Kate Nash Is Just Fine With Her Dragons and Mushrooms, Thank You

The English pop star had to find her way back to music after a tumultuous five years away, and it was a bunch of comic-book nerds that did the trick.

Music Features Kate Nash
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Kate Nash Is Just Fine With Her Dragons and Mushrooms, Thank You

It’s been five long years since quirky English thrush Kate Nash released her last album, Girl Talk, her third. On Friday, she finally returns with the fizzy, confident new collection Yesterday Was Forever, which she self-financed through KickStarter, but she faced a lot of harsh realties during her time away, coming to grips with a few eye-opening truths. But pinpointing her most important self-discovery is easy for her in retrospect. “I’m just a big nerd,” the 30-year-old declares, enthusiastically. “And I really love nerds—they’re really good people.”

As Nash—who was living in L.A. with her most trusted companion, a boxer/labrador mix named Stella, while auditioning for film and television roles—turnstiled through managers, she grew more and more disenchanted with the music business. Eventually, she took a job at her friend Gaston Dominguez-Letelier’s landmark shop Meltdown Comics, where she tumbled so far down the geek-culture rabbit hole that she wound up hosting her own live-streaming online talk show about AMC’s hit zombie series The Walking Dead. “Mine is called Stalking Dead, she says, swearing that it’s a completely different take than Chris Hardwick’s popular Talking Dead vehicle. “And I love comic books, I mean really love comic books. They’re such a fun way of reading, and the best comic out now is Saga—oh, my God, it’s sooo good, and Saga Book One, which came out in 2014, is just beautiful and amazing. So basically, I just started doing crazy nerd stuff, and it changed my life.”

“I’m sure that I’m one day going to be the lady who was killed beneath all her toppling stuff; they’ll find me in my house that everybody thought was a storage unit, dead in there and frozen with all my things. And happy.”

During her metamorphosis, Nash became an obsessive collector. “I just love owning things,” she purrs. “I’m trying to train myself on how to let go, but the totems I collect are dragons, bunny rabbits and mushrooms. I’m really into dragons—that’s by far the nerdiest thing I got into. So I’m sure that I’m one day going to be the lady who was killed beneath all her toppling stuff; they’ll find me in my house that everybody thought was a storage unit, dead in there and frozen with all my things. And happy.” Her body won’t be eaten by pet cats like some lurid Weekly World News headline, she adds, “because, as you know, I have a preference for dogs.”

And when the singer mentions mushrooms, she’s not referencing Nintendo games or kooky emojis—she’s talking about real fungi, which she’s been ardently studying in her college mycology course. “Mushrooms are so powerful, they’re like the internet or a human brain, just another level of craziness. I love going on walks looking for them, and actually finding them.” But discerning edible ones from poisonous? She sighs. “I’m not there yet. Not ready to call myself an actual mushroom hunter.”

By finding personal contentment outside of showbiz, Nash says, she gradually found the courage to make music again. She learned about behavioral patterns, how she had been repeating the same bad decisions in business and romantic relationships until she had lost belief in herself. By absorbing such regular psychic abuse, then forgiving the perpetrators at the drop of a hat, she came to understand that she’d lost her inherent moral compass. She had to relearn her own self worth, and most important, she had to learn how to say no.

It was during this period that one of the things she’d said yes to—a 2015 Boston-filmed TV pilot about witches in the 1800s starring Eddie Izzard, The Devil You Know—caught the attention of producers who were also casting a new Netflix series about professional female wrestlers called GLOW. Soon Nash was donning crazy spandex costumes and pile-driving her ring competitors in the role of Rhonda Richardson, stage named Britannica. Learning how to actually grapple, she developed a whole new relationship with her body. And then watching GLOW—which just wrapped is second season, filled with some fun surprises, Nash promises—become a bonafide, SAG Award-nominated hit brought her out of her funk.

