I Took Kate Nash to an East End Pool Club on a First Date
And we mainly spoke about mushrooms, the internet and astrology.
All photography by Chloe Sheppard
Let us go back, for a moment, to London in 2007. Kate Moss had just launched her first Topshop collection, meaning that everyone and their nan was wearing low rise jeans and those scrawny neck scarfs. School kids were blasting tinny versions of JME’s “Serious” off Motorola flip phones on buses. Amy Winehouse could still be found pouring herself pints at The Hawley Arms pub in Camden. Ballet pumps were a thing, as was smoking inside pubs and venues up until July. And then there was Kate Nash, swirling among all of this with her debut album Made Of Bricks – a modern day pop classic that gave us “Foundations”, “Pumpkin Soup” and “Birds”, all delivered in a voice that sounded like your mate leaving an overly long answering message on the house phone alongside some piano plonks. It was sick.
Fast forward to now, though, and everything’s changed, including the place Kate Nash occupies in music. Just before releasing her third album, the riot grrl-influenced Girl Talk in 2013, Nash was unceremoniously dropped by Universal Music over text. While that could have been enough to break some artists, she stuck a middle finger up and continued, finding herself a supportive all-women band to tour with and releasing her music via Kickstarter. Since then, she’s joined the cast of acclaimed women wrestling series GLOW on Netflix and been repeatedly vocal about toxicity in the industry. And five years after her last, she’s releasing album Yesterday Was Forever, a 14-track collection of energetic indie pop tracks that sit between the fizzing, sunny sound of LA (where she sometimes lives) to the raucous, DIY style of previous records.
But I want to take it all back to the spirit of the early days, before GLOW and LA and Kickstarter. I want to take it back to London, pre-Instagram stories documenting nights out, to before most of the Overground was built and to when the East End was an affordable place to live and hang out. So I asked Kate Nash on a first date to Efes Pool Club in Dalston – which has been a staple here longer than we’ve both been alive – for old time’s sake. And that’s how I found myself, midday on a Monday, screaming “WHAT THE FUCK!” at the person who soundtracked my teen years as she potted yet another yellow ball and sprawled across the pool table to celebrate. Somewhere in between all of this, we had a chat.
Noisey: So what’s the best and worst date you’ve ever been on?
Kate Nash: The worst date I’ve been on was in LA with this guy I didn’t want to be on a date with – he was just trying to take me to all these places and impress me but it was so cheesy. And then the best date I’ve been on was with my boyfriend now. He was a friend of mine for over a decade and then we just met up for coffee this summer and it literally turned into a rom com.
Amazing. Are you into astrology? What’s your star sign?
Yes, I’m a Cancer! I’m very emotional and all about my home. It’s so fascinating to me… When I got my birth chart done I was told I could only communicate my emotions through song. I’ve never had a hard time believing in stuff like that, because we’re a fucking planet hanging in space. It might sound ridiculous, but so is everything. Like a ‘Saturn return’ is so real to me as well; when all the planets go back to where they were when you were born.
You’re 30, right? So you must have just been through your Saturn return recently… [Reader, if you don’t know, ‘Saturn return’ is seen as a time in which you’re faced with intense challenges and responsibilities before reaching full adulthood].
I did and it was hardcore. When I got my chart read, the guy was like, “Saturn is not fucking about, you’re going to be brought back to your roots and it will be really literal.” And I went to the set of GLOW that day and they said: “we’re going to dye your hair red” and I was like... they’re literally taking me back to my roots. It could not be more literal than that.
But what followed was a really important transformation. Everything I’ve been through in the last few years in relation to the music industry has been a personal struggle, so I felt like I needed to embrace and accept myself fully. And then there was the fact I was going on my Made of Bricks anniversary tour…
Revisiting that must have been such a strange experience. How was it playing those songs ten years later?
It was so magical and joyous. And those songs got to live in a way they didn’t before because I’m a happier and more confident performer now. I’m more comfortable in myself, which happens as you get older.
I could also enjoy that album in a way I hadn’t before. I didn’t realise it back then, but I wasn’t in a good relationship; I wasn’t being treated well by the industry; I was being attacked by the media and overworked. I didn’t have people representing me that cared about me. You just accept stuff until you see that there’s another way. These days, my band is so amazing and I’ve honed performance as a skill and I just fucking love it. And I’ve changed a lot. I was 16 when I wrote some of those songs. Being a teenage girl and going through that is really hard, but now I’m a woman, and I feel like being an advocate for teenage girls.
It’s crazy that you were so young when you wrote Made of Bricks because there’s a lot of wisdom buried in that record.
I wasn’t really aware of that at the time because I was writing and trying to connect to my emotions and situations. It’s funny, because you’re speaking about things you don’t really know about yet.
Totally. I also feel like you’ve had a fiercely loyal fan base over the years. Are there people at your shows that you recognise from the very beginning?
