Laura Kidd – better known as She Makes War to most – has been busy coining the term “gloom-pop” for her brand of melancholic, yet hopeful pop songs. Hosting regular music nights to not only promote She Makes War, as well as helping young musicians learn what is required of them as a musician. And now she is about to release her third album, after previous success with the crowdfunding platform. 2016 will see her venture down a new path as she begins working with a manager, along with licensing Direction of Travel to The state51 Conspiracy. Laura took some time to chat to us about her career so far and share some insights on her upcoming record.
You launched Breakfast with Apollo music nights in London to provide a regular and safe gigging space, as well as helping musicians and audiences alike, learn a bit more about what is involved in gigging. Teaching sensible practices and what is required. It’s been four years since Breakfast with Apollo began, what has the response been like? I think it’s a really cool idea, especially with teaching young musicians what is actually required.
Thanks! I credit the BWA gig series with growing my audience first in London, then Bristol (when I moved here in 2014), then around the country as well. The response has been great – I find that people who like my music appreciate the transparency – by making it clear I’m hiring venues myself and keeping costs sensible, the audience know the money they pay for entry to the shows is helping fund She Makes War and gets distributed fairly to the bands involved. It makes for a happier audience and a happier bill of people on stage too. I actually haven’t used the BWA name for a while but have continued promoting most of my headline shows myself (and all of the Bristol ones), selecting bands to play with me and generally avoiding bad deals. It’s hard work but I love it!
I am actually very new to the world of She Makes War – having only listened for the first time late last year – but as I understand it, you seem to be a master of the DIY music approach. How do you manage to stay sane doing everything yourself?
DIY is a dangerous phrase – I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved on my own but never wanted to be limited by the number of hours in the day, so I’m very happy to have started the year working with a manager, who helped me license my new album to The state51 Conspiracy. It’s an absolute dream to have help with this project for the first time in 6 years and I’m excited about what we can achieve together. She Makes War had grown to a point where it was extremely difficult to keep it going all on my own, so I’m interested to see what 2016 will bring now I have a talented team around me.
I read in another interview that you were considering not crowdfunding for Direction of Travel, despite successful crowdfunding in the past. Why did you not want to follow the crowdfunding approach again? And why did you end up deciding to go down that road?
I think crowdfunding is a wonderful thing, and a great way of including fans in the album making process. I was reticent to do it again for Direction Of Travel after crowdfunding my second album Little Battles because I had this idea about “doing a Bowie”, as I described it to friends, i.e. hiding away to make an album and then surprise releasing it. As it happened, it was far too ambitious a record to fund myself so I was very grateful that my audience helped me in such a powerful way. I do want people to feel involved – they’re very important to me and I respect them greatly.
I do love how crowdfunding keeps fans involved, but I know how much of a toll it takes on artists. As I understand it Direction of Travel is the first album you have completely produced on your own. Do you feel you have had the chance to be more yourself on this record?
I’ve always tried to be completely myself with this music, but obviously over the course of 6 years I’ve grown more comfortable with what that means, and my skills have developed too. I produced Disarm and Little Battles as well, with Myles Clarke credited as co-producer because he was very generous with his time. I’m thankful to him for understanding this is such a personal project that it wouldn’t be appropriate for someone to come in and start suggesting a load of ideas – I’m happy to collaborate with people in other scenarios but not with She Makes War. It’s my art project; my personal stories, thoughts and emotions fully realised in musical form. Having said that, I was thrilled to have Dan Austin on board to mix the album – he totally gets where I’m coming from and respects what I’ve created, so I knew I could hand him all the files, step away and wait patiently to receive killer mixes from him. He did an incredible job.
You both have done an incredible job; it’s a great album! You have a few awesome guest musicians on the record. What was it like working with them all?
I only ever invite people along to play on my stuff if I love what they do, so it was a great bunch of people. I’ve loved Tanya Donelly and Mark Chadwick’s music since I was a teenager, so two dreams came true right there. Clive Deamer is a consummate pro and a joy to spend time with, Cajita has mixed and remixed several things for me in the past and played in my live band so it was great to have his beautiful piano playing on the album, and The McCarricks are usually busy arranging string parts for the likes of Marc Almond and Siouxsie Sioux so I was very lucky to have them involved too. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the string arrangement was for Stargazing – Andrew Skeet (Divine Comedy) took time out from his incredible Sony Classical-released solo album to write that and it gives me tingles every time I listen to it.
The re-release of the songs from Disarm seem to fit more in with the sound of Direction of Travel. Was the intention to act as a teaser for your upcoming album?
Absolutely. I felt the time, equipment and skills limitations of the first album recording meant some of the songs never realised their full potential, so it was tremendously rewarding to give them some care and attention. I’m really happy with the results and the intention was to bring them up to the same sonic level as DOT, which I think we managed to do.
Just stepping away from the album for a moment – here in Sydney we are dealing with a new set of lock-out laws. Essentially bars, clubs, etc will be locked out from 1:30am and alcohol will cease to be served at 3am. These laws are founded in good intention. They are in place to attempt to stop alcohol fuelled violence, and minimise the late night ER visits. As they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions and people are fighting to keep Sydney open. With these laws we have seen a lot of iconic music venues close due to loss of revenue, and after party shows are no longer. Knowing about these lock out laws, as an international musician, how would you feel about coming to play some shows here? Does coming to Australia become an even bigger risk knowing that a lot of smaller venues are closing?
I think it’s a shame venues have to rely on the money made from aftershow parties and discos in the first place, and I’m sorry that’s going to have a knock on effect on Australia’s music scene. Touring there isn’t something I’ve ever seriously considered as the cost of flights and accommodation plus all the inevitable jumping through visa hoops (and don’t get me started on how hard it is to try and play in America!) doesn’t make it seem like a viable option really. It’s a shame, I visited a few years ago when I was playing bass for Tricky and really enjoyed travelling around playing shows. I’d love to return one day with my own music.
I will still keep my fingers crossed to see you over here one day! You’ve finished up with Direction of Travel, and you’ve got quite a bunch of gigs lined up. What’s next for you? When will we see that music video you’ve been working on?
The first of three music videos will be online very soon – keep an eye out at www.shemakeswar.com – and I’m editing the second this week so videos 2 and 3 will appear over the next couple of months. I hope to continue to make videos for some more of the songs on DOT but my mind is already busy working on the next batch of music. I just love making things, and aren’t we lucky we have all the digital tools at our disposal to make whatever we want? It’s an exciting time to be an artist.
Any last words of wisdom to share?
Whatever your creative endeavour, remember you can only ever rely on yourself. Create something that expresses your thoughts and feelings genuinely and if you choose to share it with the world you’ll be able to find an audience. It may be small, it may be large, but if you’re honest with your art and respectful of the members of that audience then they won’t desert you when the next fad comes along. No excuses – life is short, do stuff!