It's been five years since Kate Nash released a new album. When her last EP came out, she was already discussing the issues that have since become a part of the global conversation following the #MeToo movement. It feels like her profile has grown larger since she joined the cast of the Netflix series GLOW, but Nash has been a proponent of women's rights and artistic freedom for nearly 15 years.
She spoke to Refinery29 on the phone about her new album, Yesterday Was Forever, which touches on issues around mental health, relationships, and puts her scream-singing skills right in the chorus. We talked about how why men are so afraid of emotional women, how sexism runs rampant in the music industry, and not being a huge fan of the pop music that's currently popular. It's full, unabashed Kate Nash — and we wouldn't want it any other way.
Refinery29: I was listening to your album while dancing around my house before this interview. It's so fun and energetic. After your last EP it felt like pop music was something you wanted to grow away from. Is this a return to it for you?
Kate Nash: "Thank you! It's been quite an interesting journey. I have gone through different phases, but I always describe myself as a pop artist. But it's funny because pop means so many different things. If you look at what's on the radio, it's hard for me to even classify some of that as pop music. I'm not, honestly, the biggest fan of what's being played on the radio at the moment but I love a strong melody that's catchy and you can sing along to. For my journey, I want to do something different with every record. They're mini time capusules of what I'm going through, what I'm into, and what I need to express. It was a difficult journey back to pop. I was in L.A. and I had a difficult time finding the right people to work with. I tried doing sessions with people and writing songs for radio, but it was fucking hell to me. I hate that world. I found it destructive, it destroyed my confidence. But, I found a couple of producers in L.A. who I loved and worked with well. I need to work with people where you aren't deconstructing a song just to make it perfect. It took me a long time to find the right players."
Refinery29: Well, I think that's because it's the most commidified world and that's difficult for a lot of women to deal with. Even some of the top female artists on radio now are pushing against what being female is and what they're allowed to do. But, female artists have become used to being paired with male producers. It seems like you really wanted to not get stuck in that trap again, right?
Kate Nash: "Totally. I'm so fucking happy now that I feel like I don't have to do that. There have been times when I felt that I desperately wanted to have a record out, I needed to make that happen. The fact that this one took so long was really painful. But I'm glad I did it my way. My main advice to other women out there is: don't sign deals that will trap you. I meet a lot of young artists who I feel are being really fucked over by the industry at the moment. They have people telling them to find their sound, but these are young people who literally create culture."
Refinery29: In listening to Yesterday Was Forever, I was trying to figure out if there was a theme or influence, but it feels more like being inside the mind of a real woman who has a myriad of interests and goes through ups and downs. To me, it doesn't buy into the idea that there is a "female sound." Even though there are feminine touchpoints, you're also not afraid to scream in the chorus. Is the idea that women shouldn't be loud one you've had to work through?
Kate Nash: "I never felt that, because I grew up in a household full of loud women. And I'm a middle child and a red-head, so it feels like I've been screaming my whole life. There was a lot of screaming in the Nash household; we are fucking loud. But after I grew up in this open household, I went into the world and realised women aren't allowed to do this everywhere. It was really shocking. In the music industry, they try to suppress that. My old label boss told me, 'I don't like when you do that screaming thing, it sounds like a little girl having a tantrum.' It just made me want to do it on the whole album. Maybe I'm screaming because of you, you fucking dickhead. I actually remember, I taught myself how to scream because I was going through a lot of emotional shit. I'd always read about Kurt Cobain learning how to scream in a song and I wanted to learn it too. I'd practise in my car and I realised I loved singing that way. I think it unleashed something in me, and I found that my fans felt empowered by hearing it. Now it's like a balance of the two sides of me, with this angry woman and the part of me that has a calm perspective — it's just the different levels of being a human, we're multifacited, we aren't one thing. Sometimes women, or even just artists, are forced to pick a label for themselves, to determine where they fit in. People are afraid of women who are powerful. History has shown us that. So I kind of like to freak people out by being a normal person [laughs]."
Refinery29: You also tackle one of the last taboos by talking about mental health. What made you want to delve into that? Was it difficult to be that honest about your own mental health?
Kate Nash: "It comes pretty naturally to me to talk about this stuff, and it actually helps me. It's hard just dealing with it in my head, but when I get to deal with it in a song it makes me feel as if I've healed myself a tiny bit. It's also searching for the connection with other people. People have been responding so amazingly to 'Life in Pink,' and it's such a relief for them to hear someone else talk about it."
Refinery29: I felt that connection after hearing "Drink About You." That song, I know every woman has felt that overly strong connection that makes them come unhinged in a relationship. Those are the kinds of feelings I talk about with other women but that I'm not sure men know how to deal with us having, so it's a relief to hear it in a song.
Kate Nash: "Yeah, I think we're very nervous about being called crazy and emotional because the sexism that exists around that is real. It stops us from furthering our careers. It stops us from having healthy relationships. I think it's like a button that's still in us from being burned as witches. Women were, and in many parts of the world still are, killed for being women. We're seen as too crazy and emotional to make decisions. I think you're a psychopath, or a sociopath, if you make decisions without emotion. To me, it's really strange that we've been killed, murdered, for being too emotional and having intuition. But that's in us! I think if any man calls you crazy, you should dump him right now. Do not date him, do not marry him, do not have a child with that person. If someone can't respect your emotions, you should not be partnering with them. If they make you feel crazy, you shouldn't be with them either. The only reason you're feeling insane is because you're unhappy in that relationship."
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