In the Studio: Kate Nash
The Brit singer on her April release, airing grudges in song, and being chased by an old man in Paris.
Don’t mess with Kate Nash — or you’ll end up the target of one of her songs.
When we first caught up with Nash in 2007, the then 19-year-old Londoner was topping the U.K. charts with her debut album, Made of Bricks, which banked on gushy stories of heartbreak and drama-filled booze-ups, delivered in a foul-mouthed, colloquial Brit-talk. One track even took aim at a know-it-all bloke — and it’s called “Dickhead.”
This spring Nash hopes to hit No. 1 again, with the same lyrical wellspring — but a more mature sound.
Nash, now 22, is wrapping her yet-to-be titled second album with the help of ex-Suede guitarist-cum-producer Bernard Butler. And from the four new songs previewed for SPIN (“Kiss that Grrrl,” “Do Wah Do,” “Paris,” and “Later On”), it appears Nash has lifted her acoustic ballads and piano plinks into grand girl group-influenced pop gems with horns, strings, jittery electric guitar, and hip-twisting drum grooves.
Below, in an exclusive Q&A with SPIN.com, Nash gabs about recording her upcoming album, getting chased by a creepy old man while on vacation in Paris by herself, and airing a 12-year-old grudge at a childhood pal in song.
Hey, Kate! Where are you in the recording process with your new album?
Everything’s been recorded! And just before Christmas we did a mastering session and worked on the tracklisting. I’ve just been checking all the gaps, ya know. There’s one more song that needs to be mastered and all finished up. So, it’s in the final stages. I’m thinking about getting the artwork together right now.
Do you have an album title yet? Or are there any possibilities you’re kicking around?
No, no. I don’t. I don’t know why, but I’m scared about having to come up with a title. It’s weird because the last title, Made of Bricks, just came to me — I actually saved all my demos for my first album on iTunes under that title early on. But this time I’m like, “Oh shit, I’ve actually got to come up with something.” Ugh.
But that’s the fun part, right?
I know, it should be. But it’s not when you’re so worried! When you start to worry, it’s difficult to not think about putting the album and its title out into the real world.
So, I’ve heard four new songs. They’re all girl group-influenced and sound completely different from anything you’ve done before.
It comes with being older. I spent a lot of time off experiencing life since Made of Bricks. I’ve grown up a lot. When I first got involved in music, I thought about music differently. You know, music is so much more than one good song — a band has to mean something. They need to have good personalities, morals, and opinions and stand for something. I really thought about that this time. ’60s girl groups, Riot grrrl rock, and punk, and various others influence me. So, my influences have changed, too, definitely.
One of my favorites is “Paris” What’s that song about?
It’s basically about my journey over the past year, the pressures of what people expect from me, and my friends and how no one will ever know the secrets we share. It’s also about arguing with people that you’re close to, and then when you’re arguing with someone else, using their opinions. Like if your Mom was telling you her opinion on something, and you’re like, “Mom you’re so wrong, let me do whatever I want.” Then later you use your mom’s opinion as your own.
When and where did you write that song?
When I was on holiday in Paris last year. I went totally alone and it was quite scary. I was staying at a hotel and this French guy brought tea up to my room and I asked him a question. He spoke in French and I spoke in English and we couldn’t understand each other at all, but we had some sort of communication going on. I went to Paris be inspired, which might sound a bit wanky, but I wanted to explore, go to exhibitions, and put myself in a different situation. And I recorded some songs on my laptop.
Well, it appears you found inspiration in Paris. What else did you do while you were there?
I did loads of things, and it didn’t matter if they made any sense at all. I’d visit one end of town then go back to the other end of town, then go across to the other end of town, and no one could say, “That’s ridiculous, we have to do it this way.” I found an amazing exhibition that was based on Alice in Wonderland, body parts, and religious figures and had all these colors like reds and golds. It was incredible. I went up to the Eiffel Tower at midnight. And I got getting followed by this really creepy old guy who tried to kiss me!
Whoa! What happened?
Oh my god! He was this big and scary, middle-aged man who started talking to me in French. I was like, “Um, hi.” And he was like, “Do you want to go for lunch?” I said, “Oh no, sorry, I don’t want to.” But he kept talking to me and then he tried to kiss me! I said, “Go away from me!” and ran away. I ran into a park where these kids where playing and he followed me and got on the swings next to me. It was creepy. So, I had to run and hide in a church.
Did you write a song about that on your laptop, too?
[Sigh…] No. He was too scary.
Another new song, “Kiss That Grrrl,” has a cool ’60s vibe with bouncy horns. What’s that track about?
It’s about being in a relationship and going out and drinking, then arguing. Maybe you’re being a dick to your girlfriend, or you’re a bitch to your boyfriend, and you know you’re being mean because you can get away with it. And it’s also about being in love with someone and knowing that if they ever cheated on you, you’d die.
On another new track, “Do Wah Do,” it sounds like you’re taking a nasty shot at someone. Can you elaborate?
It’s about one of my best friends from when I was younger. He totally betrayed me by hanging out with these enemies of mine — these perfect girls, who wore lip-gloss and talked about boys and were really annoying. He and I had grown up climbing trees, playing in the woods, and going on holiday together, so I thought he’d be cooler than that. But when he turned 15 years old he wanted a girlfriend. I was like, “Well fine, I’ll just pretend I don’t give a shit even though I’ll never ever forgive you, even when I’m 22 years old and writing a song about it.”
How did you hook up with Bernard Butler?
My boyfriend — Ryan Jarman from the Cribs — knows Bernard well. The Cribs worked with him before. I’d gone to Los Angeles to meet a bunch of different producers, but it didn’t work out. And then I returned to London and Ryan introduced us. I didn’t really expect to work with Bernard originally, I just asked for some advice. But a few weeks later everything was plugged in and we started working! We became friends, too. I had a Christmas party at my house and he came with his wife and kids, which was really nice. I made hot chocolate and mulled wine!
Do you have any pastimes or things you can’t live without when you’re recording in the studio?
I brought my bunny rabbit to the studio with me quite a lot. I got her for my birthday in July, but then my boyfriend released an album and was gone on tour. So, the bunny rabbit was in the studio with me. She’s a big part of the album. Everybody loves her. Bernard loves her so much.
What up with your side-project, the Receeders?
Oh my god, you’ve heard of us? We’re a punk band. It’s two guys from the band that supports my solo stuff, and we just started a punk band. It’s really fun and I play bass. We only have three or four songs, so the last time we played a gig we played some of them twice. On the sixth song, the venue people turned on the house lights, and said, “You’ve got to leave.” So we played the same song again and this massive security guard got up on stage and was like, “Move. Get out the way.” But we played it anyway. Ha!