Kate Nash On Feminism, Charity Work And Her 'New Sound'
Francesca Lewis, Culture Correspondent
Last week, whilst sitting in my bedroom watching my bunny eat his greens, I had the surreal experience of chatting to Kate Nash, on her way to Aberdeen as part of the tour to promote her much anticipated third album, Girl Talk. The mobile reception may have been terrible, and her voice may have been mid-tour croaky, but Kate's opinions were crystal clear - her articulate yet down to earth responses were riveting, I could have listened to her all day!
Kate Nash on Leeds
First of all, I had to ask her about Leeds, where I'll be watching her play at the Cockpit on April 22nd.
"I've played in Leeds a bunch of times. There's always a good crowd, y'know, they're really up for it, especially in the Cockpit, and I really like that venue. I'm also playing in York and Hull as well. We did Sheffield the other night and it was very fun, there was a girl gang stage invasion!"
I really hope the Cockpit audience lives up to Kate's description! Many of you may remember her best sitting behind a keyboard or piano, but since her last album My Best Friend is You, Kate played bass in punk band The Receders and now plays with her own band. I asked her to tell me a bit about them, and also about the band that's supporting her on this tour.
"I've got an all-girl band. In 2011 I approached a music college, interviewed a bunch of people and auditioned them. It's nice to be able to talk about getting girls to play and then for them to come to my show and they can be inspired by the girls on stage. We've also got a support band with us, called The Tuts - another all-girl band. They're really crazy and awesome and just really fun - they really get the crowd warmed up and going. They just wanna be mischievous and have fun - I really like that!"
Kate Nash on girl musicians
Her mention of all-girl bands and the fun they have reminded me of a project she started in 2011, The Rock n Roll For Girls After School Club. After finding out that only 14% of musicians receiving royalties are female, Kate channelled her anger into the scheme, giving young musicians the confidence to pursue their dreams of performing. I asked her if it was still on-going or if that project had come to an end?
"It's a long term project, for the next 20 years or something, so it's not over, it's just I've had a bit of a break from it. I've been busy with the record and I'm just concentrating on touring right now. I did an event at Queen Elizabeth Hall with two of the schools and they opened the show. They played all their own songs and it was really emotional and inspiring. Some of them went from not being able to play in front of their class to being able to perform in front of 800 people!"
Kate Nash on feminism
Kate is well-known for her strong views, in particular her feminism. She was even seen wearing a necklace that spelled out the word 'FEMINIST'. I wondered if it was important for her, as a public figure, not to just be a feminist but to be seen being one?
"I'm proud of it, because I think it's really important and I really believe in it. There are a lot of people that are scared of being labelled that, because they think it's bad or it has a bad rep. I think when you have a platform, where people can notice things like that necklace, I think it's important to - I don't know, I'm just proud of it, y'know! A lot of people have feminist views and then you'll ask them if they're a feminist and they're like, 'Oh no I'm not a feminist!' That really annoys me."
Another misconception about feminists is that they're not interested in fashion, but Kate's striking, distinctive, ever changing presence, and recent presence at London Fashion week and similar events, shows otherwise. I asked her if, as a feminist, it was hard to separate the negative impact of the fashion industry from the art?
"I used to find it really difficult and I used to be really intimidated by the whole industry, to be honest with you, but then I've started going to fashion week; just really enjoying the shows, enjoying the clothes and enjoying the creativity that goes on behind it. I know a bunch of designers and I know a bunch of people who work in fashion, and all those people I've met have been really cool.
"I mean, there are wankers in the music industry that are total stereotypes and there are wankers in the fashion industry that are total stereotypes, but I do actually personally feel more accepted in the fashion world than I do in the music world. I feel more supported by the fashion press and people that I meet at fashion week; they're always really supportive of me. The people within it are weirdoes and like people to be different.
"There's definitely not enough diversity on the catwalk and that's something that I always say. I don't think there's enough racial diversity, I don't think there's enough body diversity, and that does need to change. Although there are some people that do challenge that and put curvier models on and more mixed race models."
Kate Nash on Ghana
Moving on to a different application of her feminist sensibility, I asked Kate about her recent visit to Ghana.
"I met with Plan USA in January and they told me about the charity, which I really liked and really respected, and they told me about the Because I Am A Girl project. They wanted to change the campaign a little bit to make it more appealing to guys getting involved too, so we started a campaign called Protect A Girl and I visited a village in Ghana called Hohoe and it was really inspiring.
"It was really cool going there and seeing a totally different way of life - kids that have not got any shoes on because they've chosen education over that. It was really amazing. They do a lot of work, they work on heavy issues as well, but this trip was really positive for me, they wanted it to be a positive experience rather than a really heavy one. I had time to visit some other places though and see the real harsh stuff as well. We also raised awareness on my U.S tour."
Kate Nash on music and the future
Kate's passion for empowering young women, from her After School Club project to her work with Plan USA, made me wonder if she could see herself moving more towards this, like Angelina Jolie has, and focusing less on music.
"I think that when you're working on something creative there's so much work that goes into it and it takes so much time, I can understand why someone like her would be like, 'If you really wanna focus on something you need to dedicate yourself to it'. Like with the After School Club, in twenty years we'd like to have a program for girls that's in as many schools as possible, but I would need to take time out of touring to make that happen. I mean, I do that anyway because in between records I take a year or something to a) write it and b) do other things to inspire me, to give me the incentive to write. But I don't think I'd ever stop doing music - right now I can't see that happening - but you never know what's gonna happen and what you're gonna feel like doing."
"I can do whatever I want!"When Kate released the unannounced, and free to download, single Underestimate the Girl last year, there was a huge amount of shock in the media about her supposed change in style. I've always thought she had a punk sensibility, even on her debut Made of Bricks, but to others it was completely unexpected. I asked if she was surprised by their surprise.
"I wasn't really even thinking about the fact that I hadn't put anything out for a while and I feel like the music didn't feel very different. We put it out - we recorded it, made a music video at 4am, my friend edited it the next day and put it online. Then we drove up to Scotland for the first show of the tour and the drive went so quick because it was just so exciting seeing everyone's reactions on twitter and seeing people saying, 'Oh, look at this marketing stunt'.
"It was so funny, like when I released Girl Gang, my friend's band Fidlar had this song called Cocaine and when I first heard it I thought they were singing about 'Girl Gang', so we did a cover of it, made a video, then someone posted on Facebook going, 'I just feel like she's meeting the quota of everything the label expects her to' and I was like, 'Yeah I am, because I got dropped by my record label last year and I'm running my own shit so I can do whatever I want!'"
Kate Nash On Feminism, Charity Work And Her 'New Sound', 16th April 2013, 11:35 AM