Yeah! But also, what I find amazing is that I still have teenagers on the front row. There are 16-year-olds that tell me that they heard Made of Bricks when they were six, which is so fucking weird and cool. I love that little kids can be into my music because I was trying to write stories. There was a lot of imagination in that first record.
I feel like since then all your albums have deviated from each other in terms of style. What does Yesterday Was Forever sound like to you?
This one feels like all three of them. It’s poppy, it’s got piano and guitar and the punky energy of the live show with the constructed element of the studio and I just found some great people to work with who could translate exactly what I’m about.
I’m surprised this pool club doesn’t do karaoke too. What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Eminem “Real Slim Shady” followed by Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.
Classic choices. If you were to invite three people to dinner – dead or alive – who would they be?
I’m actually studying Mycology at the moment – the study of mushrooms – so I would really like to have this guy called Paul Stamits there, because he’s a mycologist and a total science nerd. And then I would have Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda because they’re fucking amazing.
What food would you make everyone to eat?
Probably like a vegan feast. Lots of roast vegetables, rice, tahini and Tabasco…
Yum! If a crystal ball could tell you anything about your future, what would you ask it?
Even though I’m super into tarot and astrology, I don’t believe in knowing too much about the future. I do have so many questions about space and robots, though. Maybe I’d ask it how different technology is going to be in the next five to ten years.
That’s a really good question. I feel like if technology accelerates at the same pace it has done in the past decade, the future is going to look insane. Do you feel positive about it?
I’m right in the middle of ‘it’s pure evil’ and ‘it’s everything we need and it will save the world.’ It’s weirdly both. I think it’s great for my career, I think it’s important for spreading awareness and helping people feel less lonely and there are incredible things I’ve read recently about VR and pain and burns victims being put in cold environments to help relieve their pain. But I also get paranoid about my phone listening to me; there’s something so addictive and stress-inducing about it, which I don’t trust.
Yeah, sometimes I feel like our phones are alive, like they’re this presence – and that can be really intrusive.
Totally! Interestingly enough, there’s a lot out there about fungi and their networks – it’s called mycelium – and the way it works is really similar to the network of the Internet. Their make up is totally alien and weird, and under the microscope you can see it. But yeah, the internet feels like an observer, which is a strange energy to have around.
You’ve got a song on your new album called “My Little Alien.” Do you believe in aliens?
Definitely. We’ve been told this is an ever-expanding universe, so how could I not? The idea of being completely alone is so much scarier to me. But it’s hard to grasp it all… I can’t even begin to grasp concepts like the multiverse.
I completely agree. Now let’s bring it back to earth. Did you used to go out around here, in Dalston, back in the day?
Yeah I used to go to a lot of bars and clubs on this road. It’s changed a lot here, though. There are areas that have developed and feel more gentrified, but there’s also a lot of amazing vegan food options here. And the ‘cool’ areas have become ‘uncool’, but that’s natural of any area.
Have you ever been much of a partier?
Sort of. I love throwing parties and being sociable and dancing. But I also have this other homebody side and can become quite isolated and anxious. So if I haven’t gone out in ages then it’s hard to go out. But mainly I just love being with my friends and being surrounded by people I like. I’m not interested in going to ‘cool’ nights, though. I’d rather sit in Wetherspoons or a place like this with a bunch of mates. And I don’t drink anymore.
Yeah, I stopped almost two years ago because of training for GLOW. I don’t have feelings on it being permanent – it’s just something I’m doing and I feel really healthy. I took the athleticism of GLOW really seriously, and then I tried Christmas sober, and then I did the tour and then I just felt really in tune with something different. I feel like I’m on this journey of mental health and physical health, and trying to face my issues in a different way and it’s been really helpful with that. In England there’s such a culture of getting fucked all the time, and I thought I’d miss it, but I found it easy. I’ve been around a lot of addicts in the music industry because it’s really encouraged to be fucked and for that to be a cool thing, but it’s not – it’s dangerous and can be bad for your mental health.
Absolutely. What advice would you give to young women coming into the music industry?
I’d say trust yourself and stick up for yourself. You have to learn how to use your voice because you’re an advocate for yourself and a lot of people won’t be. Don’t rush into a record deal, and get a good manager before you sign anything – the danger in signing too soon is that you might get trapped. As a young woman, remember you’re cooler than those people anyway, you’re the hot new thing, so realise that you have power and can build your own culture. Also just never give up on yourself because you’ll be challenged and have highs and lows, and know that at your lowest point you’ve got the strength to continue.
For me, my hardest moments have been really doubting myself, but then it’s been amazing knowing that I can come through and survive those moments. I’ve personally found it worth it, the feeling of being on stage and communicating with strangers in that way, it’s all worth it. But yeah: put yourself first and have boundaries, because people can be fuckfaces.
Hell yes! Thanks for hanging out.
'Yesterday Was Forever' comes out 30 March via Kate’s Kickstarter campaign.