Kate Nash: I felt on edge and needed to escape
Singer-songwriter Kate Nash has returned to music this year after packing a punch in Netflix's wrestling comedy series Glow. She talks to Andrew Arthur about society's unhealthy relationship with sex and why she didn't feel safe living in the UK
Breaking into music festivals is behaviour you'd expect from the rabble of rebellious teenagers that frequent the Reading and Leeds festivals. It seems one of this year's performers, Kate Nash, was no exception.
"I snuck in one year with a bunch of mates and we just stayed in there," the singer-songwriter laughs down the phone.
"I didn't have a ticket, but I managed to sneak in and stay in the campsite, which was really fun. When I was 17 or something. I think I had a crush on someone that was going, so that was probably my aim of the trip - which obviously went nowhere and didn't work out at all. Teenage life!"
It's with bittersweet tales delivered with an earnest candour that Nash's songwriting has won her a loyal following.
It took the combined strength of Rihanna and American rapper, Timbaland, to keep the Harrow-born singer's breakout hit Foundations off the top of the UK singles chart, where it stayed at number two for five weeks.
There was better luck for Nash's platinum-selling debut LP, Made Of Bricks.
Not only did it reach the summit of the albums chart, its songs also helped her win a Brit Award.
Given the indie pop anthems that Nash is perhaps best known for, she may seem an unusual choice to play a festival known for mosh pits and seminal Nirvana performances.
However, it's clear Nash isn't scared of discerning crowds. "I feel like it's much less intense than it used to be at Reading and Leeds," she says.
"But also, my show is pretty rock 'n' roll.
"So, I don't have fears about that, because I've played so many festivals in so many different scenarios.
"I usually surprise people and if you haven't seen me before, it's worth coming. I think we bring it a lot harder than people expect.
"That's why I like taking these risks - you can blow people away who weren't really expecting it. I've honed my performance skills and I love the challenge of taking on a crowd."
For her third record, Girl Talk, Nash put together an all-girl group to thrash out punk-rock numbers inspired by underground bands such as Bikini Kill.
Nash also cites punk's poet laureate John Cooper Clarke's influence on her acerbic lyrics, sung in her distinctive, soft cockney accent.
Nash has traded lyrical blows for comedy uppercuts by appearing as wrestler Rhonda 'Britannica' Richardson in Netflix series Glow.
Her acting work has seen her split time between Los Angeles and London.
The singer says the move impacted on the writing of her first album for five years, Yesterday Was Forever.
"I think it has had an effect on me, more politically. It's made me so much more aware of global issues," she says.
"Being in LA, I am really able to explore mental and physical health freely.
"London was really wearing on me. Especially because of my career. I started to feel unsafe here. I felt bullied by the media and it made me on edge. I needed to escape that, in order to get my confidence back.
"And then, weirdly, leaving made me appreciate London and fall in love with it again. I needed to leave it behind for a second to heal myself in a new place, and now it's home.
"I feel quintessentially British and my roots are so important to me."
As well as a new perspective, Nash revealed during her time Stateside, she found a new best friend.
"I've got a dog that I rescued in LA. And she's part of the reason why I am there now as well," she says.
"She honestly saved me, even though I literally rescued her from a drug addict in a coffee shop.
"He said, 'I need 20 bucks to get off drugs'! I was like 'Oh f***'. I just had to help this dog out. She's so beautiful, and mental as well!
"I did think I shouldn't have a dog, because I can't have that responsibility, but she ended up mine. And I just love her. It's weird having her and Glow and then having home and family and friends here. I feel like I have a split life, but they are both equally valuable to me."
Throughout our chat, Nash is as refreshingly open and self-deprecating, as her songs would suggest. She is a vocal LGBT and women's rights activist.
In a social media post in 2013, Nash revealed she had been groped in her home by a man she didn't know.
She openly speaks about her experiences in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal that first rocked Hollywood and is now permeating other industries.
She believes campaigns such as the #MeToo movement have given women a voice, but systematic change is needed to ensure inappropriate sexual behaviour is eradicated.
"I think people are shocked by just how much it happens and how many women you know that it has happened to," she says.
"I don't know how we'd deal with actually disciplining it and changing it. But not accepting it in the workplace is a good start.
"And then education, talking to kids from a young age about consent and what that means. We need real sex education in schools.
"I watched a video of two robots having sex. That is literally what they showed us.
"That's f***** up. That gives me a warped relationship with sex.
"As an adult, you then have to figure it out yourself.
"There's a big problem with loads of men who don't even know how to ask about consent. And girls don't even know how to speak up when they feel like something is wrong.
"There is such an unhealthy relationship with sex within society that I think really needs to change."
Kate Nash plays the Reading and Leeds festivals, which are held between August 24-26. She also appears in Netfilx series Glow