Kate Nash rode in on the same tide that brought Lily Allen and KT Tunstall onto the sandbank of saccharine yet acerbic pop. If you only know her from the Paul Epworth-stained singles ‘Foundations’ and ‘Bricks’ then you don’t really know Kate Nash. She has always been a contradiction – and while the cognoscenti thrust her upon a pedestal and demand she be as cutesy as possible, Nash has set fire to the idea with her latest album, Girl Talk.There are pop sensibilities still, but the album is drenched in the fuzzed-out echo of Kathleen Hanna, Mia Zapata and Janet Weiss.
Self-funded and independently released after Nash’s label Fiction Records “broke up” with her, Girl Talk has been a long time in the making. The lyrics were written during an emotionally charged time in 2011 after the singer had a breakdown of sorts, and the album was recorded shortly thereafter. While some are going to find the outcome hard to swallow, it’s brutally honest and filled with an intensity that other talented artists probably find hard to convey from underneath the creative demands of their labels.
“I was still on the label when I was recording the album,” Nash explains. “I was going through a really rough time and I was like, ‘Look, I wanna do this type of record, I hope you understand.’ I funded it all myself and went off and recorded it and then I got dropped from my label and I was like, ‘Oh crap.’”
While it seems obvious Fiction simply couldn’t handle the fact their artist wasn’t bending to their creative will, the real reason for the split is unknown to even Nash. “I assume [it was the album], they don’t really tell you,” she says. “They just tell you that your option hasn’t been picked up, that’s it. It’s really, really horrible. But I’m pretty determined and I think I’d started to kinda work independently anyway so it wasn’t all that difficult to do the switch from a practical perspective. It’s not as scary as what it used to be.”
Crowdfunding played a big part in the album seeing the light of day and despite the fact it’s taken a while to do so, Nash feels happier about playing these songs live – even two long years after writing them – than she ever has before. “I feel really happy that it’s coming out how it has,” she says. “I’m just glad that it’s out in Australia at any rate. I can’t wait to come out there and play the songs live, I feel like the live shows are the strongest they’ve ever been. I just want to give it the best shot it can get.”
With Nash choosing more and more to cut any middlemen out of her career, she is still more than aware of the disapproval many reviewers have expressed. They had appropriated their girl next door and were hardly ready for that girl to burn their house down. “I’m not surprised anymore by any way the media responds, because they can be very small-minded. It’s happened to me before and I understand that this [album] has shocked them. But you’ve got to not worry about it. If a fan is interested in me or this new album, then they’re not gonna pay any attention to what a review says. If they read something bad it’s not going to stop them from listening to this.”
“I really think the fans are loyal and they’ve grown with me,” she adds. “When I look at great artists like David Bowie or Patti Smith or Madonna, they were always reinventing themselves. I’m thinking of my career in the long term rather than just the short term.”
While her ex-label was asking for re-edits and a spit and polish on this collection of tracks, Nash was working hard to get them as raw and brutally honest as possible. This whole creative journey would’ve fallen apart if the album were overproduced. “The producer [Tom Biller] really kicked things along,” says Nash. “He knew how to tap into the energy and how to use it. I have never been able to be myself as much as in this recording. Sometimes when you go through a hard time, you have a kind of fearless attitude and that helps because you can say what you think. I’m just so glad I’ve met Tom and was able to work on this with him … I freaked out when I was in the recording studio because I was like, ‘Fuck, I don’t even know what I’m saying’. When you’re so close to something you don’t know what you’re saying – I didn’t know what the lyrics meant and even now when I look back I can’t believe I wrote it.”
The disbelief comes from a place of pride, not horror, though for Nash the album also fulfills a cathartic role. “It’s actually been really helpful for me emotionally,” she says. “On your second record you’re really trying to prove yourself, but I think by the time you get to your third record all that’s behind you – you’re here now and there’s a lot more freedom. I felt so much more comfortable; I’m a bit older and I guess if you haven’t got it by this point you should probably just give it up.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
Image by Jenny Brough
Girl Talkout Friday September 20 through Have 10P Records.