“That gave me the confidence to launch my KickStarter campaign,” she says. “I realized that it was a great thing to continue with music independently, and that the internet would provide me with a way. That’s essentially what I’ve been up to in the past five years.”

Nash’s career itself reads like a comics origin issue. She acquired her songwriting superpowers after breaking her foot falling down the stairs at her parents’ London home. Bedridden with no other diversions, she started strumming an acoustic guitar, then singing in an almost conversational Cockney accent. By 2007, she’d been signed to the posh Fiction imprint, which issued her charming Made of Bricks debut, with flagship singles “Foundations,” “Mouthwash” and “Pumpkin Soup.” The album rocketed to No. 1 on the U.K. chart. And those early tracks hold up, says the artist, who undertook a 10th anniversary Made of Bricks tour across Britain last year—another confidence booster. “I was playing these songs and the audience was so joyous, it really felt like Christmas every day on that tour,” she recalls. “I had this incredible summer where I held a mirror up to myself and just accepted myself fully. I had such a fucking fun time.”

Yesterday Was Forever takes that enthusiasm and runs with it on 14 swaggering, self-assured numbers. It starts with deceptively soft chords on “Life in Pink,” a torn page from her teenage diary that quickly roils into a dissonant, screaming chorus of “What’s wrong with me?” And if you can handle that jarring juxtaposition, then welcome: You’re coming along on Kate’s Krazee Karnival ride, through the tropical “Call Me” (which imagines a fickle suitor six feet under), the buzzing rocker “Take Away” (equating romance with a simple to-go meal for two), the rap-meets-synth-rock experiment “Karaoke Kiss,” the stream-of-consciousness-surreal spoken word cut “Musical Theatre,” and, of course, pop anthems that are this vocalist’s stock in trade, like “Twisted Up” and the monstrous “California Poppies.”

Nash purposely closes the set on the plush power ballad “To the Music I Belong,” she says, because it represents her “ultimate statement.” “The chorus says that the music will never leave you, and it’s a great thing to lean on, because you can happily be in a codependent relationship with music forever, because it only brings you something positive,” she says. “So I went into this record thinking, ‘What do you have to lose?’ Music is so much fun and gives so much, and when you explore it, it’s just such a huge thing. It’s like mushrooms—there are so many different genres and ways to experiment, vocally, sonically or otherwise. Even the times when I thought I couldn’t do this anymore as a job, I’d still pick myself up each day and think, ‘I’m going to try, because music keeps me alive.’”

At this point, Nash doesn’t feel wearied by her challenges. She feels refreshed, and she carefully took note, she adds, of “who stands by you when the shit hits the fan.” And all of her comic-book pals had her back and never deserted her. “And that’s what I love about nerds. The music industry is so full of slick wankers—execs who wish they were in bands, suits trying to pretend they’ve got loads of money when they don’t, or even other bands that don’t want to talk to you because they’re too cool. But nerds are just fucking nerds. They will go out dressed as actual dragons and they don’t give a shit. And they’ll invite you into their world with open arms. It’s such a warm, welcoming world, and I really recommend it to everybody.”

As in, Bazinga?

Nash laughs. “Yeah! Exactly! Bazinga!”

Kate Nash North American Tour Dates
4/4: Vancouver, BC – Imperial
4/5: Seattle, WA – The Showbox
4/7: Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
4/9: San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
4/10: Los Angeles, CA – The Fonda Theatre
4/12: San Diego, CA – The Observatory – North Park
4/13: Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory OC
4/14: Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom
4/16: Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot
4/17: Englewood, CO – Gothic Theatre
4/19: Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe
4/20: Chicago, IL – Park West
4/21: Detroit, MI – Majestic Theatre
4/23: Toronto, ON – Mod Club
4/24: Montreal, QC – Theatre Fairmount
4/25: Boston, MA – Royale
4/26: Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts
4/28: Atlanta, GA – Buckhead Theatre
4/29: Charlotte, NC – The Underground
4/30: Washington, D.C. – 9:30 Club
5/2: New York, NY – Irving Plaza