Kate Nash channels feminism and fun on Girl Talk
She may be known for making upbeat pop, but Kate Nash admits that she was in “a lot of pain” and going through “a very sh**ty time” while writing her third album Girl Talk. Now 25, the British artist who began her career at 18 by uploading songs to MySpace decided to purge all her bad feelings when it came time to write the follow-up to her last record, MyBest Friend Is You (2010).
“It’s like the healthiest vice when you’re in a dark time,” Nash says of songwriting. “It’s not going to bite you in the ass the next day. It’s not going to f**k you over. You’re not going to end up in trouble. It’s like a safe haven where you feel strong and powerful.”
To match the lyrical vitriol that fuels new songs like “Rap for Rejection,” “All Talk,” and “Fri-end,” Nash mostly eschewed her trademark piano in favour of the bass, an instrument she picked up in earnest while playing in her now defunct punk rock side project The Receeders.
“The bass just feels right to me,” she says. “It’s like a weapon; heavy and powerful. And it just feels cool, you know? I f**king love playing it.”
The harder edge to Nash’s new material can arguably be traced to My Best Friend Is You’s “Mansion Song,” a noisy spoken word rant that nevertheless boasted a catchy and melodic chorus. Nash built upon that more strident vibe by writing the bass-heavy new song “Sister,” which subsequently provided Girl Talk’s “heavier” musical direction, although she never forgot her melodic roots.
“I’ve always been a pop artist,” she says. “I love pop melodies. The first band I’ve probably heard was The Beatles from my parents, so I love pop music. And then I just go with what makes me feel good and that made me excited.”
Nash credits her musical evolution to simple growing up, both as a young woman and as an artist.
“Six years of playing live music and being in the studios, you learn. And I feel now, rather than just this ‘oh f**k. Am I ever going to be able to write a song again? Fingers crossed,’ I’m like ‘I write songs. I know how to do it. It’s my craft.’ And I can go, ‘I want to write a song like that,’ and I know how to make it sound like that now.”
No longer signed to Fiction Records, Nash turned to the online fundraising site PledgeMusic to raise funds to support the release of Girl Talk. Fans pledged various amounts of money, and, in return, got to choose from a variety of gift options, from a digital album download (£8) to a mani/pedi date with Nash (£350, sold out) to a cake-and-performance date (£2,000, one left as of this writing).
PledgeMusic has proven to be a popular tool for mid-sized bands and performers to supplement budgets traditionally supplied by major labels – budgets which, for all intents and purposes, no longer exist. Nash, who is releasing Girl Talk through her own Have 10p Records label (the album is distributed by Dine Alone Records in Canada), says Pledge has been a great way for her to monetize her non-stop creativity.
“It’s great for me because I get a bit schizophrenic and do loads of different things. I always want to stay busy so I make loads of videos, or I like to be creative as much as I can be. And when I was on my old label, I felt like I didn’t know what to do with that. Everyone was like ‘Whoa, you’re doing too much. You need to just focus on...’ It all makes sense to me because I’m one human being. So Pledge is the perfect place for me to put all that stuff, and it makes sense. And the fans love that kind of s**t as well.”
Nash recorded Girl Talk last year at The Paramour Mansion with producer Tom Biller (Fiona Apple). Located in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, it was built in the 1920s for silent movie star Antonio Moreno and was at one time a convent for Franciscan nuns. Paramour now houses a recording studio which has hosted the likes of Gwen Stefani, Sarah McLachlan, and Fiona Apple.
Nash recalls marvelling at the mansion’s opulent grounds, which includes taxidermied tigers, grapefruit trees, and a spectacular view of Los Angeles.
“It was crazy surreal, exciting,” she says. “I’ve never done anything like that before. When I was recording in London, I would shy away from the fancy things, really. But when I went to LA, in a lot of emotional pain, getting to a mansion and being able to record in a giant ballroom every day was pretty f**king cool and healing.”
An unapologetic booster of her own sex, Nash recorded Girl Talk with an all-female band and will tour with same. Shortly after our chat, she was scheduled to fly to Ghana as part of her role as a global ambassador for the Because I’m a Girl initiative. She also founded Kate Nash’s Rock n Roll for Girls After School Music Club in March 2010, whereby she travelled around England to teach teenage girls the basics of forming bands. Not surprisingly, Nash has no trouble labelling herself a feminist.
“It’s really simply about girls being able to be in control of their lives and making decisions because of what they want and not because of how [social] pressure is pointing them to be what they ‘should’ be,” she says. “And on the Internet and Tumblr there is sort of a celebration of femme and girliness being cool and something that shouldn’t be ridiculed. And as a girl you can be just as into lipstick as you can into politics, and that shouldn’t be made fun of. I think it is becoming cool again, which is awesome.”