Exotic Monsters (22/1/21)

Exotic Monsters (22/1/21)

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Music News Releases Singles

Release date: 22nd January 2021
Label: My Big Sister Recordings


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Penfriend, aka music producer, songwriter and multi-disciplinary artist Laura Kidd, presents “Exotic Monsters“.

Sparked by a throwaway phrase from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Exotic Monsters” is a laundry list of asynchronous human needs and desires; a reflection of our increasingly confused, disconnected and polarised lives. A timely reminder of the practice of cultivating gratitude through meditation, the song is an attempt to examine our internalised inconsistencies; the “facts” we pile up on our own backs throughout lives bombarded by airbrushed images and ads for the unattainable baubles we’re informed are essential for true happiness.

Shackled to our phones by big tech companies monetising and eroding our attention spans, feeling increasingly as though we live on a different planet to those we disagree with, chasing likes on social media while forgetting to look after our brains and our hearts…where will this all end? Some days it’s hard to believe late MP Jo Cox’s poignant words, that “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

Addressing this sense of disconnection and depersonalisation, “Exotic Monsters” evokes the menace of “Enjoy The Silence”-era Depeche Mode with a nod to the 80s- Madonna hero worship of Sky Ferreira’s “Everything Is Embarrassing” and the hypnotic synth pop of Sylvan Esso.

To quote Björk, “I’m no fucking Buddhist, but this is enlightenment”.

Fun fact: “Exotic Monsters” features several Creative Commons drum samples created by the European Space Agency, recorded at their European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands. Using sounds from space on a song about feeling disconnected from life on earth just felt wildly appropriate…


Written, produced, performed and recorded by Laura Kidd at The Launchpad, Bristol. Mixed by Dan Austin. Mastered by Katie Tavini. Artwork by Alex Tillbrook, concept by LK.

ESTEC drum samples pk3, pk4, pk6 and pk11 credit: Peter Kirn/CDM/ESA CC BY-SA. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


I try sollipsistic recreation
I crave love without abbreviation
I need time to kiss this cup of coffee
I keep letters from the one who loved me
I will take all the dreams that Hollywood promised me
I want it now

We’re exotic monsters, dead from the waist down How can I be clear?
Gratitude’s the first sign of waking
I won’t go back

Keep a kiss for me
Cos we all fall down under an international sky
Fighting to believe it’ll be all right
I’m on an extrasolar high

I seek narcissistic decoration
I crave soil, warmth, ventilation
I’d like to focus on my silent fiction
I need to kick this dopamine addiction
I dream of being someone’s happy memory I want it all

We’re exotic monsters, dead from the waist down
How can I be clear?
Gratitude’s the first sign of waking
Please don’t keep me here

Keep a kiss for me
Cos we all fall down under an international sky
Fighting to believe it’ll be all right
I’m on an extrasolar high

Keep a kiss for me
Cos we all fall down under an international sky
Fighting to believe it’ll be all right
I’m on an extrasolar high

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Chasing the mountain

Chasing the mountain

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Mindfulness Productivity

Sometimes I wonder why I spend my time in the ways I do. A life’s primary occupation builds up through an infinitesimal series of decisions – what we wanted to be when we grew up, which subjects we chose at school, what the careers advisers told us we could aim for (secretary, in my case), influence from books we read, friends we had, good and bad relationships with good and bad people, exam results, the necessity of earning money to live on, and on and on.

I don’t need or even want to get immediate results from the things I make, but I like to stand back occasionally to get a better view than I’m able to have in my busy day to day life. I’ve never liked the idea of doing things just because I’ve always done them.

I spoke to Bec Hill on my podcast recently about goals and dreams – how we define them, and what we do if we achieve them. She talked about how pursuing a full time career in comedy was The Dream, and once she’d managed that, she didn’t replace it with a new one for a few years, because she was too busy keeping that dream alive. Once she realised, she started setting herself new goals, and because of course the only way of achieving goals is by setting them and working towards them, the wonderful news that she’s just been announced as the host of a new CITV crafting show is no surprise to me. Bec defined her dream, did the work, and now it’s happening. Massive congratulations to her!

Maintaining a career in the arts once you’ve carved one out for yourself is a separate challenge to creating it in the first place, and a lot of work has to go into that, but I do like to remind myself to check in every now and then and take a longer view. What am I trying to achieve with this thing? Am I spending my time wisely? Am I able to keep a roof over my head this month? Ah, but is this part of my daily or weekly work schedule seemingly frivolous but personally enriching? And how about proper time off?

I find it helps me to have solid reasons for why I’m deciding to spend time on something, and if it’s something to be shared, it’s important to have an idea of the effect I’d like it to have on others. I didn’t start thinking about that second part until I started listening to the Creative Pep Talk podcast last year on tour.

After a recommendation by the show’s host Andy J Pizza, I read Seth Godin’s book “This Is Marketing”, in which I learned first and foremost that marketing is NOT advertising, it’s about making a positive change in the world through the things you do, the skills you offer and the things you make and share. I started learning about the idea of “serving your audience / community” by thinking about what your core values are and, in Andy J Pizza’s words, “owning your weird”, and “baking” all of this into what you do, in order to attract likeminded people to your world, people who will get the most from the thing you make because it resonates with them and mirrors their personalities and experiences. It’s a world away from trying to work out what people want to buy and making that – BLARGH. No no no no no.

It was nice to learn that I’d been instinctively doing quite a lot of this stuff throughout my solo music career, but with my new knowledge, I could see how haphazardly I’d been spending my time. I think I know why – my goal to become a full time artist wasn’t clearly defined. I thought a lot about how nice it would be “one day” not to have to work for others, but I also couldn’t imagine that little old me would one day “win the prize” of getting to decide exactly how I spent my days. There are some deep-seated self-confidence issues going on there that would be more suited to a therapy session, but you get the idea.

Spending time thinking more deeply about the ideas I’ve been learning about has enabled me to take a huge leap forward in my life as an artist running a creative business. The reason I’m writing about it here is that I know it doesn’t only apply to careers where people make things and tout them on the internet.

I don’t think a lot of us give ourselves the time and space we need and deserve for self reflection, to ask ourselves simple yet difficult questions like “what are my core values?” and “are they reflected in the things I spend my time doing, both in and outside of work?”. These can be very challenging ideas, and for many reasons we can find ourselves in situations that really don’t fit, but are necessary to sustain our finances.

It’s important for me to keep my goals and my reasons for pursuing a project in mind so that when I feel tired, or low, or like everything I do is frivolous and pointless, I can easily remind myself of them. I need these reasons, that aren’t linked to short term ideas of success like money, or followers, so that on the occasions I do step back and wonder why I’m putting so much time and energy into something, I can remind myself, and keep going.

I started reading “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Victor Frankl this week, subtitled “the classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust”. In the preface, Frankl writes “I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run – in the long run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”.

I’m very happy with the concept of defining my own measures of success, unrelated to finances or acclaim. It’s a topic I’ve spoken about at length during various panel discussions, seminars and talks to students as a visiting guest over the years, and something I regularly ask the guests on my podcast.

So, what struck me most about Frankl’s quote – aside from the obvious incredible generosity of spirit, coming as it does from someone who lived through such horrors – is the first line – “listen to what your conscience commands you to do…” – that mysterious, tantalising “call of adventure”, as Joseph Campbell would describe it in his “Hero’s Journey” framework, the elusive thing that gives us the enthusiasm, energy and drive to do something, make something, learn about something. We can’t put our finger on why we’re interested in that thing, but we are, and there’s so much adventure in indulging that, putting in the minutes and the hours, starting to break a big dream down into manageable chunks, working gradually towards a goal and being open to whatever exciting avenues open up to us along the way.

In “Art Matters”, Neil Gaiman writes about your goal as being a huge mountain in the distance. It’s not necessarily clear how to get to the mountain, but you can tell if you’re getting closer or further away with every decision you make. Since reading that book, I’ve practised asking myself questions, whenever something comes along to pique my interest, or I’m invited to do something I hadn’t planned on – will doing this take me closer to the mountain, or send me further away? Is this thing a diversion, or a way of getting closer to where I need and want to be?

Are all diversions bad or worthless? Of course not. But we have to set our own priorities. It’s up to us to define our own mountains, and there can be many that sit under different categories of our lives – a health and fitness mountain, a creative mountain, a “one day I’ll do X” mountain.

Just under two years ago I eloped to Canada with my beau to get married by a waterfall in a mountain range just outside Vancouver. It was glorious. The day after the wedding we embarked on an epic driving trip that took us all the way to Banff and back via stops at Kamloops, Vernon, Revelstoke, Lake Louise and Canmore.

As we left Vancouver on day 1, I remember my jaw dropping as I gazed at the most beautiful mountains I’d ever seen. I couldn’t imagine anything more lovely, and yet as we drove, they got prettier and prettier.

