“PHONING IT IN”
#4 – SHE MAKES WAR
Laura Kidd, aka Bury St Edmunds-raised, London-based “gloom pop” siren She Makes War, talks DIY tactics and pizza delivery with Seymour Quigley.
B-SIDE: Hello Laura from She Makes War! How the devil are you?
LAURA: I’m very well thank you! I’m currently finishing off a box of Easter chocolates, supping tea and making an inlay zine-type track listing for the blue cassette release of (new SMW album) Little Battles.
B-SIDE: That sounds like a perfect and productive evening. I’d love to pretend I’m doing anything so worthwhile, but I’m just sat in my pants listening to Depeche Mode, as usual. Now, before we can take this interview any further, I have a confession to make: When I first heard about you, I mis-remembered the band name as “I Fight Girls”. In the cold light of that fact, do you now regret NOT calling your band “I Fight Girls”?
LAURA: Not even a tiny little bit. Some idiot put me on the bill as “Women Who Go To War” right at the start of SMW’s gigging career and that didn’t make me want to change the name either.
B-SIDE: You’re about to release your second album in just over a year and it’s called Little Battles. Your first album was called Disarm. Are you planning a Blur-style trilogy, based on The March To War? You could call the third album Let’s Have It Then or Something About Your Mum.
LAURA: Well, I love Blur – their songs have had a massive influence on me, but there isn’t as much forward planning as that I’m afraid. I do use the war theme but the idea is to use that terminology as symbols for other things. Love is a battlefield…
B-SIDE: “…But So Is Thetford”. That could be a good title for a song. You can have that one if you like.
LAURA: You’re so generous!
B-SIDE: You did a lot of your growing up in and around Bury St Edmunds, but moved to London pretty much as soon as you left school. Do you ever find yourself missing East Anglia? Do you ever get misty-eyed thinking about buck-toothed boys riding their sisters to market through golden fields of corn?
LAURA: Do I miss the screeching tyres of the Gary boys as they careen around the Buttermarket? Not so much. Growing up as an unusual teenager in a very straight school meant quite a lot of bullying and bad times, and it wasn’t until Sixth Form when I started playing in bands that I started feeling like I could really be myself (Laura’s first band, Billion Dollar Brain, won the inaugural BurySound Band Competition). I do like going back to Bury though, there’s a lot of lovely things about it I didn’t appreciate when I was a kid and living in London for such a long time really makes you appreciate peace and quiet, pretty streets and people who smile as they pass by. I still don’t understand why it took quite so long to sort out pizza delivery but at least you’ve got that now as well. Pizza delivery is incredibly important.
B-SIDE: Absolutely! If I’m going to eat pizza, I want someone to bring it DIRECTLY TO MY FACE. One thing we have lots of in East Anglia is internets, and you’ve become pretty well known on the internets over the past few years - you’ve even described as being part of the “Tweet Elite”, which sounds alarming, but I’m guessing they meant it nicely. In terms of DIY promotion, you’re pretty formidable. Do you think online saturation is the only way for DIY artists to break through - especially those without the luxury of a trust fund?
LAURA: I actually think the opposite. Early on I realised that signing up to every “unsigned band” website going was a waste of time and when MySpace happened it was fantastic because all of a sudden people were hanging out in one place online so it made sense to build a presence. When everyone shifted to Facebook it was the same thing - FB is only good for bands because people spend time there. Where you put your music is irrelevant if your music isn’t the truest it can possibly be. Then you stick it on the internet, try not to spam people and work to engage and build an audience. That’s the easy part! It’s easy to get blinded by all the sites and tools that are available for musicians now, but you have to narrow it all down to what will work for you and what you will actually use. Twitter isn’t the answer to getting your music out there; it’s what you’re saying that’s important.
B-SIDE: But there’s more to it than that with She Makes War – unlike other musicians you seem to engage with people in a much more creative fashion. For instance, you recently toured offices after developing the idea online with fans; you also released a version of Disarm, completely remixed by fans and collaborators – all built from online networking. And you’ve developed a strong audio-visual element, especially the striking promo photographs you’ve made with (photographer) Laura Ward.
LAURA: I’ve definitely cultivated creative relationships where I’ve clicked with people and Laura Ward is a great example. I was a big fan of her photography before we became friends, but every time we’ve worked together I’ve had a concept for the shoot and she adds her creative eye to it to make something better than I could have imagined. The office tour happened a couple of weeks ago and was great - I had the idea because I love performing in unusual spaces and starting conversations around what live music is all about. I feel it’s about communicating directly with people in a very unstarry way, and doing the office tour brought me in to contact with people who very rarely if ever go to gigs (click here to see a video blog). I’m big in to house concerts for the same reasons, I did a really lovely one a few weeks ago where the kids and the parents did a big singalong to my song Slow Puncture and we made a mini Polaroid memento book throughout the evening. It was really wonderful and you don’t get that sort of experience at most gigs; you have to make it happen for yourself.
B-SIDE: Now we’re very excited here at B-Side because you’re touring later this month with the lovely Chris T-T, and you’ll be playing Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds - do you have any plans to make the shows all, y’know, special?
LAURA: Oh yes! This will be my first ever tour in a car, which means I can take more weird and wonderful musical accoutrements with me. I have a brand new megaphone and will have my usual Telecaster/ukulele/loop pedal setup and a descant recorder.
B-SIDE: Finally, on to a more serious subject: I learned today that there was a famous slapstick comedian in the 1950s who called himself Mr Pastry. He was so popular that he was offered the part of Doctor Who, but blew it by insisting on doing the part in a slapstick style. I’d never heard of Mr Pastry before, but clearly, he had it going on. Are there any amazing bands or artists you worry that not enough people have heard about?
LAURA: Definitely, though hopefully they’re not quite as obscure as Mr Pastry! Check out Thumpermonkey, Hope And Social, The Hysterical Injury, Dana Jade, Sunday Driver and Something Beginning With L for starters. And Djevara. And Orders Of The British Empire and Spring Offensive.
B-SIDE: There’s never enough time to list all the under-rated bands in the World, is there? Laura Kidd - thankyou!
LAURA: You’re very welcome!
She Makes War will be supporting Chris T-T at the Portland in Cambridge on Wednesday 9th May and the Nutshell in Bury St Edmunds on Sunday 13th May. Little Battles is out now on My Big Sister Records and you can read the B-Side review right here.
Words: Seymour Quigley