Brace For Impact is an apt name for She Makes War’s fourth album as its creator aims for a collision course with the modern world and all its craziness.
The nom de guerre of Laura Kidd, She Makes War has been a resolutely DIY project for the singer-songwriter-producer and her guitar-driven tracks.
Brace is the follow-up to 2016’s acclaimed Direction of Travel, and it sees Laura take a major step up in every way.
‘It’s the most ambitious musically,’ she tells The Guide, speaking before the album’s release earlier this month. ‘And it’s the one where I’ve had the most assistance from other people – my husband is really involved, he’s been doing a lot of cheerleading and supporting me, and saying: “Of course you should do that and go on tour”!
‘Obviously as a solo act, you’re on your own making decisions and you can start feeling like: “Why am I doing this, is this right?” There’s noone to bounce ideas off, so to have someone to bounce ideas off of has been amazingly helpful.
As with its two predecessors, Laura turned to her fanbase and used online crowdfunding site Pledgemusic to help fund the new album. It’s also her first album to secure a worldwide distribution deal.
‘I had double the amount of pledgers this time, plus pre-orders from [music site] Bandcamp and all over the place. It’s much bigger and much more organised, there’s more energy behind it this time.
‘Without those people there to fund it, you just can’t do these things, it’s really difficult.’
As a result Laura has become something of a poster girl for DIY music.
‘I’ll take it all as a compliment. I genuinely feel like I’m fighting and hustling every day, to try and get my music out there. I know that [punk legends The Slits’ guitarist] Viv Albertine who I used to play bass for feels, or felt, the same way about her stuff. We had conversations about that when I played with her.’
‘And it’s exhausting. I feel like I’m all alone in the world trying to do this insurmountable thing.
‘I think it’s a nonsense to sit around and wait for someone to go: “Yes, you’re good enough, you can make music now”. There aren’t enough of those people around these days. You can’t wait - or if you do wait, you’re just not going to put anything out.
‘If I had written my first album, and then had waited to get someone to help me push it, whatever that even means, then I wouldn’t have had all of these interesting creative experiences in the last eight years.’
‘I’m really proud of that debut album, but it’s not like the album I’ve just made. It was the first one of I hope many, many albums, It’s part of my journey, but it’s not the end of my journey.
‘I did my developing in terms of being an artist and producer and an arranger and all of the things I am, over the last eight years almost quietly - not that I always wanted to be quiet at the time. That’s good because I think you have to be ready if a great opportunity comes along, and good enough to take that opportunity up.
‘I don’t really want to be held up as the poster girl for anyone, but if I inspire anyone else that’s great.’
One song that didn’t make it onto the album is her 2017 single I Want My Country Back. The acerbic rocker was a bid to reclaim the expression from the right-wing. As Laura said at the time: ‘I want to live in a world that revels in diversity and is united by empathy.’
And although it was recorded during the Brace for Impact sessions, she never intended it for the album.
‘I wrote the lyrics pretty quickly and recorded it the next week. We rushed that one out, to put it out before the general election, because I wanted for once to be able to react.
‘There are artists who do things in different way, and some are able to react really quickly - Amanda Palmer is the best example. She’s an incredible artist, she takes what’s going on in the world, makes something really brilliant out of it and puts it out straight away, and it doesn’t care if it’s a 12 minute song or something completely out of the ordinary. That’s really cool and I’m inspired by that.
‘I had the recording time booked, so I thought let’s do this song first and get it out and try to get people talking about this a bit more. Really, it’s about creating moments – I didn’t think me putting that song out was going to change the direction of the country, much as I would have liked it to.
‘It’s like, what side of history do you want to be on? I don’t want to be a political person but never have it reflected in my music, so I thought this is a great opportunity to say: “This is my line in the sand, this is what I believe right now”.’
While Laura mines her life and some admittedly disastrous relationships for her music, she is recently married and the happiest she’s been in some time.
‘I’ve never experienced it before, so it’s quite novel, it’s been great,’ she laughs.
‘Being able to write songs when I’m not in a crisis, or just coming out of a crisis situation, I suppose it lets me look at things with a bit more an overview, and with a more far-reaching viewpoint.
‘All of the songs on the album are very personal stories, every single one, as all of my songs are.
‘It’s a great skill to be able to write story songs that are nothing to do with you, but for me it’s about emotional resonance, so I need to believe it, and I want people to know that I mean it. That’s how I write.’
Laura is obviously the artist behind these songs, but she has tried to listen to it objectively since its completion.
‘When I listen to this record – and I can finally listen to it as if it’s not mine, I have a bit of distance from it now which is nice – the feeling I’m getting off it is something that is actually big-hearted and kind and caring.
‘It’s not just going: “I’m sad, this is terrible, my heart is broken”. It’s going: “My heart is broken because of this, but if we all did this or came together in this way, then we could all be happier”. It’s more of an advice album!
‘There’s a lot going on in there. There’s death and bereavement and mental health issues - Strong Enough is about a couple of people I know who’ve had mental health breaks and been in hospital. It’s like that fairytale, Hansel and Gretel – the idea is that I’m leaving pieces behind for the person to be able to follow their way back when they’re ready, they can find their way.’
Earlier this year she toured in support Ginger Wildheart, the frontman of hard-rockers The Wildhearts and also a renowned solo performer. He has infamously struggled with mental health problems, often documenting them in real time on social media.
‘I was going through quite a bad time, I was quite depressed at the beginning of the year, I don’t know why.
‘Ginger was so lovely to be able to talk to about it, he gave me a good hug and said it’s really good to be honest, we don’t need to hide these things.’
‘I’m not trying to be a popstar, I’m not trying to be perfect. I’m no trying to be on any kind of pedestal – I am me, hopefully interesting, hopefully good as an artist. I’m a normal human being, I have two dogs, I have a husband I love very much, I live in a house, I eat food – It’s not like I exist only for the stage. I’m not going to pretend that I’m famous or make lofty statements on the world because I think I’m so important.
‘We are all the same and I’ve always made a point of showing that through performance. Like when I play my song Delete, I try and come off the stage and walk around people, and show that we’re all together. This is what I look like up close, I’m going to look you in the eye and recognise that you’re here, and be thankful that you’re here. And that’s what the whole thing is about.
‘That’s what the songs are about too: “I had these problems, these things happened to me and it was devastating, and I’m sure you’ve felt something like that too, let’s all think about that for a moment and hopefully we’ll feel a bit better”. That’s what I listen to music for.’
Laura admits she finds performing cathartic, she didn’t realise it had the same effect for her audience.
‘I find that people will often come up to me after shows and tell me quite personal things, and that’s because I’ve just done that to them. I think that resonates with people and they feel they can trust you to tell you things.
‘I’m totally happy to be there for people, but of course I’m going to be overwhelmed. I’m the most overly empathetic person – I cry at the news!
‘I was told by a family member when I was an early teenager that I feel too much, which is totally the wrong thing to say to a child, it wasn’t a helpful thing to say. But now I know there’s nothing wrong with “feeling” too much.
‘There are a lot of people who seemingly feel nothing and do what they like, so to be an empathetic person is good.’
SHE MAKES WAR
Hope & Ruin, Brighton
Saturday, October 27
Friday, November 2