Talking to British indie-pop star Kate Nash feels like catching up with a best friend, not just because she's funny and charming, but because the conversation feels immediately intimate. It's no wonder that she talks so much about writing music about her friendships as a teenager, and how the women she worked with on the female-wrestling show Glow have given her a newfound sense of confidence. It's easy to imagine people, especially women, relating deeply to someone who opens up her wounds and her insecurities and lays them out shine, giving them the same weight and space in conversation as her many accomplishments.
She tells me she's had a tumultuous few years in the music industry, and is therefore fiercely dedicated to remaining independent with her new album Yesterday Was Forever, which she self-funded via Kickstarter, so that no one controls her sound or her lyrics besides her.
With her new album, Nash returns to her bubbly pop roots while also delving deep into anxieties, mental health issues, and heartache, represented sonically though darker punk sounds. She reread her teenage diaries while writing, fully embracing adolescent melodrama and sincerity in her songwriting. In conversation, she's just as candid, telling me about how she practices self-care, the way she thinks of herself as both a happy and dark person, and how much she loves collaborating with women.
Stream Yesterday Was Forever, and read our conversation, below.
All of your albums have interesting names, from Girl Talk to Yesterday Was Forever. How did you decide on the name of this album?
When I wrote it, it felt like a deep, sentimental, teenage thing. Like, written in a diary. I was doing a lot of archiving and finding diaries i had written in. I had completely forgotten how intense the writing was. I was like, "Fuck, I forgot that I felt that fucking depressed at that age." It was a funny being literally like 12 years old writing, "Merry X-Mas," and, ""We got a video [camera]," all of these things. And then I'm 13, and everything's shit and I'm trying to understand. Being a teenager was really painful, and I just wrote "Yesterday was forever" and I thought that just feels like that. This feeling of being trapped in that. When you're in a moment, you think that's how things are going to be forever.
Now that I'm older I know everything's going to change all the time. But when I was a teenager, and even in my early twenties, I was kind of like, "This is life! This is how I'm going to be." It just felt like an exhausting permanence.
And in a weird way, it kind of makes more sense, this album, than I ever knew it would. I felt like fucking trash when I was figuring out how to make this record. I felt like my music career was over. I didn't know how I was going to do it. I got screwed over by some people, and I felt very trapped there. It felt weird that this album and the title means so much more to me than when I kind of whimsically came up with it because it sounded like something from a teenage diary. I like that it sounds like it can be written off, like "Oh my god, that's so melodramatic, it doesn't mean anything." I like that it's two different things.
I like the idea of leaning into being melodramatic, because that's something that especially women artists are accused of being a lot by critics. To claim it is really cool, to say that it's okay to be melodramatic.
It's very sincere. I did these workshops with teenage girls in schools, and I was so amazed by their depth and their sincerity. It's almost as if they didn't know how intense or sincere or deep they were being sometimes, it was just really genuine. It's who they were. And when you're a teenager you're just that way and you're really into being that way. You're also not overthinking it, because you're feeling so many hormones and emotions, there's something very true in that. I think as an adult, we're always thinking, "Well I have to be professional," or, "I have to come off like this. I want people to see me this way." And when you're a teenager you're obsessed with trying to search for an identity. And there's no shame about it, because you're really fucking feeling everything so dearly, and I love it.
What were you like as a teenager?
I feel like I was daydreaming constantly. I loved being out. I was loud. I was a mix of still being a kid and wanting to go to the woods and play in the parks and climb trees and desperately hold onto childhood. I really loved being with my friends, I wanted to have sleepovers all the time. We were just giggling a lot. But then there was another part of me in my bedroom daydreaming, listening to music, and swinging around in my chair.
Do you feel like the experiences you've had since then are similar to what you daydreamed about as a teenager?
Well, I'm still a vivid daydreamer. I still can totally stay in my house forever and think, be with myself and close the door. I think as an adult, I learned a little bit more about that as also a mental health issue. There's a more serious side to that. It's not okay to just close the door and not leave the house for a really long time. But I think that I still really love to create thoughts. And I really daydream about projects and ideas and wonder how I can to do them. So I think my dreams are similar, but there's always more to dream about as an artist.
You've been writing music since you were fourteen. What were those songs like?
They were written on the piano, about my friends, about everything not being black or white. And I felt politically charged as a teenager. I went to Catholic school, and we were shown a movie about this girl living on the wrong side of the tracks and she was a crazy party girl, and then she became a missionary and she died saving people. And I was like "I want to fucking be her!" I wanted to have vodka in my cornflakes and die saving people doing something dangerous.
I kind of feel like music is that, in some weird way. There's a wild nature to it. I don't really party because I'm not attracted to being fucked up constantly. But the nature of performance and the element of rock n' roll that's true, wild, and free performance on stage and being able to connect through music is what I'm attracted to. Also having this emotional depth for strangers who are going through things and who connect with you. You help them, because music is so healing and that's why I love doing what I do.
I read that you want people to feel comfortable with who they are and to feel happy when they listen to your music. What kind of things do you do to show yourself that self-care?
