Tuesday 31 March 2015

Interview - She Makes War

Before her headline gig at Manchester's Wonder Inn on Friday night, we spoke to Laura Kidd, aka She Makes War, about her new album Direction Of Travel, the special guests on the record, her unique live shows, what it's like to be an independent artist and her plans for the rest of the year.

Your album Direction Of Travel is coming out later this year. You've finished recording it now, can you tell us a little about the background about it?

I came up with the name about three years ago, just after the release of my second album Little Battles. I was travelling in a car and it came to me. It made complete sense because I travel so much playing gigs around the UK and Europe. I had a nomadic childhood because my Dad was in the Forces so we moved around every three years, so it felt like I didn't have a home at any time.  Poor me, tiny violins.

Because of that I had a problem of that concept of home, but I also believe that travelling is what makes you get to know yourself as a person and that's how you find out that you're strong and that you can adapt and survive in all types of different situations.   So I wanted to pull together all those ideas because that's where my head is at the moment. So I started writing songs for it about a year ago.

Is that the concept behind it then, that the songs are based around that theme?

Yes, that’s how all my albums have worked really. Disarm was more a collection of songs I’d written up to that point, because it was my first album. Little Battles, I came up with that name, then the album was about that theme and themes around it that I’d write down for myself.

So Direction Of Travel, I had the name, it's about home, it's about travelling, meeting new people, all the possibilities the world offers you if you choose to see that.

Are they all songs about you?

Yes (laughs), well me and other people.  They’re true stories, real life things that have happened to me, somewhat exaggerated at times and obviously from my point of view. I do try and offer a bit of balance by putting myself down in the songs as well.  It's not just about slating other people, there’s a healthy balance in that.

So I started writing songs about a year ago and started recording them properly about May time with an engineer in Bristol and then went in and did the proper sessions in December. Right now they're being mixed by Dan Austin who’s an amazing artist in mix engineering. He's been sending me tracks whilst I've been on the road. I got a couple of tracks yesterday and today that he's been working on and I need to give him notes then.

You've got some pretty amazing guests on there, people like Tanya (Donelly) and Mark (Chadwick). How did that come about?

Specifically Tanya and Mark, when I stop and think who's on there, it blows my mind really if I stop and think who's on my album, it's a little bit overwhelming.

It's people I've met along the way. Mark I met last year when I toured with The Levellers and he asked me if he could be on the album. I was talking to him about who was on it and how it was going and he got a bit braver and asked me if he could be on it that evening. I couldn't believe it as I would never have asked him. He's on a song called Time To Be Unkind, a little duet.

Tanya Donelly, from Belly and Throwing Muses, is also on there singing on a song.  She's been listening to my music for a few years through Kristin Hersh who I met a long time ago and she just really likes it which is really flattering as she's a big influence on me.  She was playing in Bristol and she asked me to sing a couple of songs with her on stage which was exciting because she's a really big influence on me.  That was amazing, we kept in touch and I got braver and asked her so she's on a song called Paper Thin.

It's all people who I've met or friends of friends. I haven't gone hunting for stars to impress people, but Clive Deamer who plays drums on it has played with Portished and Radiohead, Andy Sutor who also plays drums is another from Bristol.  My friend Cajita from London who makes beautiful music of his own plays piano on it. Nicole Robson from Bat For Lashes' live band plays cello on it, the McCarricks, Martin used to play with Therapy, and who've worked with Siouxie Sioux are on it playing strings and Andrew Skeet who plays with The Divine Comedy arranged strings. Loads and loads of great people, they all wanted to be involved.

The longest credits ever then?

Yeah (laughs), that's a lot of names to fit in. But it's all come together really well. It is my album though, I've produced it, I've written it. It’s the first time I've produced a whole album myself. The aim was to be very ambitious, it's a big art project really, as always, this band is my art project and it was a case of balancing all these guests over me. Not in a ego way, but it's my album and everyone was really nice about it, they only wanted me to use parts if it felt right for me and it worked. They all believed in me and what I was doing and that's the really cool thing.