I used to think that I didn’t need to reach the mountain, because it was too far away and the journey towards it was so beautiful anyway – and it is – but I now know there are always other beautiful mountains to aim towards, and only by taking those steps will I ever learn how to keep trying to reach them.

So – what’s your mountain, and what’s your first step towards it?

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining my mailing list.

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – join The Correspondent’s Club on a free or paid tier to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer”are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

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Inspiration is for amateurs

Inspiration is for amateurs

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Mindfulness Process Productivity

The thing that’s got me through the ups and downs, the fear, the uncertainty, the confusion, the anger, the frustration and the sheer bizarreness of 2020 is the daily routine I established for myself in early January.

I spent the last chunk of 2019 hopping from tour to tour to tour, winding down a long running music project, wondering what to do next, and how. I played 35 gigs around the UK, France and Germany between September and Christmas. There were ups and downs; some great shows, some awful ones and, as always, a hell of a lot of travelling time to ponder life, the world and my place in it.

I realised that, above anything, I was craving structure, routine, something I could be in control of. Time to develop ideas, time to reflect, time to get fitter, healthier and happier. I’ve always been a bit of a productivity nerd, reading all the major works on the topic throughout my years of freelancing, trying to learn how to run a small business and, in more recent years, how to be a better, nicer boss to my one employee (me!), with varying results.

For me “productivity” isn’t about being the most efficient machine possible, squeezing every last drop of usefulness out of yourself in an effort to “kill it” or “smash it”. If, like me, you’re someone with a lot of ideas and a burning desire to make or do things, getting organised is essential – however you do it.

Over the years I’ve tried different ways of trying to be able to make steady progress with long term goals while having manageable and enjoyable daily and weekly plans that incorporate exercise, reflection and introspection, deep work on the things I care about and healthy food that gives me the energy I need to have the most pleasant day possible. This is the ideal and, while I’ve occasionally managed it, I’ve often felt like the classic duck on the pond analogy – giving off the impression everything is calm and under control, all the while paddling wildly just beneath the surface.

I love the fresh start of a New Year, so in early January I set up some new daily routines for myself, started The Artist’s Way for the third time (and actually completed it, woop!), got serious about being consistent with exercise and meditation, and almost immediately started feeling fresher, clearer headed and more galvanised than ever to make my best work possible. On bad days, I trundled through the hours, tried my best and then moved on. On days when it all seemed utterly pointless, I tried to do a little exercise anyway, knowing that every deposit of good faith I put into myself would do *something* positive, whether I felt it immediately or not.

So, what’s my secret? Planning, showing up, trying my best, tracking my progress and then showing up again tomorrow. That’s it.

There’s something about drawing a tick on a piece of paper that just makes me happy. I get a jolt of satisfaction that makes me want to keep going so I can do it again. Where the dopamine hits we get from seeing notification alerts on our phones can actually make us feel worse, there’s something wholesome about crossing off a task in my bullet journal. Knowing that I’m one step closer to reaching a goal is part of it, but I think the knowledge that I’m living an intentional life full of useful things is also a big driver.

I’ve been keeping a bullet journal for a few years, and would highly recommend it (I use it alongside Trello for longer term goals and moving tasks around easily, Evernote for storing information, Bear for writing without distractions and Google Calendar for scheduling things), but how I do things isn’t perfect, or fixed, and I’m always interested in tweaking and improving.

Last week I happened across this video by Thomas Frank about habit tracking. At the start of the year, I had added columns in my bullet journal for tracking exercise, meditation, drinking enough water, taking my vitamins, stuff like that, all of which really helped me be continue to be consistent with all the ingredients of that happy, healthy life I was aiming for.

The key difference between my old system and this new one is the accountability aspect. If I didn’t manage to meditate three times a week in June, I just shrugged and thought, “I have to try harder to do that next week”. This month, every time I don’t manage to achieve one of my small goals, I have to write down why that happened.

One of my July goals is to get to bed by 10pm (so I can read for longer!) and another is to get up at 7.30am to exercise. The latter I can usually manage, the former I find really hard. So far this month I only have three + signs in my “go to bed by 10pm” row, and by the middle of the month when I make the next tracker page to take me to the end of July, I might choose to revise that goal, if it’s clearly not working, or have a think about how to achieve it, if it’s something I still really care about trying to achieve. I like this. Instead of feeling like I’m failing at a simple thing I think will improve my life, I can look at whether it’s actually achievable given everything else I’m doing, and adjust it for the next batch of 15 days if necessary.

