Indie star Kate Nash shares her thoughts with Shelley Marsden on ‘vampire people’, Irish folk and over-enthusiastic fans…
Fashion icon Kate Nash is at home, in a pair of old jeans and a scruffy T-shirt. She’s attempting to speak to me on the phone, but her dog Max has other ideas; the mutt is barking his head off and neither of us can hear a thing. He is exiled to the kitchen, the door shut and we can settle back down to our chat.
I am reminded of the last time I spoke to Kate, a couple of years ago. It’s the same machine-gun chat; her infectious energy crackling down the phone in a way that reminds me of those wind up-and-go toys – though I can’t imagine the London-Irish singer ever running out of steam. She’s smart, witty and forthright with her opinions, but there’s a self-deprecating quality about Kate Nash that makes her very likeable.
The Made of Bricks star has just wrapped up an eight-date UK tour, and loved the chance to meet fans and play live with her all-girl band. Talking of which, Nash has an extremely committed group of fans that follow her all over the place, and had an interesting time of it at Reading this summer, when some ‘Nashettes’ orchestrated a full-on stage invasion.
Giggling girlishly, she says: “This bunch of girls I know from coming to shows and stuff were in the crowd and somehow managed to clamber onstage – loads of people were being taken away and not allowed anywhere near the stage. One girl in particular got up there and was dancing about like a maniac, it was just brilliant. We had an amazing crowd, it was a packed out tent.
Nash had a good summer of it; though she confesses it was nerve-wracking playing festivals as she worried nobody would show up. Strange coming from a BRIT award-winning music star, but she says her confidence took a bit of a hit after she was dropped by her record label ??? last year, and has to rely on different ways to maintain her profile.
She says: “You get nervous, don’t you? A lot of artists have a lot more money and a bigger marketing budget; which means people know your record’s out, or you’re doing this. I don’t have that budget, so awareness has to come in more innovative ways. So my fans are a really big part of that.”
More recently, she’s been seen mingling with other VIPs at the front row of London and New York fashion weeks. Now sporting dark hair with a white streak (as opposed to the red colour of old), Kate Nash has always blazed a trail with her quirky, individual look. How important is fashion to her?
“Fashion is a big part of everyone’s life, even if you don’t realise it”, she declares, not missing a beat. “The way you dress sends out a message about who you are. When you’re in the spotlight and everyone is looking at you all the time, so you want to think about that.
“At fashion week or events or when I’m on stage, my clothes will be totally different each time. I still lounge about in jeans and a top, like now! But if I’m going out and I know I’ll be seen, I make an effort. On tour I could be in a van for hours and hours, so I wear pyjamas a lot of the time!”
Her mum, Marie is a hospice nurse from Dublin, and when I ask about her Irish roots, the singer tells me summer holidays as a teenager would inevitably involve stays in Sligo, Dublin and Galway to visit family there. Ireland has always played a big part in growing up.
The singer, who attended an Irish Catholic school, also played the tin whistle and bodhran as a girl, and, hard as it is to imagine now, was a talented Irish dancing – she even has a few trophies won for her reel stashed away at home. I ask if she’s e thought about incorporating ‘the sevens’ into her live shows and laughing, she says: “I haven’t yet, but maybe I should work that in!”
The 26 year old puts her song-writing skills down to the Irish folk music her mum and dad constantly played around the house, saying it’s a genre that’s always made her feel “nostalgic”.
The singer, who one year, played with The Pogues in New York for St Patrick’s Day (“I even had a pint with Shane afterwards – it was amazing!”), says folk music has impacted on her own music: “I think the way I write lyrics is very much about storytelling, and Irish folk is very much storytelling, very reflective and with elements of humour. I like doing the same with my songs, so I think it’s very heavily influenced the way I write.”
Nash’s new EP Fri-end, a knockout piece of rough edged pop, is taken from the album Girl Talk, which features the jangle of LA new wave and 60s girl groups that she soaked up while living under the Californian sun, the shade of a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, plus an intense, defiant punk edge.
