Five years ago, Laura Kidd — a.k.a. She Makes War — released her debut album. ‘Disarm’ was a cinematic, melancholic masterpiece that saw her discuss tales of heartbreak and self-deprecation with many hailing her as the UK’s answer to Amanda Palmer. Coining the term ‘gloom-pop,’ She Makes War is, however, much more than a comparison; a multi-instrumentalist and visual artist, her execution is one that jolts you from the every day, leaving any initial judgements at the door.
Last month saw a re-edit of five songs from ‘Disarm,’ giving way to an EP she’s titled ‘Disarm15’. Kidd explains how, after playing these songs hundreds and hundreds of times, she began to take something different from them. “Of course you get better at doing them technically but also they start to mean other things as well,” she begins. “I wanted to celebrate the first album. It feels like a really long time [ago], yet feels like no time at all; I have changed so, so much in those five years but I’ve found these five songs to resonate most with me, as I am now.”
Producing the EP herself, with Dan Austin mixing the release at the prestigious Real World studios, Kidd has what she describes as a “really organic, independent way of doing things” when it comes to making records. With guest musician friends recording their parts all over the country, drums, guitar and bass recorded at Bristols own Joe’s Garage studio and vocals and other instruments recorded by Kidd at home, it’s certainly a group effort with a She Makes War release. “It was really nice to be able to do it like that,” she continues. “It kept the cost way down but the result is still incredible.”
“HAPPY MUSIC IS GOING, ‘LOOK AT ALL THE THINGS I’VE GOT. YOU DON’T HAVE THEM’ SO I PREFER SAD MUSIC, ALWAYS.”
With new album ‘Direction of Travel’ due out in March, Kidd says the reason for this revisit was to place ‘Disarm15’ in the same sonic realm as the new record. “I wanted to put something out before my next album, so it was kind of staging that as well,” she says. “And because I produced the next album, I wanted to produce ‘Disarm15’ – I wanted it to be in the same world as ‘Direction of Travel’, because I’m just so excited about this new album.” With Dan Austin also mixing the new record, Kidd is quick to praise his talents. “I knew he’d do a really great job on the album but I didn’t know that he’d add so much,” she continues. “I think we worked brilliantly together, with me producing and him mixing.”
If you’ve ever been to a She Makes War show, or if you follow her on her various social media accounts, you’ll already be well-aware of her visual output. Her ever-popular ‘Gigface’ photo series see her snapping a quick selfie, often in the dressing room of the venue she’s playing that night, and her stage attire sees bright and bold outfits with plenty of glitter to boot.
“The reason I do the whole ‘slightly theatrical makeup and interesting clothes’ thing is because I want to jolt people out of the every day when they come,” she begins. “I don’t want it to be like ‘Oh just someone from next door playing some tunes. just sitting down and strumming a guitar.’ I personally think that sort of thing is really boring unless you’ve got exceptional songs… Some people do have exceptional songs and are brilliant at that, but most people are not. So everything I do, I do it for a reason.”
“THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO GO TO GIGS ALL THE TIME RELENTLESSLY AND DON’T CARE IF THE PERSON’S BEEN ON A BILLBOARD OR NOT”
Over these past five years, She Makes War has headlined a bunch of tours as well as supporting the likes of The Levellers, and it’s this extensive touring that Kidd relishes, especially when it comes to those in attendance. “There are people who go to gigs all the time relentlessly and don’t care if the person’s been on a billboard or not,” she says. “They will support you and spend their money and time on you, and they are the most precious people to me because I didn’t know they existed before I put my own music out.”
Reiterating her appreciation for every set of ears, Kidd says it may be the melancholic aspect that attracts new listeners. “There’s a whole lot going on in people’s lives and I think people find my music to be full of melancholy but also uplifting,” she continues. “I think happy music is just showing off; happy music is going, ‘Look at all the things I’ve got. You don’t have them’ so I prefer sad music, always. If I’m feeling really sad I’ll listen to someone who’ll hopefully tell me the right thing to do – even if they won’t really – and I see that people use my music for that… And that’s amazing. I think if you’ve got a voice that’s authentic and you’re not doing it to be famous, and you’re not doing it to make money, then people respond to that.”
‘Direction of Travel’ is out in March. The album launch show will be taking place on March 26th at Thekla. Head to the Facebook event for more info.
In the meantime, check out ‘Scared To Capsize’ right here: