She Makes War is the psedonymn of Bristol based ‘gloom-pop’ hero Laura Kidd. Over the course of four entirely crowd-funded records she’s made a name for herself internationally with her, often politically focussed, brand of dark indie pop.
“I’ve never wanted to wait around for the old guard to validate and endorse me”
“My audience is super supportive and helped me smash through my target because they’re excited to hear new material, which enables me to create exactly the music I want at a quality that matches releases by bigger artists” Laura explains of her most recent adventure in to Pledge music. “I’ve never wanted to wait around for the old guard to validate and endorse me – my whole career has been about making exactly the art I want to and finding a way to get it to people, so crowdfunding is key to that.”
“The money raised so far has entirely paid for my engineer/mixer’s time, studio hire, extra musicians (drums, piano and strings) plus manufacture of vinyl, CDs, cassettes and printed lyric books. The pre-order will run right up til release, raising more money to help with music videos, press and everything else, so this is an incredible position to be in – especially when you remember the story that most bands on big labels never recoup. I’ve sold more than 1000 copies of the record (300 of which are on vinyl) and it’s not out til 28th September. I’m so thankful to my fans for believing in me.”
The process of crowd-funding anything is a long and often stressful one – but Laura is relentlessly full of praise for her fans and audience that have driven her forwards. That said, the Internet is not always an entirely pleseant place to be. “I did experience some online nastiness from a few musicians who don’t understand that you can’t crowdfund without a crowd” Laura continues, “but my middle finger is permanently extended to small minded, hateful individuals who aren’t generous enough of spirit to be happy when someone else’s hard work is rewarded.”
That Laura has progressed her career so far under her own steam – without the support of a label or manager – is undenaibly impressive, but she is hesitant to use the term ‘DIY’ which would so often be applied to musicians like her. “It felt like a barrier to my ambition to put my music alongside bigger artists” she explains. “I just refer to myself as an independent artist. I was never intending to be DIY til I die – I would love the support of a great label, I just didn’t want to wait around for some random person in the music biz to make things happen, so I made them happen myself and put my energy into building my own world of music and visuals and connecting with people who like what I do. I’m very proud of what I’ve created but it’s impossible to do everything I want on my own so calling myself DIY after I’d decided that I wanted more would have been disingenuous. When I started out “DIY” meant £3 entry shows with too many bands playing and a lack of ambition dressed up in punk rock moralising. It was a term sneered at by the wider world so it’s great people respect it more now and are doing great things with it, but I don’t derive satisfaction from exhausting myself trying to get everything done all on my own any more.”
Would she advise other musicians starting out to persue their careers in the same way? “Ultimately, making music has to be for reasons that will sustain you and nourish you as an artist. If you’re focused on getting famous and earning lots of money you’ll probably be disappointed, but if you can find things to love in the daily hustle to create your best work and share it with people then you’ll have a life filled with magic.”
“Artists have to decide what works best for them. If my first album had been picked up by the world then I’d have made different records afterwards than the ones I made, and my life would be different. It’s impossible to know whether I’d be better off than I am now, so it’s not something I waste time wondering about! I will say that whether you decide to shop your early stuff to labels or not, developing a relationship with music fans from the very start is key. Talk to people at shows, get to know the people who love what you do, start an email list and stay in touch with them. Don’t rely on social media – that’s just a way to discuss the real stuff which is the art. My priority is living a creative life. I intend to keep making albums until I’m an old lady so it doesn’t really matter how well it’s going at this exact moment. I’m playing a long game and building a body of work that I’m proud of.”
Last year saw She Makes War take to the Hammersmith Apollo stage for Robin Ince’s Christmas Compendium of Reason alongside Stewart Lee, Sophie Ellis Bextor and Jo Brand. Such unusual shows aren’t necessairily that unusual for Laura. “I’ve always enjoyed playing my music in irregular scenarios, be that an art gallery, book shop, living room, church…performing in any space that isn’t a regular gig venue gives you the opportunity to connect with the audience in a different way. They might react differently, you might do things differently…it’s really fun. Similarly, playing on a bill with comedians, astronauts and scientists gives the music a different role in an evening.”
In May Laura returns to Leicester for her second appearance at the city’s Handmade Festival. “I think the festival does a brilliant thing of respecting and nurturing local artists and smaller independent artists from other cities while bringing in the big guns in the form of well known acts with real audience pulling power. The great thing about festivals in general is getting to play to a bunch of people who are happy to take a punt on an artist they’ve never seen before because it’s included in the ticket price, so the pressure is off slightly on both sides (they don’t have to like you, you get to just be yourself and see if you connect with anyone new).”
She Makes War plays Handmade Festival on the weekend of the 5th and 6th May at O2 Academy Leicester.