Out on October 22 the EP’s title track is about “shit friends – you know the people you get close to and then realise no, this person is actually horrible and treating me like crap?!”
She calls them “vampire people” and Nash believes she’s a prime target, being a natural ‘giver’: “I love my friends and family so much; I’m really loyal and I enjoy treating them. I attract them into every part of my life, so I also attract vampires, and then realise I’ve got to get rid of them!”
Nash has always brought the personal into her work to great effect, and it continues with bonus track Pink Limo Ride, inspired by a traumatic incident involving two of her mates, at the end of a night out in a Soho kebab joint, her voice sharper as her anger rises.
“My girlfriend has tattoos and dresses in an alternative way, as does my other friend, who’s gay. They’re not crazy alternative, just… interesting. They got attacked for the way they looked. She got bottled on the back and he got beaten up; he’s had to have surgery on his face, his eye has been pushed back a millimetre from where it should be. It was really upsetting, it’s disgusting.”
I ask her if she felt better having penned a song about it, but Nash says warmly that she only did it to indulge her friend, who’s always on at her to write a song about him.
“After he was attacked I was doing stuff to cheer him up, like getting surprise pizza delivered to his house, and at one point he turned to me and said ‘Now you really have to write a song about me’ and I said, ‘You know what, I’m gonna!’
She put the track online and urged fans to donate to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation (Sophie and her boyfriend were visciously beaten by a gang, Sophie dying of her injuries).
The singer isn’t afraid to stick her neck out for a variety of causes. During the 2011 riots, she volunteered to collect donations for those made homeless by riots in Tottenham, setting up her own public donation stand and delivering donations to Tottenham Leisure Centre in her car.[
She has also supported Russian feminist band Pussy Riot during their trial, by encouraging her fans to make posters and raise awareness of their situation.
Aside from the music and philanthropy, Nash is poised to make her film debut in a major role (she has had minor roles in US indie film, Greetings From Tim Buckley and Syrup, another American film based on the novel of the same name by Max Barry). It’s in the upcoming Brit comedy, Powder Room, which stars Jaime Winstone, Sheridan Smith and Oona Chaplin (“very cool, down-to-earth girls”) and premieres on November 26.
She was thrilled when she got the part of Michelle, a stuck up young lady with a few issues. She says: “She’s a bit of a bitch, just not a very nice person! It’s a comedy where chaos kind of prevails; everybody’s a bit of a mess, a bit lost in life – it’s a girl’s night out gone awry. I think a lot of girls will relate to it, and come out really loving their friends afterwards!”
Nash has been spending increasing amounts of time in the States, where her career is blossoming, and will be back there at the end of the year, she says, to co-write a Broadway musical based on songs from her three albums and new compositions. Entitled Only Gold, the show tells the story of a maharaja in 1920s Paris. Is there no end to this young lady’s talents?!
The musical is being helmed by Tony Award-winning choreographer and director Andy Blankenbuehler, who recently worked on a Broadway revival of Annie. A big fan of Nash, he approached the singer a couple of years ago, and they’ve been meeting on and off to discuss the project since. She says it could be a year to 18 months before it hits the stage.
“It’s a really cool story, about love and making the right choice. It’s like a mid-life crisis really, figuring out what you really want. It’s going to be so luxurious too, and mixing the 20s fashion with the style of the maharaja, there are going to be some gorgeous over-the-top costumes!
“That culture is amazing; the maharaja is more God-like than a man. Every time he went outside, for example, they would cover him with an umbrella. It wasn’t to protect him from the sun, but to protect the sun from his rays of light and beauty.
Would she consider a permanent move to America? “I might do, but I’m a real family girl so I’d have to come home a lot. Because I travel a lot with my job, I’m everywhere. I’m never based in the one place, apart from Christmas time. We’ll see…”
If she does, America’s gain will be our loss. A proud vegetarian, feminist, activist and ambassador for various global initiatives, there aren’t too many female pop stars as interesting as Kate Nash.