Every now and then you meet a deeply impressive individual that leaves an indelible mark on your own psyche. Laura Kidd is one such person. The one-woman music industry behind She Makes War (she released an excellent second album, Little Battles, in April), Laura is a multi-instrumentalist who writes, records and produces her own music. Kidd designs her album artwork, makes her own promotional videos, runs her excellent website and manages every aspect of her career. She describes herself as a “socialist, pacifist feminist” and is constantly championing an eclectic range of hugely worthwhile causes. In her spare time, she runs half marathons. I’ve become fatigued by merely typing this paragraph, let alone attempting to live its content.
I first met Laura at ths year’s Great Escape festival in Brighton. I’d invited her to watch the band PINS, and I was immediately struck by her warmth and energy. We talked about She Makes War and how “the project” tied into her political views. “I’m a proper pacifist to the point where I don’t think there should be any violence in the world,” she told me. “It’s an interesting counterpoint to my upbringing because my dad, my brother and various other family members were in the RAF.”
Laura was right – her background is a fascinating juxtaposition to one of the central tenets behind She Makes War. A few weeks later, we ‘meet’ up again via a Skype video link. I’m keen to immediately pick up the conversational thread from Brighton. “I’ve not talked about this before,” Laura tells me, while nursing a cup of tea to soothe away the final remnants of a hangover. “But being a pacifist doesn’t mean that I don’t respect my dad’s or my brother’s choices to do what they do,” she continues.
“We used to have lots of debates when I was in my early teens, with me getting annoyed at various things, but it was never really about my dad being a soldier. I suppose it gives me a little bit of a nuanced view on war because I have seen my dad have to go to places like Afghanistan and be there for a long time. He was in the parachute regimen so it was quite dangerous work. My brother is a fighter pilot so that is pretty dangerous too. So, alongside the disagreeing in general with violence and war, I still care deeply about my family and want them to be safe and wanted them to do what was best for them.”
However, it doesn’t take the most insightful amateur pyschologist to suggest the link between her pacifism as a reaction against her military upbringing. Laura isn’t so sure; “When I came out with the name She Makes War, I really wasn’t thinking of anything to do with my family. Maybe it was a reaction in my subconscious; maybe I am opposing it and doing a big rebellion, I don’t know. But, my family, very kindly, have never quizzed me about it. They are super-supportive of my music.”
She Makes War is Laura’s solo project. She’s released two cracking albums (2010’s Disarm preceeded Little Battles) of her self-christened ‘gloom pop’. I suggest to her that the name She Makes War evokes thoughts about the patriachal nature of war and the well-rehearsed hypothesis that if the world was populated solely by female leaders, there would be significantly less war-mongering. “I think there would,” Laura says, “because we are also mothers or have the potential to be mothers. To take life away is completely against our whole mode of being. We grow life and then we nurture it. As animals, that’s what women are for. Obviously, we can choose not to, which I totally support. It’s much more horrifying when a woman kills someone because we give life – people were much more shocked about Myra Hindley than Ian Brady.”
Laura’s music is an intoxicating mix of glistening indie rock, pared-down ballads and infectious left-field pop songs. The ‘gloom pop’ tag is apt (Laura tells me she originally called her sound “grungey, dystopian gloom pop but people latched onto the word ‘grunge’ and got confused – I’m not grunge, unless Kurt Cobain had a ukulele and a vocal loop pedal”) as, lyrically, the vast majority of her words seem a bit, well, gloomy. “My songs are all a bit heartbroken,” Laura admits when I ask why they aren’t shiny and happy. “I’m quite a dramatic person and they are all little snapshots of things that have happened. The songs can be about ex-boyfriends or people who I have loved that have died – key moments in my life. They are buried under layers of poetry so that people don’t know which one is about them.”
Musicians write songs for a multitude of reasons. Some do it to make a political statement or as a calculated attempt to appeal to the masses. A few songwriters use their craft as a means of catharsis, and it would seem Laura falls into that category. “I want to make something beautiful out of something that is bad,” she reveals. “A friend of mine was stabbed and died about seven years ago. It was awful. I’d never had someone young and close to me die before and was dealing with it really badly. I tried to go to therapy and I went for one session and found it really uncomfortable. So, I wrote ‘GhostAndShadows’ [from Disarm] instead which is about dealing with awful things from my past and the song really helped me.”