I first fell in love with Kate Nash in 2007. She was a young, British chanteuse of the indie piano pop variety. Her debut album, Made of Bricks, was proudly juvenile and playfully vulgar, including songs like “Dickhead” and “Shit Song.” When it came to addressing loves never to be realized, she professed things like, “I proceeded to get drunk and to cry, and lock myself in the toilet, for the entire night.” She also refused to be a simple object of desire to the male who had put the most effort into being male. There was something very enchanting about a profoundly lovely girl of my generation who refused to go along with, or even tolerate, the pathetically cheap sexual sentiments that our generation seems happy to cling to and hold out for something more epic-ly and traditionally satisfying. And then there was 2010’s My Best Friend is You, an album which saw Nash embracing the more badass aesthetics of girl-groups, post-punk, and riot grrrl… It was equally charming and sing-along-able, but spoke to radicals of gender politics and music nerds in a way that her debut couldn’t (Made of Bricks is quite brilliant but, I must admit, that attending shows on said tour had me a little uncomfortable, being surrounded primarily by girls of about half my age.)
Earlier this year saw the release of Girl Talk, which embodies Kate Nash’s brashest feminist rhetoric and most self-confidently punk sounds to date. This March Ms. Nash found herself on the most intimate US stages of her career, playing Philadelphia’s 300-capacity Johnny Brenda’s, as opposed to the 1,200-capacity Trocadero and TLA, where her career began. It represented a far more stripped and intimate Kate than we had seen before. So… going into her recent stop at 1,300-capacity Union Transfer last Thursday, November 7th, I was unsure of what to expect, wondering if she was going to be simply bringing this recent intimacy to a mega stage… What I got is something I was not expecting… and something that was, of the 500 shows or so I’ve seen in the past 5 years, likely one of the ten best.
On November 7th Kate Nash proved to be the boldest kind of heroine, like Courtney Love, but driven by a passion to transgressively persuade and not… drugs. She took the stage to a projection of the trailer of Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, donning a full-length, sheer bodysuit, exposing her flawless size 12 figure in nothing but intimates… She was the definition of “empowered beauty” in, literally, every sense of the phrase. She opened the evening with “Sister,” a recently released ode to the beauty of a girl who is both overly qualified to aid you in life as a sibling or lover that begins as minimalist folk and quickly falls down the rabbit hole of punk rock. This was followed by more tracks from Girl Talk, such as the hyper-sassy and southern rock-tinged “Death Proof” and “All Talk,” which resembles Bratmobile taking on rockabilly.
But it wasn’t just Kate’s latest sounds that made for the evening’s greatness, but re-imaginings of her earlier work, which were largely absent from recent tours. There was “Kiss That Grrrl” and “Do-Wah-Doo,” which had her resembling a postmodern take on Phil Spector’s best-produced and most proudly feminine specimens… except better (This was all Nash, without the “help” of a masculine entity.) And there was the moving innocence of “Mouthwash” and “Merry Happy” of her debut. My own, personal, highlight of the night, however, was “Mariella,” a track which drives home Kate’s ineffable admiration of alternative femininity [and even alternative masculinity… I must admit, it’s the only point of the evening that managed to evoke profoundly proud tears.]
And it wasn’t just the beauty of the sounds Kate Nash is producing that made for the subversively brilliant spectacle, but Ms. Nash also really stepped up to the plate as an A++ frontwoman, navigating the audience itself numerous times, both on her own two feet and at the hands of the audience who was more than willing to carry the heroine across the venue on their own hands during “Girl Gang” (a FIDLAR cover that had support acts La Sera and Skating Polly, in addition to a bevy of young people, joining her onstage and then hoisted by Nash herself into the hands of the crowd-surfing-ready audience)… It was pretty much the greatest thing I’ve seen onstage (and off) in recent years. And Ms. Nash was kind enough to take some time after the gig to talk to me about her current aesthetic and what she might be up to in the future.
Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I’m inclined to ask if you have any particular thoughts on the city, or favorite memories?
Kate Nash: I had an amazing Philly cheesesteak before I was a vegetarian a few years ago. I stood in line for over an hour and demolished it in under a few minutes. No regrets. I’ve also played with some of my favorite bands in Philly, including Peggy Sue and the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players.
IC: What have been your highlights of 2013, so far? You’ve kept yourself quite busy.
KN: Reading and Leeds and Glastonbury were highlights, also playing my favorite venue in London. I was really nervous about these shows and it meant a lot to me that they went so well. I also went to Hawaii for the first time ever which was awesome. And at The Rookie event this year in LA I saw my all-time hero, Kathleen Hanna perform.
IC: On a heavier note, I quite like that in a time like this, that seems to trivialize female oppression more than ever, you make such an effort to address it in a sincere manner. Is there something that you feel like is key for young girls to keep in mind while on the path to figuring out their dreams and their potential… especially if they don’t want to do something lame, that simply brings home a big paycheck?
KN: I think that a lot of girls don’t realize their full potential because of low self-esteem. There’s a lot of pressure on young women to look a certain way or behave in certain ways. And I think the negativity surrounding that actually holds girls back, because they’re constantly being judged, bullied, and set against each other. Put them in a positive, safe environment and encourage them and they achieve a lot more. We need to carve out our own space that ignores the bullshit.
IC: For that matter, which females of our generation do you feel are doing especially significant things in our culture? I must admit that when Lena Dunham won those Golden Globes, I felt like it validated the existence and identity of everyone I care about.
KN: Yeah I love Lena, Petra Collins, Marina and the Diamonds, Grimes, Skating Polly, La Sera, the Tuts, Vulkano, Rachel Trachtenburg, Jennifer Lawrence. There are loads of really awesome girls out there doing things on their own terms.
IC: Keeping in-line with all of that, what do you consider to be your biggest non-musical influences and inspirations?
KN: My mum, my family in general. My friends, heartache, self deprecation, stress and personal problems and health issues. Humor. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, theatre, Shakespeare, The X Files, aliens, The Spiritual Revolution, Russel Brand and Chris Hadfield, fashion, Bas Kosters, Tim Burton, Tarantino, Naomi Klein.
IC: How would you characterize the show on your most recent tour? It’s quite a bit bigger than anything you’ve put on in the past.
KN: Yeah, I think that the show has improved. We’ve been on tour for a while now, so we’re tighter and better. There’s more visuals and imagery. New songs, old songs we’ve reworked and brought back into the set.
IC: What’s next for you? What do you have in the works for 2014? Every album of yours has proven to be a relatively big evolutionary step in your sound. If you have new music in the works, would you care to give fans a hint of what they can expect?
KN: Not sure what another record will sound like yet. I’m gonna spend some time on my acting career. I’ve been in a couple of movies and that’s something I would like to explore more. I’m also working on a musical, writing songs for that, so probably will spend some time in New York on that. I’ve also collaborated with a new R&B artist d.wing.