With two Ivor Novello wins and multiple Mercury Prize nominations to her name, we put it to the critically-adored Bat For Lashes that with the release of her upcoming fifth album ‘Lost Girls’, she could be entering ‘institution’ territory.
“Basically I’m old,” laughs Natasha Khan. “Well I have a body of work, definitely. I think it’s been 13 years that I’ve been releasing albums – plus I did a side album called ‘Sexwitch’, so maybe it’s six albums. But I feel that this one is my most fun and liberated. I’ve been doing it so long that I have no inhibitions! I’ve just let go.”
Watch our full video interview with Bat For Lashes above
Across her body of work covering fairytale glam and star-gazing pop, her work as a director and screenwriter has here found her produce her most cinematic and joyous work to date. Set against the backdrop of her new home of Los Angeles, ‘Lost Girls’ sees Khan exploring her memories of the halcyon days of ’80s movies.
“Moving to California definitely inspired, well not a new sound, but it brought out some aspects of my musicality that I hadn’t really pushed before,” she tells NME. “Moving to LA, I felt like I was living inside all of these Steven Spielberg films and ’80s kids’ films that I loved so much. It started to bring back all of these synth arpeggios, beats, Madonna, The Lost Boys and things like that.
As well the filmic landscape and hotter climate of her new home, Khan also enjoyed the “liberation” of finishing her previous 10 year record deal with Parlophone, which she says freed her up to “just make anything”.
“With most albums I’ll start them as a film idea then write a script, a narrative or a story, then I’ll flesh out the soundtrack in my mind and that becomes the album,” Khan reveals. “It happened again with this one, but this time I was talking to production companies while working on a feature-length script for the story. However the music comes so quickly and easily sometimes that it just becomes an album. I’m still working on it, and there will eventually be a debut feature film.”
So when it comes to ’80s films, is this album more John Hughes or The Dark Crystal?
“There’s definitely the romance aspect of the amazing ’80s rom-coms, but I think my genre is definitely more of the phenomenal and the alien. I love Poltergeist, I love E.T., I love The Goonies. I love The Karate Kid which isn’t phenomenal but it IS phenomenal. The Never Ending Story, Flight Of The Navigator, all amazing. There’s a little group that I’ve held really close to my heart for a long time.”
Do you feel that CGI has ruined modern kids’ movies?
“It has. In the old days they used to paint backdrops and have sets. E.T. was like a big brown animated alien that was really rubbery and strange, but he had a soul and he was real! There’s something about things becoming such a slick and massive production that takes away from a lot of the homemade DIY creativity. I read a lot about Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch. Spielberg said that the reason that Jaws was so successful was because they had to make an animatronic great white shark and it was so bad that in the end they just used the fin. They never showed the whole shark. That leaves so much more to the audience’s imagination. You’re imagining something terrifying. Just being minimal can be really magical.
The music on ‘Lost Girls’ seems very much in the real of Prince, Madonna, Depeche Mode and David Bowie. Did you ever feel like letting go and going full ‘St Elmo’s Fire’?
“Definitely! Even if I wanted to go full power ballad, crying in the vocal booth, I just can’t help it. I have to have darkness and weirdness in there. It’s just my taste. ‘So Good’ on this album is the clearest early-80s Madonna dance song. I still couldn’t do the full like ‘YEAAAH’ ’80s thing. Maybe I should have worn a full leather body suit and permed my hair! That might have helped. Dry smoke and netting!”
So what’s the plot of this magical adventure?
“It’s basically about a girl called Nikki who is obsessed with alien phenomena and sightings and weird things happening. She meets a boy who lives in this town that is being terrorised by a gang of mystical girls who ride bikes and come from the desert. Together they do this kind of Mulder and Scully investigation trying to find out who these girls are and where they come from.”
But then they find trouble?
“They’re driving around L.A. and they fall in love. Nikki ends up being captured by the girls. They think they’re hunting for the girls when actually, they’re hunting them. It’s her journey of being whisked away and what powers she gets from being with this gang. The soundtrack is one to falling in love in L.A. with peachy sunsets, driving along and making out in the car. But then there’s the shadow of The Lost Girls who have that very ’80s vampiric, dark, sinister element.”
Have you ever seen an alien?
“I’ve never seen an alien, but I have had a poltergeist experience that was quite scary! I was recording in a studio in deepest, darkest Wales. They put me in this weird, small outbuilding because they thought it would be nice for me to have my own space to sleep but I was terrified. It was pitch-black and in the middle of the night I just sat up with a start because there was a massive crash.”
And it made you believe in ghosts?
“This speaker hi-fi system in this deep shelf was suddenly on the other side of the room with all of its wires pulled tort. It was like a horror film. I just tried to wake up my producer at three in the morning to come and get me. I’m not usually that scared by that was unexplainable.”
Watch our full interview with Bat For Lashes at the top of the page where Khan also opens up about her personal relationship with her characters, what to expect from her new live show, her hopes to turn to “dark, warehouse, electronica” for her next album, other soundtrack work, her working relationship with Beck, plans for a children’s book, and how she’ll be approaching the next decade as “the happiest she’s ever been” amid the rising anxiety of the rest of the world.
Bat For Lashes releases ‘Lost Girls’ on Friday September 6.