“People still live in fear of persecution and violence every day for the “crime” of being themselves,” attests the nom de plume of melodic visualiser, storyteller and creator Laura Kidd. “With everything that’s going on in the world, adopting a brace position to protect ourselves from external forces is more important than ever.”
Fresh from her own front line – in her Bristol bedroom studio - She Makes War is leading a growing battalion of dedicated followers. On her fourth album Brace For Impact, up steps a femme fatale who slays with words of passion over ruthless action. Embarking upon a voyage of self-discovery, her songs stay close to hand-crafted journals packed with stickers and photographs, sparks of lyrical imagination and inspirational notes, simultaneously slaying with killer riffs. Each page and astutely scavenged field sound recording captures the plot twists of She Makes War’s sonic trajectory to date. Youthful photographic portraits and 3D collages of childhood items adorn the artwork for her music, reflecting the innocence of youth’s unbroken heart and her contrasting life as an adventurous musician. “After finding myself in a happy relationship after a long period of sadness, this record enabled me to ruminate and find ways of creating beauty where there was once pain. I’m the strongest I’ve ever been because of all I’ve been through,” she says.
From broken hearts to broken bones, Laura was given plenty of time for rumination when she broke her right foot moments before supporting The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Tumbling off a darkened stage during soundcheck, adrenaline kicked in and, ever the fighter, the show went on. With barely enough time to visit A&E, a face full of glitter and steely resolve, she performed a slew of summer festival sets and a BBC 6Music Marc Riley session sporting a fetching knee crutch. “Having my mobility stolen from me was exhausting and depressing. I’d come up with the album title while driving on tour, daydreaming about what it must be like to be in a high-speed car crash – I’d wondered whether there would be time to apologise to my passenger if we got in an accident…it was a bit dark”, she recalls. “After struggling through the summer with that phrase in my mind, then finding it written in the venue toilets at the end of a tour in Brighton, it just had to be the album title. It couldn’t have been more apt.”
As the shows rolled on around the UK and Europe, the pain gradually eased. Tour dates with Carina Round (Puscifer), Ginger Wildheart, Amanda Palmer and Babybird ensued, plus invitations from Robin Ince, Professor Brian Cox and astronaut Chris Hadfield to perform at London’s Royal Albert Hall and Hammersmith Apollo on bills with Stewart Lee, Sophie Ellis Bextor and Public Service Broadcasting.
Brace For Impact, however, came to life at home. “The album was written in a happy place, using the first real home I ever made to create and contain the music. It’s been a very productive space,” she beams. Creating the music in the solitary quiet of her home studio, she arranged each part before enlisting engineer Dan Austin (Doves, Pixies) and select guest musicians to bring her vision to life in Bristol studios Joe’s Garage (run by Joe Garcia) and J&J (run by Jim Barr of Portishead).
Delighting the listener with each wonderfully weird, beautiful journey, She Makes War is reflective, strong and melancholic but remains quietly confident for the future. Earlier albums Disarm (2010), Little Battles (2012) and Direction of Travel (2016) soundtracked further adventures in wonderland through a gloomy alt-pop exploration of love, loss, psychotherapy, murder, abandonment and hope. Brace for Impact remains as fierce; ‘Miles Away’ reflects on being ghosted by an ex-BFF whilst lead single ‘Devastate Me’ is a scathing assault on the myriad benefits and betrayals of a world so reliant on social media. “It’s about photography as a reflex, the way people overshare online…how when we die our online profiles just stay there. The internet is amazing - I’ve built my career using it, but it can be so awful.”
Catching the attention of punk peer John Robb, not to mention radio DJs on 6Music (Steve Lamacq, Marc Riley, Lauren Laverne, Tom Robinson), XFM (John Kennedy), Kerrang (Alex Baker) and Amazing Radio (Shell Zenner and Jim Gellatly), She Makes War is powered by songwriting that heals those who hear it. The new songs brim with the powerful personality of 90s Britpop babes Dubstar, Echobelly, Blur and Elastica via the gutsy riffage of Weezer, Soundgarden and Sleater-Kinney. The grunge pop of ‘Weary Bird’ offers a brazen nod to Nirvana, sung with a wry smile “Dear Heart” is more sinister than initially meets the ear and, at the end of the album, Suede’s Neil Codling even makes a guest appearance.
But it’s perhaps those closer to home who have had the most impact on She Makes War’s self-made independence; from being taught how to sing and play recorder aged 3 to playing bass for Viv Albertine and listening to the music of her great grandmother, it has always been her destiny to make music with a human connection. “My great grandmother May played piano live over silent films and had her own band The Melodymakers. I’ll always be grateful to my music teacher June Banks who taught me how to read books, read music and let my voice flow out of my body. Most recently Tracey Thorn’s books have been a big inspiration. She has consistently made music and through that, learned so much about herself. I feel like I’m on a similar journey of exploration.”
Shaping her world through music and visuals, She Makes War has always created on her terms. Whether filming videos, recording podcasts, speaking at events, delivering one-woman storytelling shows, collaborating with friends and supporting other musicians through her live nights “Breakfast with Apollo”, recording guest vocals on The Levellers’ 30th anniversary album or taking part in a British Council cultural exchange in Indonesia, She Makes War is more than just music – it’s a whole package of personality which offers a candid portal into her unique world.
Released on her own imprint My Big Sister recordings, Brace for Impact is the third SMW record to have been entirely funded through a PledgeMusic campaign. It shot into the top 10 albums trending worldwide and saw fans coming out in the thousands to support her vision. “I’ve never wanted to wait around for the old guard to validate and endorse me – my whole career has been about making the art I want to and finding a way to get it to people.” It’s without doubt Brace for Impact will offer a hand and take care of business as any strong sibling should. “I’m here to share my stories and show my audience I hear and see them too. It’s human nature, to want to know you’re not alone.”