Bat For Lashes: Pop Songs Bred Of The Visual And Unusual U.K. musician Natasha Khan, better known as Bat For Lashes, uses a fusion of keyboards and harps to generate tribal beats and electronica. She speaks on the uncommon sounds and ideas behind her acclaimed new album, Two Suns.

Pop Songs Bred Of The Visual And Unusual

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(Soundbite of song, "Daniel")


Magical, mystical and fantastic are just a few of the ways to describe the performances of the musician/artist known as Bat For Lashes.

(Soundbite of song, "Daniel")

Ms. NATASHA KHAN (Musician): (Singing) Daniel, when I first saw you, I knew that you had the flame in your heart.

STEWART: Bat for Lashes is the pseudonym for a British kindergarten schoolteacher turned professional singer Natasha Khan. Khan's music is a fusion of piano and harps playing tribal beats and electronica.

(Soundbite of song, "Daniel")

Ms. KHAN: (Singing) When I run in the dark, Daniel, to a place that's worse.

STEWART: In 2007, her debut album "Fur and Gold" earned glowing reviews from both sides of the Atlantic, as well as from a certain Tom York of the band Radiohead. She eventually toured with the band. And now she's out on her own tour, which is why Natasha Khan, Bat for Lashes, joins us from Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us during your tour.

Ms. KHAN: That's okay. Hi.

STEWART: Hi. We heard the song "Daniel" in that intro, and there's this great sound of electric strings midway through the song.

(Soundbite of song, "Daniel")

STEWART: Can you tell us what you're playing and how many of the instruments you played on the track?

Ms. KHAN: I played quite a lot of the instruments on the track - lots of different synthesizers and the bit that you're talking about is actually a friend of mine called Kathman(ph). He plays the viola. And then underneath there's a string-based synthesizer that copies the line that she does, so it gives a bit more of an unusual sound.

(Soundbite of song, "Daniel")

Ms. KHAN: (Singing) Goodbye bed, with my arms around your neck, into our love the tears crept, just catch in the eye of a storm.

STEWART: I am going to ask a few personal questions, I hope that's okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KHAN: That's fine.

STEWART: Your father's from Pakistan and your mother's British. How much of each culture did you embrace growing up, and do we hear either particularly in your music?

Ms. KHAN: Well, when I was little, I grew up in a place called Hertfordshire, which is just near London, but out in the country, and I visited Pakistan in the summers to go and see my family on my dad's side. And I experienced quite unusual events out there, like sacrifices of animals and strange, crazy markets with little birds that were all dyed in different neon colors. And at nighttime I'd go to sleep and hear prayers being sung in the mosques.

So, there was a very kind of magical, ritualistic, exotic element to my childhood, and that was really offset by being back at home in England, which really is my cultural main influence, I'd say. But I think growing up with (unintelligible), and fairytales, and butterflies and all of those kind of English archetypal things, I think has perhaps influenced my work more.

STEWART: This is an important question for our listeners who are just learning about you, why did you pick the pseudonym Bat for Lashes?

Ms. KHAN: My motives were just because I studied music with visual art, and sound, and photography, and illustration and a lot of different art mediums, and I really wanted a name that could encompass all of those things and, you know, be like an umbrella under which I could kind of explore lots of different creative things.

And I felt if I just called it Natasha Khan, it was kind of - would be just linked to me, you know, too personally, I suppose. And I wanted to keep my creative stuff and my personal stuff a little bit separate. I felt like that name kind of, although it doesn't really mean anything in English, I suppose, it does conjure up a lot of imagery, which is similar to the kind of work I make.

STEWART: The song "Glass" has in its lyrics the title of your record: To be made of glass when two suns are shining, the battle becomes blinding. And with two suns spinning at two different speeds was born a hot white diamond burning through the rainbow.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KHAN: When you read it back like that it sounds so epic. It's just little me with my notepad trying to come with a good story.

(Soundbite of song, "Glass")

Ms. KHAN: (Singing) Went over the sea, what did I find? A thousand crystal towers, a hundred emerald cities. And the hand of the watchman in the night sky…

It's basically the story of me traveling across the sea and coming to a big city that's made completely out of crystal and glass like the Emerald City, and that's New York. And I see that there's these watchmen in the towers and they're all pointing to this beautiful knight and he's made completely of glass. And I fall in love with him and because he's so beautiful he has a big sun in his chest that shines brighter and brighter the closer I get to him, but it eventually becomes blinding 'cause he's made of glass.

(Soundbite of song, "Glass")

Ms. KHAN: (Singing) And I tried to hold him, I tried for the creed. I'll make a suit of colors to stop the blinding mirrors. Sew a cape of red and gold, stifle up the being, with the perfect armor, with the perfect dream. To be made of glass…

STEWART: All right, I have to do a little Internet rumor control. There's a song called "Moon and Moon," is that the name of your ex-boyfriend's band?

Ms. KHAN: It is, yeah. It's kind of an ode to him and being separated from him.

(Soundbite of song, "Moon and Moon")

Ms. KHAN: (Singing) Lover, when you don't lay with me, I'm a huntress for a husband lost at sea…

The chorus is calling moon and moon and it was like a howl, almost like a wolf howling, you know, to the moon and hoping that he was seeing the moon at the same time and howling back.

(Soundbite of song, "Moon and Moon")

Ms. KHAN: (Singing) Calling moon and moon. Shoot that big bad hand. It'll drag me to your door…

STEWART: The duality on the record is obvious, even when you look at the packaging of the CD, because on the front cover you look like Natasha Khan that most people know, and on the back you're wearing a platinum blonde wig and sort of a laced body stocking. And that's your other personality on the record, an alter-ego named Pearl.

Ms. KHAN: Yeah.

STEWART: Does Pearl go with you on tour?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KHAN: She doesn't come out on tour. She's a little bit too, I don't know, fragile for that. Pearl, I wouldn't say she's my alter-ego, I'd say she's an aspect or a character that features on the record. And she's very much influenced by Cindy Sherman photography, Diane Arbus photography, Andy Warhol, Candy Darling, all of those amazing, sort of, subterranean strange characters that I like to romanticize about when I think about New York.

And I suppose she represents that kind of lost power of New York as well. 'Cause I think when I moved over there, it had changed so much and I didn't come across those types of characters as much as I had in films and books. And so I decided to create my own in the form of Pearl.

(Soundbite of song, "Pearl's Dream")

Ms. KHAN: (Singing) There's a place I must go, there's a place I must go…

STEWART: Natasha Khan, Bat for Lashes, joined us from Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland. Natasha, it was a pleasure speaking with you.

Ms. KHAN: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

(Soundbite of song, "Pearl's Dream")

Ms. KHAN: (Singing) Down the ocean road past a sign that says good left town into a darkness…

STEWART: You can hear full songs from Bat for Lashes' new album at

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Liane Hansen will be back next week. I'm Alison Stewart.

(Soundbite of song, "Pearl's Dream")

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