time with different instruments to see what they inspire to come out of my brain.
Does your art ever reflect your life, or draw inspiration from real events?
Absolutely every one of my songs is based on real events, I haven’t written any fiction songs yet.
Are you trying to convey a particular message within your music?
While bad things happen to everyone, art can bring us together by making something meaningful out of the chaos in the world and we can become stronger and create beautiful things.
What do you think about commercial chart music – do you listen to the radio?
I only listen to 6Music. I don’t like the way most radio shows are so heavily playlisted with no room whatsoever for giving newer, smaller artists a chance, so I really appreciate how 6Music and BBC Introducing nurture talent.
How do you feel about the expectations placed on mainstream musicians to act, speak and sing in a certain way, which will be most ‘appealing’ to audiences?
I’m entirely disinterested in this and would never let it affect how I write, perform or live my life. Audiences aren’t stupid, and the people making up these rules are just guessing anyway. I’d rather make meaningful art and work harder to find my audience.
What can we expect from your tour this year?
Throughout November I’m playing 6 support slots (for The Wave Pictures and The Darling Buds) and 5 headline shows, road testing a few brand new songs during those sets as well as picking out my favourites from my back catalogue. I’m doing two unplugged afternoon headline shows in a 10 capacity screening room out the back of 20th Century Flicks video shop in central Bristol on 19th and 20th November, where I’m going to be trying a few new things and interacting with the audience in a more structured way, mixing standup with theatre with an intimate gig experience.
My three “An Evening with She Makes War” shows in Birmingham (22nd), London (23rd) and Bristol (25th) will consist of me playing a solo set to open the night and headlining with my grunge pop band, with support in the middle from a fantastic solo artist from New Zealand via Berlin called Luckless.