Grrrl Talk: An Interview with Kate Nash

“Kate Nash? Is she still going?” Probably the most common reaction to the announcement that an interview with Kate Nash would be appearing in this issue of Flux. “Ask her if she still eats so many lemons, cos she is so bit-ah.” Hmm.

When we talk to Kate she is wandering the streets of Montreal, searching for sushi. The Canadian city is the second stop on what seems to be an endless tour – from North America to her home country and back to the US again for the next two months. “It’s going really well, we had two shows so far but they’ve been really good,” Kate says. “My friends from LA surprised me in Boston so it kickstarted the tour really well – we’re all in a great mood.”

And she should be in a great mood. Her third album, Girl Talk, has attracted some great reviews as well as a certain amount of confusion from fans and critics alike, who seem to wonder where the awkward red-haired girl who sang songs about mouthwash had gone. Well wherever she’s gone, she’s not coming back. Kate Nash is all grown up.

Released for free online in summer 2012, “Under-Estimate The Girl” was the first indication of Kate’s new image and attitude. Written, recorded and shot in under a day, the song was an out and out call-back to Riot Grrrl favourites Bikini Kill, Heavens To Betsy and Babes In Toyland, a far cry from the Lily Allen-lite of years before. Music critics reacted as you would expect them to, with snarky site PopJustice naturally delivering the most scathing critique, calling the song “a shower of total shit.” Ouch. Why does Kate think people reacted so viscerally to her new direction?

“Because I guess it’s really different from what I’ve done. People get scared of an angry woman. I think that there’s a lot of safety and boring bullshit in the music industry right now. Everyone in the music business is scared to take risks. So I suppose it’s quite shocking to see someone be different.”

Unsurprisingly, the reaction to Kate’s new sound gave her record label a bad case of the vapours. Already fragile following the end of her relationship with Ryan Jarman of The Cribs, Kate knew that if she didn’t get to record Girl Talk, something bad was going to happen.

“I just told my label – because I was in a sort of weird place, emotionally – I told my label that I have to make this record, I’m doing it like this, I’m totally ready. They were telling me that they didn’t think I was ready and I said – well, I have to do this. It’s either I do this or I jump off a bridge. That type of situation. Making music is like therapy,” she says.

After flatly refusing to remove the “punky elements” from Girl Talk, she was dropped from Fiction Records. Undeterred, Kate set up her own label to release the album. “[Starting my own record label] was really exciting, because I got a lot more freedom. I think the position that I’m in right now as an artist that it actually works better for me,” she says. “I’m actually more of a savvy businesswoman now, on my third record I sort of knew what I wanted to do. I’m glad that I don’t have to wait for other people to approve it before I do it. You know what I mean? I don’t really believe that’s how art should be anyway.”

And so Girl Talk was finally released earlier this month, on Kate’s very own Have 10p Records. Recorded in a spooky mansion in Los Angeles with producer Tom Biller, the album encapsulates that Californian surf-punk sound. “[We recorded] in The Paramour Mansion, which was this crazy, beautiful house. It was the house of a silent movie director and then it was a convent, and now it’s owned by an interior designer and antiques collector,” recalls Kate. “It’s got crazy taxidermy and statues, a giant swimming pool, views of LA – it was just a really beautiful place, a very healing experience. We went down every day to record stuff in a giant ballroom. It really was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.”

While Nash has always been famed for her intimate, outspoken lyrics, Girl Talk is her most political album to date. On songs such as “Rap For Rejection” and “All Talk”, Kate lays all her cards on the table, with lyrics like “I’m a feminist, and if that offends you, then fuck you.” Nash says she first realised she was a feminist at the age of 19 or 20. “Because I’d always been brought up that way, I’d have been very political and my parents would have been very political and open minded and brought up me and my sisters that way,” she says. “But then, I think it was when I came into the music industry that it became very important to me. It became a more serious thing.” And the new wave of feminism is certainly serious about Kate Nash – Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie magazine chose Kate to record their November 2012 theme song, “Faith”. If that isn’t a seal of approval, we don’t know what is.

Kate has also turned her hand to philanthropy, flying to Ghana earlier this year as an ambassador for the charity Because I Am A Girl and setting up after-school workshops at home in England to teach girls the basics of starting bands and writing songs. All this, alongside self-releasing an album and touring the US twice over. So to answer your question – yes, Kate Nash is still going. You may say she’s going better than ever.

Girl Talk is out now.

Valerie Loftus

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