INTERVIEW: She Makes War

Bristol-based artist She Makes War (aka Laura Kidd) has been busy creating music that fuses fun and freedom over the last few years. Her buoyant attitude and blistering guitar riffs have seen her build a loyal following across the UK, and with the release of her new album Brace For Impact just around the corner (October 5th), it seems this following is set to multiply further. We caught up with Laura to talk about her new record, her upcoming UK tour, the good & bad sides of social media, and why it’s worth giving DIY recording a shot…

Your new single ‘Devastate Me’ is a total banger. Can you talk about the inspiration behind the track?
Thank you! I’ve always written music about the dissonance caused by living a digital life in an analogue body, and for me that’s really increased in the last few years. Social media has enabled me to build an audience, but even as someone who is aware of its negative effects and strives to keep a balance, it has had an increasingly terrible effect on my ability to concentrate, and I hate that I spend too much time scrolling and too much time reading stuff that I don’t need to read.

‘Devastate Me’ questions the intention behind our obsession with sharing – it’s not that I don’t think we should share at all, but I’d like us to ask ourselves why we’re doing it. I see reflexive photography everywhere – people not even giving themselves a moment to see what’s in front of them before snapping it. I think learning to be present is so important, and being on your phone when spending time with loved ones is the height of rudeness.

All that is why the video is a bouncy tribute to analogue communication and community spaces – the local postbox I send all my merch orders from, an old red phonebox turned into a book swap and food bank donations hub, a wooden boat in the kids play area of my local pub garden and St Nicholas Market, all in Bristol.

You’re due to release your new album Brace For Impact on October 5th. What can fans expect from your new record?
An exhilarating, riffy journey through my thoughts on love, loss, grief, body image, self confidence and mindfulness. Chunky guitars, beautiful strings and heartfelt lyrics.

That sounds great! I read that you overcame a broken foot in order to write this record?
Yes! Everything was going really well with the release of my third album Direction Of Travel, I was happy, I was running long distances, I was getting booked to play exciting gigs and festivals and then BAM! I had an accident and was struck down. That was a really tough summer. I’m very proud of this album because it’s a result of me working through a reasonably deep depression and lethargy caused by shock, physical pain and resentment at my situation, working super hard to regain my mobility through near-daily yoga and making myself sit down and write the songs amidst all sorts of financial concerns.

Once an album is finished and I get a bit of time and space away from it I can slowly start to view it as something separate from me, and each one has its own distinct character. Brace For Impact is the most expansive album I’ve ever made, it’s kind and big hearted and urgent and strong and beautiful.

It’s great that you took something so negative and turned it in to something so positive! Do you have a favourite track on the album?
I love them all very much, but at the moment my favourite song is ‘Strong Enough’, which I wrote about two specific peoples’ experiences, but is a message to anyone going through a mental health crisis. All of the new songs are stories from real life that have a more far reaching message of care for all concerned.

‘Love This Body’ is another favourite – the riff is so grinding and intense and the lyrics are about how devastating it is to me that people – women in particular – spend so much time worrying about what they look like. The song is about myself; I’ve had issues about this stuff from a young age and only recently have started to come to terms with the fact that my body shape is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. People can be very cruel. We live in a society where airbrushed semi-naked female bodies are in our faces all the time via advertising, and band photos regularly depict the male members fully clothes and the women crouching down in hot-pants and platform heels. What are we supposed to do with all this information?

You’re embarking on a tour to promote the album, with our favourites Dream Nails and The Menstrual Cramps joining you on a couple of dates. What is it you like about these bands? How did you come across them?
Their energy, their freedom and the fact they care so much about spreading their message. Music has to be far more than some pretty noise coming out of some pretty faces to hold my interest. I’d been hearing about them online for ages, so when it was time to put together a bill for the album tour it was obvious who to ask. I’m just lucky they were available! The tour spreads across three weeks so on the first leg I’m joined by Eliza Rickman, an incredible artist from the US, the following week is with Dream Nails and the last four shows are with The Menstrual Cramps. I can’t wait!

