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You Heard It Here First: Bat For Lashes on how moving to LA inspired her new album Lost Girls

Every week Stylist shines a light on a female musician you need to be listening to. This week we talk to Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes about how, after a short hiatus, the beauty of a new city brought her back to music.

Natasha Khan, better known by her stage name Bat For Lashes, is living the American dream. “My new house is a low bungalow like the summer camp houses in Dirty Dancing,” she tells Stylist. “It’s got swing chairs on the porch and little lights hanging down, it’s so sweet. I’m having a whole new experience.”

Though she was raised in Hertfordshire and lived amid the bustle of central London for seven years, Khan decided to up sticks to Los Angeles for a change of pace. And her latest album, like so many great records, was inspired by the ensuing love affair.

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Lost Girls came out of the romance of LA, falling in love with the peachy sunsets and driving around at night, the place has such a cinematic feel,” Khan says.

And the same can be said of her new music – no surprise since it started out as the soundtrack to a horror film she’s been writing about a vampire girl gang. “I’m doing a script-writing course at UCLA in the evenings, I’m almost done with the film,” she says. “But I didn’t realise that in the process I’d been absorbing so much inspiration, imagery and narratives and that just naturally poured out into music.”

A critical darling – three of her four previous albums have been nominated for the Mercury Prize – Bat For Lashes’ synthy pop has always been utterly unique yet universally accessible.

With her dressing gown on and a cup of tea in hand, Khan spoke to Stylist from her dreamhouse in LA to discuss Björk, Bake Off, and how she shaped her signature sound.

The first single I bought…
Was a 7-inch of True Blue by Madonna from WH Smith. I loved it so much, I remember singing along in the mirror.

The first gig I went to…
Was Michael Jackson’s Bad tour at Wembley Stadium when I was nine. My mum had me when she was 21 so she was only 30 when he came town, and she was a huge fan. It was really overwhelming and incredible. He was probably the size of a pea, but the roar of the crowd was just amazing.

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The first time I knew music was my future…
Was when I was 19, I was travelling with my first boyfriend in America. We were staying in an old youth hostel in San Francisco where met a bunch of vagabonds and travellers and a lot of them were musicians, so we formed a band. We’d improvise in the main hall while people were having dinner – I joined in because I was harbouring this secret that I wanted to do music. 

The first time I sang everyone was like, “You have to do this for real, you have such a beautiful voice.” I was shy and thought I was crap so it was a real recognition moment. That’s when I decided to go home and study music at Brighton.

The first time I realised I was good at what I do…
Was when we did our first proper show at Scala in London. I’d always had that fear of being found out, being an imposter. Then at the end of the show my manager told me Björk was there and wanted to say hello. She was one of my all-time heroes so I remember just thinking, ‘Wow, this is different, this is something else.’

The first time I performed…
Was when I was 17 and my boyfriend’s band invited me on stage to sing Oh Happy Day. Me and my boyfriend sang it together in harmony; I was sat on the edge of the stage with a cigarette and my head down, gripping the microphone for dear life.

The first thing I do in the morning…
Is try to be very LA and do a celery juice, but most mornings I fail at that and make a cup of tea. Then I take Janice – my rescue dog from Mexico – for a walk. She always wakes me up with a paw on my shoulder like, ‘Please, I want to go out.’ She’s very polite.

The first thing I do when I get home…
Is put away my groceries and hang out on the sofa with my boyfriend. We watch Monty Don’s gardening shows and The Great British Bake Off – I cry all the time when people get voted off. It’s not very rock ’n’ roll is it?

The first thing I heard this morning…
Was the drilling next door. LA seems to be a building site at the moment, there are so many houses going up. It reminds me of what happened to Shoreditch and Williamsburg.

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The first thing I’ll spend money on…
Is shoes and clothes and make-up. I just love sensual things like nice sheets and face creams – you know when you just go to Liberty and treat yourself to a really nice Diptyque candle or something.

The first person who inspired me…
Was Joni Mitchell. Two of my cousins came to live with us when I was younger and brought loads of albums. They played Blue by Joni Mitchell and I remember trying to sing along with her voice. It’s a really good vocal exercise because she has so many nuances and notes and flies from really high registers to really low ones.

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The first female artist you should go and listen to after reading this…
Is Mary Lattimore. She’s a harpist and just a magical being on this planet – she’s so unique, I’ve never met anyone like her. She creates these sound washes of glissando harps and it’s like the sound of heaven.

The new Bat For Lashes album Lost Girls is out now. Her US tour starts on 10 February 2020; batforlashes.com

Images: Logan White

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