It’s been five long years since Kate Nash put out a new album. She went through issues with her record label that drove her to become an independent artist, started a career in acting, and landed the part of her dreams as the wrestler Brittanica on Netflix’s GLOW (which landed her a SAG nomination as part of the ensemble), and gathered enough material to release her most personal album to date: Yesterday Was Forever.
A mix of pop songs, rock tunes, and electro-funk hybrids, the album sees Nash at her most mature, you can hear the confidence she’s gained in the past five years in the layered arrangements and her incredible sense of knowing when to punch us in the gut. Her lyrics are a mix of wit, charm, and heartbreak, and as sing-a-long-able as always.
The departure from her label in 2011 led her to start Have 10p Records, a record label where she’s also helped new acts arrive in an industry that’s not always receptive to fresh talents if they don’t meet the criteria of what’s commercial. The five years Nash spent away from recording didn’t mean she was resting on her laurels either, she took up activism becoming a staple on LGBT pride parades, and raising awareness about the importance of freedom of expression.
To say that we’ve seen Kate Nash grow up in front of us sounds trite, but it’s also true. It’s been a treat to see the joyful 19-year-old who sang the melancholy “Foundations” become a woman using that melancholy for a higher purpose. We spoke to her about her new album, musicals, and wrestling.
Was the five-year gap between albums intimidating? Did you set out to write Yesterday Was Forever or was it more of a case of “Look, I have all these songs, let’s put them in an album”?
Both actually! I came up with Yesterday Was Forever as a concept four years ago, I was finding the way to finish the album this whole time. It’s hard to finish an album independently, and I’d gone through struggles with managers and labels. I felt very lost and it’s taken me a long time to do this come back, GLOW saved my life actually, so that helped. Before GLOW it was a fucking struggle, the show put me back on the journey and I finished the record.
Your fans helped fund the album on Kickstarter, did this make you feel like you “owed” them the ultimate Kate Nash album in any way?
This album is like all my records mashed into one, the Kickstarter gave me a deadline and I was happy to have that. The Kickstarter was a way of giving me the money to make the record without a label and it also gave me a deadline.
In “Hate You” you sing “You’re like a tramp tattoo on my back,” which was great! When do you know you have a killer lyric?
It just kind of happens when I’m feeling in certain moods. I like using humor in my lyrics and cussing sometimes. The song also looks back at relationships and times that weren’t the best, but things happened and I can’t change the fact they happened, so I like using humor about stupid things.
I also love the dichotomy in “Hate You”, it’s such an upbeat melody combined with really dark lyrics.
That’s always the case for me, I have always loved that, I used to dance to “Stop (In the Name of Love)” as a kid and felt it was joyous, and never realized what it was about until I was on a plane once and listened to it, and I started crying because it made me so emotional — planes always make me emotional too, maybe it’s the high altitude — but I was listening to the lyrics and realized it wasn’t a sappy song, it had joyous music but she’s telling us this story that’s a cry for help. She’s saying “I know you go to her, I’m not a fucking idiot, I know you’re cheating” and I thought it was such a great way of delivering a message, like secret code.
Don’t cheat on Diana Ross! Right? In “Musical Theatre” you start by speak-singing like Rex Harrison, and then the song becomes something else altogether, kinda like what the best musicals can do. What are some of the musicals that did that to you?
I love the Buffy musical episode, “Once More With Feeling”, where she sings about being dead and not knowing. There’s something so amazing in having something delivered to you through music, a good musical is so emotional and I love that. Messages come across so clearly through music.
“Karaoke Kiss” has an ’80s feeling that made me wonder if we have a musical episode of GLOW in store?
That would be fucking amazing! I’m talking to Jenji [Kohan] after this interview, I’ll email her right now.
“To the Music I Belong” is such a perfect album closer. It also brings us back to “Life in Pink” with its “try” theme. How did you select it?
I started writing “Life in Pink” in 2013 and it felt very close to home, it was clear this how I wanted my album to sound like. “Music” is the perfect closer, it felt very personal about a specific period of time where I knew I just had to keep going. It’s an emotional ending, but it’s also encouraging, I wanted people to feel hopeful.
I can’t believe it’s been a decade since your first album. How do the songs in Made of Bricks sit with you now? What goes through your mind now when you sing “Foundations” for instance? Do you think about 19-year-old Kate or sing it as 30-year-old Kate?
Touring the album recently was so joyous and beautiful. I felt I was finally able to accept myself, I performed these songs in a way they’d never been performed because I’m so comfortable as a performer now. I love that album and it was beautiful to come back to it. It certainly felt like a decade to me though, that wasn’t strange, fuck yes, those felt like ten years. I also have teenage fans which is amazing, 16-year-olds show up who listened to the album when they were six, and that’s amazing, the album hit so many different people of so many different ages.
Performance is at the center of GLOW, I loved when you covered Arctic Monkeys and I wonder if the experience of playing someone else’s music in any way helped you prepare to play Brittanica as Rhonda?
Being a wrestler has made me a better performance and being a performer helped me be a wrestler, the two feed each other. I love wrestling, live performance is so empowering, doing it with other women is so empowering. You get such a rush from it, I’m really grateful for being able to do this.
My brother loved the WWF and I used to make fun of it because I thought it was dumb, and then he pointed out to me it was like theatre or ballet which changed how I saw it. Did you have similar preconceptions before the show?
Yes, I didn’t like wrestling growing up, when I got the audition for the show I spoke to friends who loved wrestling and the culture is so fascinating, it’s like a family. These people are athletes, but it’s also entertainment like acting, you don’t hear people saying they don’t like movies because acting is fake, so in wrestling what these people do might not be “real” but their emotions are, the athletes are displaying incredible skills, improvising and delivering emotions based on drama that’s already been created. I appreciate it so much now.
I read you did a pilot with Jenji about witches and it didn’t go anywhere, so I’m dying to know who’s your favorite witch in fiction.
Growing up I loved a series of books called The Worst Witch and I was in love with it, obviously I love Willow from Buffy, Glinda from The Wizard of Oz, I love Hocus Pocus too and The Witches of Eastwick, I wished I’d wake up floating in bed like Sabrina when I was a kid, and The Love Witch. Have you seen The Witch? That’s fucking terrifying.
I love Black Philip in that movie.
He’s so terrifying! You know what though, I also love Roald Dahl’s The Witches.