Music Q&A: She Makes War

Laura Kidd, the multi-instrumentalist producer and visual artist behind She Makes War, plays 18 Oct, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, and 20 Oct, Castle Hotel, Manchester

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What informs your music and songwriting?
The ongoing desire to shape and share stories through creating my own world of music, making sense of my life experiences through lyrics and communing with others at my live shows. Everyone wants to feel they’re not alone in the world, to be seen and heard; music is the language I use to do that.

How have you evolved as an artist over the years?
The moment I finished making my first album and all the swirling ideas, instrumental parts and lyrics finally made sense, and worked, I felt certain I was making the music that suited me the best. In the albums since then I’ve built on that style – a curious blend of my love of grunge riffs and Britpop melodies, with a voice carefully and purposefully showing my Britishness – reluctant as that usually is. People seem to find it hard to describe what other bands I sound like, which is a massive compliment. The more music I’ve made, the more confident I have become in my production, writing and arranging abilities. There are people out there who love to tell artists not to do this or that, and try to make them think the technical stuff is beyond them, but that’s nonsense. You have to do what you think is right, and make the music you want in the way you want. It’s so easy now to demo your own songs at home if you can get access to some basic equipment, it’d be foolish not to learn how. I write 98 per cent of the parts for my songs during the home demo-ing process and then replicate those faithfully in a pro studio setting, which means I can carefully craft the whole thing, almost cinematically. Perhaps it’s my decade-long school orchestra background – being exposed to Shostakovich and John Williams at a young age must have had an effect – or my love of The Beatles, ELO and Radiohead. Whatever it is, every note means something to me and I hope that emotional resonance comes out in the finished production.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
The last few months have been all about getting the new album ready to be released into the world, so I’ve been making a 3D collage to photograph for the album sleeve, designing artwork for all the formats – cassette, CD and vinyl and making music videos. Devastate Me is online now. I’m ready to start writing new songs now but there’s a lot more work to be done to make sure the current collection get all the time and attention they deserve before I move onto composing more. I’ve set up a subscription club with a limit of 100 members – spaces available, visit my website’s music page – which starts in October. I’m going to use that as a way of sharing new demos and older song ideas that haven’t yet made it onto an album. I’m really looking forward to doing that as part of and alongside creating my next record.

What’s on your rider?
Nothing. I don’t drink at shows and would rather pop out and find something warm to eat! I’ve been playing in bands for a long time and have never supported the heavy drinking culture around touring, the pathetic adolescent behaviour of grown musicians in dressing rooms or the food waste and resulting bins full of single use plastics. Now I’m touring with a band rather than solo I feel responsible for making sure they’re comfortable and well fed, but having bottles of booze all over the stage is antithetical to how I Iive and what I’m trying to convey with my music.

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
Standing between Jo Brand and a dustbin side of stage at Hammersmith Apollo having just performed my song Stargazing on the invitation of Robin Ince and Brian Cox is up there in my list of surreal experiences. I think she’s utterly fabulous and it was so interesting standing there next to her while she quietly collected herself before striding on. These are the moments you don’t usually get to see. Afterwards I managed to congratulate her without gushing; I’m proud of that. A few months later I was backstage at Royal Albert Hall, again on the invitation of that Ince chap, and was in the green room watching astronaut Chris Hadfield singing Life On Mars on the monitor screen with only actor-comedian Reece Shearsmith and space scientist Professor Monica Grady for company. What a moment! I think what I’m saying is that Robin Ince finding my Stargazing video on YouTube, then being friendly online and in person has led to some very surreal and very brilliant experiences that I’m grateful for. There are very few active champions of new music out there, so I massively appreciate those people and every opportunity to play to new audiences that comes my way.

What song do you wish you’d written?
She’s Leaving Home by The Beatles. I can’t listen to it without crying.

What’s your worst lyric?
I’m a stickler for good quality writing, so it will always slightly irk me that I had to write “there’s no fireworks for us this year” on my debut album, in the chorus of No Fireworks. There wasn’t any other way around it – “there aren’t any fireworks for us this year” just wouldn’t fit! I recorded a lovely new harp and cello version of the song for my EP Disarm:15 and the end result is beautiful enough to make me forget about my grammatical slip – most days. Thanks for bringing it up!

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Interact: Responses to Music Q&A: She Makes War

  • She Makes War | From Shostakovich to Ince – interview with Big Issue North 9/10/18
    17 Oct 2018 09:25
    […] Big Issue North asked me about my musical evolution and most surreal experience…read the full interview here. […]

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