What are your anticipations for this tour?
I love performing live, and while I find it impossible to write and record around gigging, it’s frustrating having to miss out on that audience connection for long periods of time when I’m making albums. I start feeling like I’ve disappeared! A lot of the venues on the list are old favourites, so it’ll be great to return with my incredible live band and knock peoples’ socks off around the country.

You record in your own bedroom studio in Bristol. Would you recommend this DIY approach to other girls or women who are looking to record their own music? What are the pros and cons of this method?
I write and demo all my songs at home, yes. I write while recording actually, so as not to forget anything but also to be able to easily play around with arrangements and parts. Once a rough demo is done I go back and do a “posh demo”, where I write and record all the parts – drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, lead vocals, backing vocals…then when the time comes I take all this into affordable studios to re-create them bigger and better with the help of my brilliant engineer.

I love working in this way because I can be as creative and take as much time over the initial writing and production as I like, without having to explain to anyone why I want another five vocal tracks or whatever, and carefully craft every note in the arrangement for maximum emotional resonance. It saves a lot of expensive studio time, because I know what I’m going to be recording, but also means the end result sounds exactly how I want. Of course, extra ideas will pop into my head when I’m in the nice studio, but they’re just the icing on the cake because the main work is done.

I’d recommend to people of all genders to learn to record themselves, whether that’s in a really simple and basic way or more involved. Anyone can learn to do simple multi-track recording, and it’s always better to have at least a little bit of technical knowledge when you’re working with someone else so you can explain to them what you’d like to achieve. More than anything though, I’d like to see people admitting that they don’t know everything, and realising that’s ok! What’s the point in staying quiet and pretending you know something because you think you’ll embarrass yourself in front of someone else? If that person is rude because you admit you don’t know how to do something, find someone else to work with. It’s better to learn by doing.

What’s the Bristol music scene like? How does it compare to other cities you’ve played in?
I hear about this elusive Bristol music scene a lot (usually from interviewers!), but I’ve never really seen it…there are a few artists who are doing their own thing very well, and perhaps there are micro scenes localised to friendship groups, but unfortunately we don’t have many small venues for people to come up in and start gathering an audience together from, so I’m really glad I started my project in London. Having moved here from Herne Hill six years ago, Bristol still feels tiny to me. It’s definitely my home, and I love living here, but musically I think of it as my creative HQ and my jumping off point to travel everywhere else. It’s always lovely to return though, and it’s worked out brilliantly that the big hometown gig is happening on the last night of the tour. It’s going to be a big party!

Your visuals seem equally as important as your music when it comes to your performances. Is this part of your “make art in every day life” ethos? Can you talk about the inspiration behind this?
The music is by far the most important thing when it comes to my performances, but I made the decision a long time ago to use the opportunity to dress up and create something different from the everyday for my shows, something that matched the drama and glitter of my songs. It’s not a different character – it’s the real me, just…more! I do try and lead as creative a life as possible, on and offstage, it makes everything feel more meaningful and satisfying. I struggle with unanticipated dips in mood like everyone else, and I find it’s those little things that really help centre me again and give me focus. I write in a diary most days, I draw and I try to take beautiful photographs.

Finally, As a new music blog, we’re always looking for recommendations about new bands and artists we should be listening to. Who are you listening to at the moment?
I’m excited about upcoming albums from Marissa Nadler, Cat Power and Suede, the new Breeders album is INCREDIBLE and I find myself returning again and again to both Marika Hackman albums, Memories Are Now by Jesca Hoop (the rest of her albums are stellar too) and my beloved Nirvana, Pixies and Blur.

Huge thanks to Laura for answering our questions!

Pre-order She Makes War’s new album Brace For Impact here.
Grab your tickets for one of her tour dates here & follow She Makes War on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Ania Shrimpton

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

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