Not enough. I think that we all like to preach about it and not practice it enough. But part of preaching it is helpful to me, because I feel a responsibility to try and forgive myself. That's the main thing, I think I'm very judgemental towards myself. I would never talk to someone else the way I talk to myself, and I try to compare myself to that. I also like walking in the woods around nature, going to the ocean and being with my dog and reading books and learning, being active, is the main thing.
Your music captures very specific observations. I was struck by the line about biting your lips until you taste metal. How do you capture these moments and observations?
I write a lot of notes on my phone, I write in notebooks, on my laptop. Also stream of consciousness is my favorite way to write- feeling an emotion and just trying to express it in a cinematic way. My music is really about my mental health issues and my brain, but I'm not trying to be like, "Here's a description of my mental health issues." It's more like, "This is what it would feel like if I was watching a short about being in my brain."
I'm in this battle of running away and giving up, being chased by the horrors in my brain and getting beaten by them. And then I see myself and go, "Get the fuck up, you're not done. You're not giving up." I'm literally doing that to myself, there's different voices in my head that I'm battling. One of them is always trying to save me and the other one is trying to give up.
That also translates to the sounds on your record, too. There are sweet, melodic pop sounds, but then also these rough punk-rock moments. I think specifically of the song "California Poppies." Do you think about that sonically, juxtaposing aggressive sounds with pop sounds?
Yeah, I like dark lyrics mixed in happy sound. That feels genuine for me. I'm a really positive person. I love happiness and I strive for that, and I feel like a positive influence to my fans and I love life. And there's also a darkness to me that exists that is a struggle. I'm very attracted to darkness, but I fight it with the happiness. Dark doesn't mean that you're not also happy and being a positive person doesn't mean that you're not battling something dark.
It's almost like this secret code, as if you're in a war and you're putting out this positive pop music, and then you're secretly delivering a message of what's really going on. And not in a fucked up way, just looking out for other people, too. We still celebrate life, we enjoy as much as we can, and counsel each other, but this is also what we're really dealing with.
It relates to what you were saying about writing songs as a teenager that explore how things aren't black and white. Life is a mixture of all these emotions. You can be a complex person that feels happy and sad and scared all at the same time. I also saw a lot of exploration of insecurities and anxieties on this record, like in "Life in Pink," or in "Today." Were these songs scary to write?
I felt pretty comfortable at this point. It's natural for me to be that open, it's kind of like therapy for me to write it. So when I can express that, it makes me feel better. I feel happy when I've done that. I feel like I've done something good, so it doesn't feel uncomfortable.
You are releasing your album independently, and you crowdfunded Girl Talk. Why is that important to you as an artist?
Staying independent is really important to me now. The more I hear about the industry, the more it makes me really want to stay independent. People seem to be having a lot of negative experiences and are made to doubt themselves so much. I'm past the point of being comfortable with so many people having an opinion on what I'm doing and trying to change for the sake of radio. It just isn't my world, it's not where I fit in. So it's really nice to accept that. There has to be a world where I can do this and it isn't cookie-cutter. And I think that there is. By making a Kickstarter, I still have been proving to myself that anything is possible.
I saw that you wanted to collaborate with a woman for your "Drink About You" video, and you worked with Liz Nistico. Does it feel different collaborating with women than with men?
I'm always excited to work with women. I love women, I'm very inspired by women. I feel comfortable in a different way because there's just something that you don't have to explain. We're just going through similar political stuff that we think about daily as women that I don't have to explain to a woman when I'm working with her, because there's already this understanding. Also, some men get that, and I love working with those men, other men don't. And it's really difficult to work with them when they don't.
What has your work on Glow been like?
I love Glow, it's completely changed my life. The women on the show and the wrestling and the environment I'm going into work everyday is such a fucking blessing. I feel so lucky. I really do. I feel like I just walked into my dream job. They're my real friends. I've been gifted all these women who are just incredible and they've helped me develop a whole new physical relationship with myself. I'm so lucky, I've had quite a difficult four years, and it changed my life in such a positive way and filled me with confidence. It gave me my fight back.
Catch Kate Nash On Tour:
04/04 - Vancouver, BC - Imperial
04/05 - Seattle, WA - The Showbox
04/07 - Portland, OR - Hawthorne Theatre
04/09 - San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
04/10 - Los Angeles, CA - The Fonda Theatre
04/12 - San Diego, CA - The Observatory – North Park
4/13 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory OC
04/14 - Phoenix, AZ - Crescent Ballroom
04/16 - Salt Lake City, UT - The Depot
04/17 - Englewood, CO - Gothic Theatre
04/19 - Minneapolis, MN - Fine Line Music Cafe
04/20 - Chicago, IL - Park West
04/21 - Detroit, MI - Majestic Theatre
04/23 - Toronto, ON - Mod Club
04/24 - Montreal, QC - Theatre Fairmount
04/25 - Boston, MA - Royale
04/26 - Philadelphia, PA - Theatre of Living Arts
04/28 - Atlanta, GA - Buckhead Theatre
04/29 - Charlotte, NC - The Underground
04/30 - Washington, D.C. - 9:30 Club
05/02 - New York, NY - Irving Plaza
Photography: Kate Bellm