Now a fixture on the L.A. punk scene with her all-girl band, Kate Nash is a London born and bred singer.
She was just 20 when she released her platinum-selling debut album Made of Bricks in 2007, shortly after being discovered on Myspace and championed by Lily Allen. Then chubby-cheeked with shaggy ginger-colored hair, Nash at the time was best known for her catchy break-up song “Foundations.”
But, having moved to L.A. in January, Nash nowadays rocks fishnet stockings and a black-and-blonde pin-up ‘do. She's stopped crooning about pasty-faced boys and started shrieking about the girls who “make shit happen.” Her bass-heavy female anthem “She Rules” sounds like something Bikini Kill might have recorded in the early ‘90s.
Last year she covered the Fidlar song “Cocaine,” changing the lyrics and calling it “Girl Gang.” It's an extension of her growing interest in feminism, punk rock and activism. In fact Girl Gang is also an actual, real-life crew, and their first event will be this Sunday at The Smell, with performances by bands including Colleen Green, Death Valley Girls, Cherry Glazerr's Hannah Uribe (a DJ set), and Nash herself.
“I just turned 27 this year and I was like, I am not the 27 year old that I imagined I would be,” she says, in her thick Cockney accent. “I felt that within myself I’d lost this sense of what was going on, and I felt a little uneducated and lazy.” She’s referring to her own lack of understanding about the violent and political turmoil in places like Gaza, Iraq, Syria and even Ferguson, Missouri.
So in August, she decided to invite her girlfriends — mostly members of her band and other local bands like La Sera, the Aquadolls, Peach Kelli Pop and Gal Pals — over to her Mt. Washington home, where they assembled in her garage and talked for hours about everything from politics to genocide to physics to the environment. This was the first Girl Gang meeting, and they've gotten together every week since.
“It got kind of emotional. People were really opening up about the fact that they really needed this and they had these experiences and they wanted to do something about it,” says Nash. “We decided what we want our role to be within the group and we talked about wanting to educate each other. It could be as simple as starting a book club to picking a subject that you’re passionate about and educating people about it.”
Nash cites her friend Katy Goodman, formerly of Vivian Girls and now with La Sera, as Girl Gang’s first success story. In the inaugural Girl Gang meeting, Goodman confided that her dream was to become a science teacher, and that she’d always wanted to teach physics. By the second meeting, Goodman had already responded to a Craigslist ad to become an after-school physics tutor for high school girls. (She's tweeted that she's accepting new students for Skype tutoring.)
“That’s all because of Girl Gang,” Nash says, arguing that going out into the world and actually doing things has a far more positive impact than spending her time debating the definition of feminism in online forums, which is where so many feminist discussions often start and end. “It’s a negative distraction form the real shit, the really fucked up shit that’s happening worldwide. Like little girls in India being buried alive,” she says. “The heavy shit.”
She hopes girls around the world will form their own Girl Gangs and empower themselves by arming each other with knowledge and support. A pink flier posted to her website offers illustrated instructions on how girls (and feminist boys) can form their own gangs. For example, snacks are important and gossiping is discouraged.
“It would be really cool if girls had a more fearless attitude because girls are encouraged to be timid and polite and they’re scared to negotiate,” says Nash. “And the media is making women feel shit about themselves so they can sell products. It’s the way the world is structured.”
So far, Nash’s lawyer has agreed to come talk to her Girl Gang about knowing their legal rights, and Nash also wants to find a businessperson to talk to them about the art of negotiating in their careers. She sees Girl Gang as the groundwork for something that might someday become an actual company that can incite real, global change.
But first, Girl Gang’s got to get through their first public meeting, a punk rock party complete with cupcakes and a photo booth. The
$5 $10 admission fee will benefit I Am That Girl, a Santa Monica-based non-profit for educating and empowering young women. Future public meetings might take the form of symposiums, panels or festivals.
“I want to hear about other girls’ experiences too, because that’s how you learn what’s going on and what is happening with everyone,” Nash says. “If you just start talking, there’s so much that comes out.”