That's especially important as you go out and perform songs on your own most of the time.

Yes I do although this time I've put a three piece band together.

Why did you choose to do that this time?

I'm experimenting with it. I feel really that rock songs, it's so obvious to present them in a band situation and it's not that interesting for me. I like watching bands, but logistically and financially it's very difficult to keep a band going. You're trying to pay them and that's not always possible and they have other commitments anyway. I don't want permanent band members as it's just too much hassle really.  I'm not willing to share this project, it's not how this project works. If I was to start a different band in the future with other people, it'd be much more of a partnership, but that’s a choice because I'm a solo artist now.

But this tour sounds fantastic and these guys playing with me are really great. My friend Simon Gough is playing violin and bass and Amy Amp from Forgery Lit is playing drums and they're also supporting us on the tour as it makes sense to bring them all out, so it's a great fun tour to be on.

I always really enjoy doing my solo show, because it's more intense, more cathartic and I think people respond to that really well. I'm keeping the band for special occasions really.

There's so few people who perform in the set-up you use though.

I suppose there is. I forget that really. It's normal for me to pick up an electric guitar and then pick up a ukulele.

What are your plans for the release of Direction Of Travel?

Plan A is to put it out myself in September time. Plan B is to see if anyone wants to help me put it out, so when it's mixed I’m going to be sending it around places to see if anyone is willing. I'm not trying to be wilfully obscure, I want people to hear it and if people want to help make that happen in a positive constructive way then I'm willing to listen to them – labels, managers and all that.

What I'm not willing to give us is what I've worked so hard for over the past five years and what I've achieved on my own. I need people to impress me.

I think that's very clear. It's not just about the albums, it's about everything else around it, the live CDs, the artwork, the visuals.  It's not just ten songs.

I take a lot of care over the look and feel of it. I want people to think it's a special beautiful thing and to have a relationship with it that I don't have. I think there's nothing more wonderful than someone coming up to you after a show and telling you that your song helped them through a really hard time.

That happened to me in Birmingham the other night and I gave the lady a big hug, that's why we do this, to communicate with people and it's very special.  I'm not willing to do it in a shoddy or half-hearted way, so I don't want someone steamrollering in and ruining it for me as it's working pretty well at the moment.

It's hard because it's a lot of work and requires a lot of discipline and it's me doing most of the work, but it's a pleasure to do it.

Will you be touring again when the album comes out?

Yes, this tour is a bit of an experiment. I booked all these shows myself, there's twenty of them including two support slots with New Model Army, the rest are either my promotions or small promoters in the areas and it's to see where there is an audience for me at the moment.  I did that big Levellers tour with twenty dates around the UK and Europe and I know not everyone will have loved what I did or even seen it, so I know it's only a percentage of them that might pick that up and come and see me on my own.

Birmingham, Bristol and London were busy and great and I know Manchester will be. The people who do come get so into it and I really wanted to put myself out to go and see everyone on this tour, that's why it's nearly four weeks long.  One of the best parts for me is chatting to people after the show, finding out how they know about me, it helps me work out what’s working and what isn't. Everywhere has a different flavour to it.

Direction Of Travel is available on Pledge now isn't it?

It is to pre-order and I should probably say that when I upload it, probably in a month or six weeks when it's done, then you'll have to wait until September if you've not pre-ordered it.  You'll get the downloads then and after that I'll work on the artwork for the physical copies because I do all that myself as well and I've been focusing on finishing the record.

She Makes War's official site can be found here

She is also on FacebookTwitter and Bandcamp.

Her Direction Of Travel Pledge campaign can be found here.

Her tour continues at the following venues : Nottingham Bodega (March 31), Leeds Brudenell Social Games Room (April 1) and Swindon Victoria (2).

lead photo by Laura Ward

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1 comment:

  1. I have seen her perform in Karlsruhe two times last year and she is a shear force of nature! So I am a pledger for the new album and really thrilled to see the result soonish...