Prague, pretty dresses, bass, Quentin Tarantino, swearwords, catchy riffs, lo-fi, hot pink, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: these are a few of Kate Nash’s favorite things at present, and they’ve all had a hand in the astonishing (and creative) year she’s had. Prague is a city Nash re-discovered and fell head over heels for during her current tour. A bright pink and red dress spotted while window-shopping in her neighborhood served as the initial inspiration for Death Proof, the EP she releases today, as did Tarantino’s film of the same name. “Fuck” and “shit” are two of her favorite curses, which can be found peppered throughout her lyrics, and her roots in sugar-coated pop gave way to the grungier, bass-fueled explorations we’re exposed to in Death Proof‘s 17-minute run. And Buffy? Nash spent her Halloween performing the musical episode of the cult TV show, Once More With Feeling, and she dreams of restaging it many more times on a road trip to ComicCon in 2013.
To say that Nash’s interests are eclectic would be an understatement—but they also reveal how happy the British pop powerhouse is to be caught in a state of perpetual reinvention. Death Proof—as well as Girl Talk, her forthcoming full-length that will see an early 2013 release—couldn’t sound more different from 2010’s flirtation with doo-wop and spoken word, My Best Friend Is You, or Made of Bricks, the album that gave us “Foundations” and her proper debut as a chart-topper. We caught up with Nash in between tour dates to figure out how this all fits together, and how the hell Buffy and Tarantino have anything to do with the fact that she’s performing “the best shows [she’s] ever done.”
HILARY HUGHES: I’m a huge Tarantino fan myself, and I read somewhere that this new EP was inspired by Death Proof. Title coincidence, or is that true?
KATE NASH: It’s a bunch of things, really. I named [the song] “Death Proof” after Death Proof, which is one of my favorite Tarantino movies. The subject of the song is about two different things: the lyrics go “Burn, burn, burn my heart, baby / take a piece, I don’t need all of it.” It’s a metaphor—having your heart ripped out, basically—and it’s about just being treated badly by somebody and being heartbroken. At the same time, it’s literally, about when I was 17 and I underwent this procedure, and I had to have some of my heart loaded off. So I called to blend the two things, how it’s feeling to be heartbroken but also related to an experience I went through. I wanted it to sound like cool French pop, speaking the words and making it really cool sounding more than anything else. The guitars have got a Tarantino-ish vibe. I wanted the song feel like a Tarantino movie.
HUGHES: I think you achieved that, but what’s blowing me away is the rest of the EP follows in that it’s totally different from anything else you’ve put out to date. Can you take me through the creation of Death Proof?
NASH: I remember walking down the street and seeing this dress in a window near my house. It was bright pink and bright red, really flashy, with a vibrant sort of shape, a short woolen thing, really very girly. I was like, “That is what my album’s going to be like!” I just knew what the attitude was going to be before I had written the songs. It doesn’t really make sense, but the dress was the first thing I saw that made me think, “That’s my album! That’s what it’s going to be like.” Just from touring and working in the studio for the past six years, I have a different understanding of music, and of writing songs, and I just feel really in control of it. I know exactly how I want to make things sounds now. Songwriting is my craft now, and it’s more than something I just enjoy. I’ve been playing bass in this punk band called The Receeders for a couple of years, and I just love bass. It feels like the heart of a song. I find it really easy to write on the bass, because you kind of get straight to the point: you do lyrics and melody without thinking about decorating the song until after you’ve finished it. I think writing on the bass gave Death Proof the bite that it has.
HUGHES: Is Girl Talk more of the same as Death Proof? Are you going in the same direction?
NASH: I think it’s got the same vibe. They’re definitely different journeys. I still love pop music and love pop melodies, but I like to make my songs for them to be carried by a pop melody—even if they sound rough or more lo-fi.
HUGHES: Now that you’re touring so much, how has the live show changed with these new songs?
NASH: It feels very smooth. These have been the best shows I’ve done ever, I think. I have an all-girl band now, and they’re really awesome as well. It’s a really cool vibe.
HUGHES: What’s the most inspirational city you’ve hit on tour?
NASH: I think Berlin is always inspiring. I love being in Berlin. It feels like such a cool city, with so much culture and art and independence everywhere. Also Prague, too—it’s the first time I got to spend a lot of time in Prague, and it’s so amazing! Prague is so beautiful. We went over all these amazing bridges, and every way you look, there’s a beautiful old church or another beautiful old building. It just feels so magical. Every part of it just looks like an old town.
HUGHES: Did you check out the Bone Church while you were there?
NASH: The Bone Church?!
HUGHES: It’s just outside of Prague, in Kutna Hora. There’s a church that’s decorated entirely with human bones.
NASH: That’s so cool. I love stuff like that! You know the giant cemetery in Argentina? With all the crypts everywhere?
HUGHES: Recoleta? Yup.
NASH: I love that place so much. The idea of a crypt is so ancient. Seeing all the coffins next to each other, and to see the artwork… I love how it’s so open and that you can see in the mausoleums. I think there has got to be a bit more fun in celebrating [death] in some ways. In Paris, have you ever been in the Catacombs? I love skeletons and bones so much.
HUGHES: I saw the video for “Fri-End?” where you’re a vampire and you hang out with a mummy—you’ve got an affinity for this ghouly stuff, for sure! Didn’t you also do a performance of that Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode, “Once More With Feeling”?
NASH: Oh, my God, yeah. It was the best day of my life.
HUGHES: Between Tarantino and Buffy, it seems like you’re having a blast capitalizing on your fangirl tendencies. Do you think that we’ll see more work from you that pay tribute to your favorite movies, shows, etc.?
NASH: I’ve always been interested in acting and theater and movies. I did a couple of movies last year in America, some independent films, and just last week I got my first ever part in a British movie, which I’m really excited about. Damon Jones is producing it—he produced The Iron Lady and Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll—and it’s about women in relationships. I definitely want to explore acting and theater, and I was thinking the other day that I really want to write a radio play. My ultimate dream would be to be in a Tarantino movie. I respect Tarantino and Joss Whedon so much, people who are really dedicated to their art and who don’t hold back. With Buffy, there’s so much depth to the characters. The storylines cover so much, so many emotions. It was groundbreaking TV. The fact that Willow and Tara were a normal lesbian couple who weren’t sexy, experimenting teens, I feel like there wasn’t a lot of representation for actual gay people on TV at the time, but on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was. Just the fact that she’s a feminist icon, really, Buffy validates being a teenaged girl because all the stuff that comes with being a teenager—looking girly, being seen as not important—was just as important to her as saving the world. I think that it’s so awesome and so important. Buffy was my first obsession! Instead of obsessing over my first favorite band, Buffy came first. Everyone has a first obsession, but I think girls looked to her so much.