by hannah lucy
Bristol-based indie-pop artist She Makes War – aka Laura Kidd – released her third album, Direction of Travel, in April, and followed it up with a tour of the UK. After watching her play an amazing set at the Sebright Arms in Hackney, Hannah Lucy caught up with Laura to talk about the album, life in Bristol and what’s coming up next.
hannah lucy: Your new album, Direction of Travel, has a darkness to it, as do your first two albums, but somehow it also feels a bit more hopeful. Was that a deliberate move? Can you tell us about some of the themes that come up on this album?
she makes war: I wrote the songs to deal with some really sad times. When I listened back to it in its entirety for the first time it felt like a punch in the heart. I’m glad it sounds more hopeful!
“I suppose one of the things we learn when bad things keep happening is that carrying on and trying to find meaning in the darkness is the only option. I refuse to give up.”
smw: I moved around a lot as a kid, so a lot of my songs are about trying to find the physical home I never had, and figuring out what makes up the emotional home. My lyrical obsession with the sea traces back to my Grandad, Christopher, who died when I was 10. My memories of him are really hazy, but I know he was building his own boat, and my Dad finished it and named it Kit. I went sailing with my Dad as a child and found it both exciting and utterly terrifying, and I continue to explore those ideas in songs.
hl: What does your songwriting process looks like? Do you start with music or lyrics? Write a song in one sitting or bit by bit?
smw: It’s different for different songs. I’m currently gathering together all the snippets of ideas – audio and text – I’ve been recording on my phone and laptop this year so I can start making sense of them. I listen obsessively to these and pick out the ones that resonate the most to work on. I’d like to be someone who regularly writes songs in one sitting, but I have to force myself to focus and I find that difficult sometimes.
hl: This is the first album you’ve produced completely by yourself, as well as the first one you’ve released through a record label (The state51 Conspiracy). What difference have those things made to the way you worked on the album?
smw: Not much difference to be honest. I had final say on every aspect of my first two albums as well, but doing it this way felt a lot more natural and I’m so happy with the results. What made the biggest difference was finding Dan Austin, who took the raw files and created something far beyond anything I could have imagined. He’s a keeper.
hl: You’ve been getting some great radio play lately, including from Steve Lamacq. You’ve said before that the concept of “making it” in the music industry doesn’t really do much for you. What does success mean to you?
smw: Success means getting to travel to play to an engaged, respectful group of people on tour, enjoying adventures along the way and having the resources (time, energy, motivation) to make the next album.
hl: You moved from London to Bristol a couple of years ago. What differences have you noticed between the music scenes in the two cities?
smw: In London I didn’t feel like a part of anything, but Bristol very generously took me in right away and my upcoming festival slots at Harbourside Festival and Brisfest make me feel like I’m part of the local family of musicians. Bristol is a lot smaller so it’s easier for audiences to get to venues, or even get from venue to venue if they want to see more than one band in an evening.
hl: What’s coming up next for you? It sounds like you have some interesting gigs going on over the summer…
smw: Yeah it’s quite busy at the moment. Next week I’m travelling to Salford to play a live session for Marc Riley’s BBC 6 Music radio show, which is super exciting, then I have festival slots at 2000 Trees, Harbourside Festival, Larmer Tree and Brisfest, an 8 date UK tour with Carina Round, a web streamed full band gig at The Convent in Stroud, and two appearances at Greenbelt Festival. Then, who knows! The best thing about doing this is that anything could happen…