She Makes War is the solo project of Bristol-based multi-instrumentalist, producer and visual artist Laura Kidd – her music a potent mix of grunge riffs and emotional turbulence. On the release day of her newest album Brace For Impact, I spoke to Laura about everything from streaming platforms to podcasts. We started our conversation by talking about her influences (that ‘only 90s kids’ might remember).
What would you say your strongest influences are on this project?
“I try not to be directly influenced by other music because I think it’s more interesting to be entirely yourself, but naturally I have a sort of genre of music that I gravitate towards – a weird mix of grunge music from the early 90s and Britpop from the later 90s – so I have the kind of urge to make this very melodic music with grungy riffs. I’ve been making music like this for eight or nine years now and it feels like it might finally be coming into fashion – so what I’ve learned from this is that if you’re really stubborn and if you keep being yourself and ignoring everyone else – eventually people might get on board.”
“There was a review on a blog that said my music was ‘just stuck in the 90s’ as a negative term – and now it’s turned out positive! There are a lot of UK bands that make really grungy music, and now feels more like a time I fit into. I generally don’t care about fitting in, other than that it would be nice for more people to be open to listening to my kind of music – as an independent artist its kind of hard to get it out there, and to be written about alongside bigger artists.”
You used Pledge Music for the album’s release and you’ve got all these cool rewards available on there (including your school saxophone!) which is super interesting. But why specifically have you chosen Pledge Music?
“This is the third time I’ve used Pledge Music – and the reason I use it is that it’s hard to have the money to make an album! There are lots of fixed costs like engineers, mastering and manufacturing that you can’t change – there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m very ambitious in how I want my music to sound – as a producer I always want things to sound more and more expansive, so the costs rack up when working with good people! It’s also great to be able to give people personalised, handwritten objects – things that give them more of a connection to the music – and my music is all about connecting to people and saying ‘we’re all the same, here are my worst stories – please share those moments with me.’”
Following on from that, do you have any thoughts on the new Spotify Direct Artist Upload?
“I’m all for new tools for us to use, but what I fear is that it floods Spotify with all the music in the world! I think that the problem with having absolutely everyone being able to upload music directly means that there’s no sorting process – and while I think it’s wonderful that everyone can make their music and put it online, certain services need those gatekeepers. However, Spotify is a political topic to discuss – any of those services will only do things that will benefit them, but they’ll make you feel like they’re benefiting you instead. Recently I got this really amazing distribution deal, and I’d still prefer they did it because I’d rather it was done well and with my best interests at heart – it feels more comfortable as an artist. I really am a big fan of cutting out middlemen when they’re not doing anything, but when people are working with you they should be rewarded.”
Going back to your blog posts, you’re signing all these physical copies and commenting on the rise of physical media – do you think that the vinyl and cassette resurgence is beneficial to artists who want to get something personal across?
“We’re physical beings, not digital people – we’re trying to make all these advancements in technology and it’s all really exciting to have all the music in the world accessible at the click of a button, but on the other hand it’s really hard to take a moment to listen and to let it affect you. You used to bring home a record from the shop and listen to it – which was a completely different experience than just idly clicking something – maybe you’ll listen, maybe even deeply, but you probably won’t! There’s a difference between reading an article online and reading a physical novel – there’s something missing from using a streaming site. I’m not saying that using streaming sites is wrong – it’s just a very different experience – and we as humans crave immersion in art. There’s no sense of completion, either – when you’re listening to albums online there’s no time to think about what you’ve just heard, the last note of the album doesn’t ring out into silence, you’re just catapulted straight onto the next song by the artist – without any time to take it in! For me, I care about that album personally – the artwork is a collage of photos I took, I designed all the packaging, organised it all, paid for it all, collected it from the warehouse, picking it up and delivering it – that’s how I do things! It’s about being present at all parts of the process. I just drove up to the Midlands last week to drop things off at a warehouse – is that a sensible use of time? I don’t know but I enjoyed it! I listened to a podcast on the way” (at this point I got very engaged in a discussion about podcasts). “My favourite is WTF with Marc Maron, and then Hurry Slowly is my next favourite – but I also really enjoy a gardening podcast – I don’t even do gardening! but it’s lovely to listen to someone else’s passions – I love it when someone is super passionate about something!”
Earlier, you mentioned that when your album finishes, it should ring out – there’s a silence that lets you meditate on what you’ve just listened to. What would you want people to feel after the album ends – what is that ‘ringing out’ of your album?
“It’s hard to say – when people listen to your music they are not feeling your feelings. I have no idea what anyone listening to the music has been through in their lives, but I know we’ve all lost people we love, we’ve all had our hearts broken, and we’ve all been in awkward situations. I would never go so far as to prescribe what someone should feel – and I’m really interested in asking people what they do feel. I finished this album a long time ago, and I’ve gotten over the raw emotions, but listening to it and talking about it and doing blog posts has really made it all come back up to the surface again – the songs are all very personal – but they’re only personal to me! But the songs will remind some people of who they’ve loved and lost – I don’t know if they’d feel positive or sad or something else entirely – I really don’t know and I’m interested to find out! I find it very cathartic to write about things that have happened to me and that helps me move on – but people that aren’t expecting to hear it might have a very different reaction! I try to put a bit of hope in the album – I think that Brace For Impact is very kind, and has a weary wisdom that hasn’t been in my music before, so if anyone listens to it, tell me what you feel!”
The title, Brace For Impact is a very physical name that sits alongside the name of the project, She Makes War – what is your thinking behind the title specifically?
“It was a phrase that popped into my mind when I was driving down the motorway, on tour – I was thinking about how much we suspend our disbelief when driving or otherwise traveling – we tell ourselves it’ll all be fine. After that I broke my foot after falling off the front of a stage – an impact I wish I’d braced for – and after that, I did a tour, and at the final gig in Brighton, someone had written ‘Brace For Impact’ in the toilets – so that’s that then! Sometimes things just find a way.”
So, you’re at Heartbreakers in lovely Southampton on the 2nd of November – what can we expect from the gig?
“I’m bringing my live band, and it sounds huge live. They’re lovely, amazing people and it’s so exciting to work with them. We’ll play some old stuff, but a lot of new stuff – perhaps the best way to describe it is as a boatload of riffs and a shedload of glitter – but I really want to meet people that come to the show – I’m so fascinated about what resonates with people, who they are, what they do and what other music they like. Whenever I do a show and there’s no opportunity to talk to people it feels like I haven’t done a show!”
She Makes War is playing at Heartbreakers on the 2nd of November, and Brace For Impact, the new album, is out now via My Big Sister Recordings. Buy tickets for the gig here!