It’s easy to feel like we have no control over our futures, but we all have at least some control about how we spend some of our minutes, hours and days. I work in the nebulous art of translating feelings and ideas into audio that moves other people, which is why it’s so appealing to me to be able to do concrete things every day that have an effect on how I feel, and therefore how well I’m able to move through my day, working on the things I have decided are important.

Getting back into running has been one of the best things I’ve managed this year, because it shows me that’s true every single week. Every time I run up my local steep hill I’m able to take a few more steps before stopping to walk for a minute, and every week I consistently run twice a week (21 in a row so far, yay!), I can write that down and feel proud of myself just for showing up, again and again.

You may not be able to run, or want to, but I’m sure you could find a little something to do for yourself every week, or every Monday and Friday, or every day, that you can feel good about ticking off each time, and that will show you what you’re capable of as time goes on.

It’s not about being the best at something, it’s about showing up, trying your best and then doing it again. I feel the same way about making albums. I could make the best album in the entire universe, and I still wouldn’t have any control over how it’s received in the world. Once my work is “out there”, all I can do is go back up to my studio and make some more.

I choose to keep turning up because, as photographer Chuck Close so wisely said, “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

Over to you:

What could you do towards your big goal next month?
What could you do towards your big goal next week?
What could you do towards your big goal today?

Let me know in the comments. I believe in you x

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining my mailing list.

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – join The Correspondent’s Club on a free or paid tier to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer”are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

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Beware Of Darkness, online gig this Sat + why I’m launching a podcast

Beware Of Darkness, online gig this Sat + why I’m launching a podcast

Creativity Letterbox Mindfulness Music News Podcast Process

Art by @grandfunkrev

This morning I got up early to do yoga in the living room before walking the dogs round the block in the blazing sunshine. On returning home I was overcome with wistfulness and felt compelled to put on George Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness”. By the end of the first verse I had burst into hot tears.

I don’t know what exactly prompted me to find that particular song today; I knew I needed to listen to George, and I knew I needed to head to “All Things Must Pass”, then of course “Beware Of Darkness” was just perfect. There’s something about certain pieces of music that enable a sort of metaphysical circuit closing, they act as the missing connector between the things I need to feel and the means to feel them by unabashedly sobbing into my overnight oats.

Watch out now, take care 
Beware of falling swingers 
Dropping all around you 
The pain that often mingles 
In your fingertips 
Beware of darkness

Watch out now, take care 
Beware of the thoughts that linger 
Winding up inside your head 
The hopelessness around you 
In the dead of night

Beware of sadness 
It can hit you 
It can hurt you 
Make you sore and what is more 
That is not what you are here for

Watch out now, take care 
Beware of soft shoe shufflers 
Dancing down the sidewalks 
As each unconscious sufferer 
Wanders aimlessly 
Beware of Maya

Watch out now, take care 
Beware of greedy leaders 
They take you where you should not go 
While Weeping Atlas Cedars 
They just want to grow, grow and grow 
Beware of darkness

Reading the lyrics properly for the first time, I’m struck by how spookily appropriate they are today. Isn’t the brain an amazing thing? Thank you brain, and thank you George, for your beautiful songs.

Sitting at my desk now with the sun streaming through the attic window, birds chirping melodiously out the front of the house and perched above me on the roof, I feel lucky…but also a little lost. Life feels a lot more chaotic than it did a week ago, and I’m finding it hard not to let the UK news permeate my protective forcefield at the moment.

I’d love to hear what your go-to songs are for feeling your feelings, whether they’re happy or sad (my cheer up tune is “Sexx Laws” by Beck, btw). Let me know in the comments!


The first Penfriend gig ever, hooray! This will be for members of my Correspondent’s Club (DigiPal members and upwards), streaming live from 4pm UK (GMT+1) this Saturday 30th May. If you’d like to attend, just pick your tier from the options on this page, and remember you can up- or downgrade your monthly membership at any time.

In May, eligible Correspondents received a bunch of member perks including analogue welcome packs in the post, two free studio recordings, one live recording and a members-only podcast episode plus access to our delightful forum, which has fast become my favourite place to hang out online. We already have our own weekly Spotify playlist, with members taking turns to introduce their favourite songs to the group, and I’m interested to see where this is going.

