Bat For Lashes
The English singer-songwriter embraces the desert, the city, and The Karate Kid
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English nursery school teacher Natasha Khan transformed herself into Bat For Lashes with a splashy debut album, 2006's Fur And Gold, chocked full of dark, haunting ballads that felt plucked from some bygone era. The record brought Khan out of the classroom to radio waves and stages around the world. Three years later, she's returned with Two Suns, a richly crafted sophomore effort that continues making use of tribal rhythms and ethereal vocals, but welcomes stomping dance beats and synths. Just ahead of an appearance on Thursday night at Bowery Ballroom, Khan spoke to Decider about campfire sing-alongs, planets crashing into one another, and The Karate Kid.
Decider: You’ve just recently released Two Suns. How does it feel to be playing songs off the new album out on the road?
Natasha Khan: It’s really good. I’m quite enjoying the difference between bringing in songs from the old album and having it fit in with the new one. It feels like a much more eclectic mixture and quite a lot of dynamics happening now. The new one is so dancey for the band and quite tribal and loud. It feels like the delicate, magical stuff goes really well from the last record with all of the more physical elements of this new record, and it makes for a good sound.
D: The video for your first single “Daniel” has a very direct connection to the film The Karate Kid.
NK: [Laughs.] Yes!
D: Did you originally intend for the “Daniel” of the song to be a direct reference to Ralph Macchio’s Daniel from The Karate Kid?
NK: I kind of wanted to leave it up to people to decide. I guess, for me, it’s more a symbol of that time and those types of films, so using his name is a kind of reminiscent of that feeling. I didn’t want it to be exclusively about him because I think it’s deeper than that. I think there’s other themes in there that you can relate to. But I did call it “Daniel” because of him.
D: Are there other films from that era that also inspire you?
NK: Definitely. There are a lot of films, like The Goonies, Labyrinth, and The Wizard Of Oz and, I mean, they’re quite eclectic, but those were films that I was experiencing at that age and that were quite amazing. Also E.T. I really like Steven Spielberg.
D: You wrote and recorded portions of Two Suns in very scenic parts of California, like Big Sur and Joshua Tree. How did that come about?
NK: I usually write back at home in Brighton, but I did do some field recordings in Joshua Tree of friends singing by the campfire, and then we embedded those recordings into the tracks. I also did some field recordings in New York, like recording the J and the Z lines from Brooklyn into Manhattan—these sounds that are part of America and the places I’ve been to that I captured and put into the record. In Joshua Tree, I also made dance films in the desert and documented a lot of the visuals as inspiration, but then I would bring that home to England and write in my bedroom in Brighton, which is kind of where I kind of write most of my music.
D: What is it about the desert that connects with you and your music?
NK: I think it’s the fact that I was living in New York quite a lot of the time, but I grew up in the countryside, so I was finding it quite intense to be in the city all the time. I have good friends in L.A. and San Francisco, and I’ve always loved driving around. Big Sur seemed really cool, and so I was like, “Where is the nearest desert? I need some big expanse of nature.” And I think it just really inspired me. The album is already on that level where things are more cosmic and tribal and quite wild, and there’s a kind of solitude about being out there that helps you reflect on all the madness that’s going on. I think all the landscapes inspired the record in different ways, but it’s a lot about journeying I guess—about traveling between extremes.
D: You’ve said that you consider Two Suns to be “an essay in duality.” Can you expand on that a bit more?
NK: The two suns are like my metaphor for two lovers in a relationship, or two big planets kind of orbiting each other and crashing into each other and coming together and moving apart and creating new things, or, you know, the two sides of your personality, or night and day. There was a lot about trying to cope with the idea of duality and separation and unity, and the struggle that you feel as a human being and being connected to everything, but also ultimately being separate. I found that there was a lot of the number two occurring thematically throughout the record, and it was the second record. There were things kind of happening in my life that were pointing to that number and that kind of idea.
D: How did making Two Suns compare to Fur And Gold?
NK: It was totally different because I made Fur And Gold in my bedroom in Brighton, and I was a nursery school teacher and it was a very kind of internal, private process. I was working with my imagination—really conjuring stories and ideas—and it was very quiet. Two Suns is totally the opposite because it’s all about my interaction with the outside world, with friends or lovers or other musicians or different landscapes. It's kind of about being intimate as well by living in Brooklyn, and the whole kind of music that’s been coming out of there the last few years. It was much more in the world and quite extreme experience and very much kind of documenting the last couple of years of traveling back and forth and being a bit crazy—not really having a home or anything. So, very, very different.