Interview: Bat For Lashes
Leonard Cohen said, “In dreams the truth is learned that all good works are done in the absence of a caress,” and in this absence, Natasha Khan became Bat for Lashes, and then her foil in Pearl. Channeling through a world where things “are not always real, more mystical and magical,” on her new album, Two Suns, we follow Bat for Lashes as she wisps us away to the highest point on a crystal castle, and down to the darkest low of a sea. On this journey she finds a knight and lover in Daniel, and confronts a blonde femme fatale in Pearl. “Two” must be emphasized in describing Two Suns, a story that explores the duality of life, love, and meaning.
*all photos courtesy of Victoria Smith
After her performance at Outside Lands, Natasha Khan is dressed in a white t-shirt that has an image of a big black cat—fitting (and ironic) for someone consumed in mysticism and symbolism. Underneath her right eye are gold sparkles, which accentuate the golden pin that holds together her white feathered head dress. Home for Khan is near the beach of Briton, which she describes as similar to San Francisco. It was in San Francisco that Khan met “people that mirrored my own desires,” and helped inspired the self-proclaimed hippy to become a musician. For Two Suns her inspiration came from the “whole mythology developed from real life. Going to New York, trying to find my knight, and being pulled across the cosmos and landscapes, and meeting a lot of strange characters along the way.” Even within our casual conversation, she is able to comfortably embed metaphors.
“Two,” is important, because many of the metaphors and relationships can be interpreted two ways. The first track on Two Suns “Glass,” quotes the book of Song of Solomon, a move which suggests the album’s existentialism. Initially this quote can appears to be a reference to the developing love story between Bat For Lashes and Daniel, but there is also the biblical implications of a relationship between human beings and god. As the story of unfolds, Bat For Lashes falls in love on “Daniel,” and struggles with Pearl on “Siren Song.” Even as individual tracks these songs are best understood as compliments. Daniel is the knight in shining armor and Pearl is the proclaimed “femme fatale” who wants closeness, while also being self-destructive. Together the two songs suggest the underlying relationships of Daniel & Pearl, Bat For Lashes & Daniel, and Pearl & Bat For Lashes, highlighting the issues of love, betrayal, uncertainty and struggle.
As we search for answers to questions we can’t understand, some scour books, others choose to explore, or devote themselves to religion. Natasha Khan finds understanding in fables. “I really like the idea of how storytelling tells things about people through the use of metaphors,” Khan says. Khan has always been a dreamer. When she was young, she would sometimes get in trouble for dreaming. Both her albums, Furs and Gold and Two Suns are complete stories, a relic amongst popularized albums weighted with singles and filler.
Khan tells me that the ability for listeners to download only singles these days puts pressure on artists’ creativity. As record companies continue to push for singles and ringtones, because that’s what garners attention, artists like Khan are forced to produce radio friendly tracks. She says she’s won most of the battles over creativity, but the pressure to produce timely is the hardest. “Fans need to support their artists,” Khan says, “I’m not completely rich, I just want to carry on making music.” If CD sales continue to dwindle, she says she might make individual tracks with a film that accompany it, which listeners would “have to see” she says with a smile.
Her smile is warm, and as she ponders her responses it’s evident that nothing she says is meaningless. Asked if she believes in reincarnation, she responds, “Through your DNA, it’s not just your DNA, you don’t just get born with features from your parents, but if cell’s have memory, then these are actual memories. I felt like we are sometimes born with memories that go from generation to generation.” Let it be known that in my past DNA, I was the knight, and she was my queen.