Please browse free and paid monthly/annual tiers if you’re interested, but know that it’s a privilege and a delight to send things out to you, paying guest or no. Thank you for making this connection with me.


My weekly podcast series “Attention Engineer” launches next Wednesday 3rd June with a bumper crop of three episodes at once!

Visit this page to listen to the trailer and choose your preferred link to subscribe so the episodes pop up in your preferred podcast listening platform as soon as they’re published.

should be on all the major platforms by now, but please do let me know if I’ve missed one!

If you’re new to podcasts, the main place to go is Apple Podcasts, or you can listen on my blog every week if you prefer.


I’ve been on quite a journey over the past couple of years, exploring my relationship with social media. The internet has undoubtedly helped me find my people, but I needed to step back from this hyperconnected, information-saturated world to protect my own happiness, check in with myself and see if I wanted to keep making music.

The answer was YES, and that checking in process led to the idea for the Penfriend project and The Correspondent’s Club. So, how does “Attention Engineer” fit in?

My podcast is an attempt to slow down, go deeper and focus on the things that are most important to me in a thoughtful and mindful way. I’ve met so many interesting people over my music making years, and opportunities for a proper conversation are very rare, so I wanted to create this space to us all to stop for a while and reflect on why we do what we do, and what it’s all for.

My only criterion for asking someone to be a guest is a deep respect and enthusiasm for their work. I’m fascinated by the magic of the creative process, and always intrigued as to how other artists balance things like touring and home life, creative introspection and happiness.

I have the Plato quote “A life which is not examined is not worth living” scribbled on a Post-it note on my wall. As someone who embraces the positive changes that regular quiet reflection has brought to my life in the past two years, this is my contribution towards thoughtfully examining the whys and wherefores of this strange and wonderful thing that connects us all on such a deep emotional level.


Alongside the artist to artist interviews, I’ll be shining a light on YOU – the audience. Without you we would be nothing, truly, so I’m looking for volunteers to answer questions about your musical passions. This will be in recorded audio format (not video), for inclusion in future episodes.

Please email me if you’re interested in having your voice included.

BIG LOVE, have a great week. 
Laura xxxx

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining my mailing list.

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – join The Correspondent’s Club on a free or paid tier to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer”are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

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Let me tell you a story…

Let me tell you a story…

Creativity Homepage Feature Letterbox Music News Process

When I was a little girl, one of my favourite possessions was a shoebox that I filled up with bits of paper, envelopes and leaflets gathered from wherever I could find them. I called it my Post Office, and every now and then I’d take the box from under the bed and pour my treasure out on the floor. I’m hazy on the details, but I remember loving to “play Post Office”, which I imagine meant sorting the assorted paper into different piles and then putting them back in the box.

Later, somehow, I ended up writing letters to children I’d never met, who lived far away – Svetlana in Belarus and Alastair in Derbyshire. It was utterly magical to send my closely written pages to people I would never talk to in person, carefully copying the unfamiliar Russian words onto Svet’s envelopes well enough for her to receive my missives.

It was to Alastair I first proudly declared my aim to be a songwriter when I grew up, having never written a single song, and knowing nothing whatsoever about how to do so. Letter writing predated those heady days when I started to discover my favourite bands by some years, but both activities were a youthful statement of independent thought at an age where actions were dictated by adults.

As I grew older I gathered more people to write to. My family moved every three years, so there were always friends left behind, and in my early teens I wrote to kids I met on school trips, boys at other schools, even friends at the same school as me. We challenged each other to fill up more and more pages and somehow still had enough left to say to talk on the phone for hours in the evening. The freedom I found to express myself in letters is one of my fondest memories of childhood.

On my journey into adulthood, switching to email and blogging and Twitter felt intuitive, but my love for words written by hand on paper never left me. As I released music over the years, getting to “play Post Office” more and more regularly, my role as the maker and sender of things became clear. Writing songs and dispatching them into the world, in whatever format, is a natural progression from the innate desire I had to connect with others from a young age.

I’m delighted to invite you to watch this short video. See you on the other side x

Photo by Carol Jeng.

THANK YOU for visiting my website!

+ Get FREE music immediately by joining The Correspondent’s Club (free and paid tiers available).

+ I send a thoughtful weekly email every Thursday – choose the Freewheeler tier or upwards to receive it.

+ New episodes of my music podcast “Attention Engineer”are released every Wednesday – visit this page to find out more and subscribe via your favourite podcast platform.

+ You can also follow me around the web, on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Have a lovely day xo

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