Bat For Lashes - Biography
By Joanna Ricco
Multi-instrumentalist Natasha Khan is better known by her pseudonym and band name, Bat for Lashes. Originating from Brighton, England, Bat for Lashes is lead by Khan and employs a revolving cast of musicians who focus on experimental atmospherics with a psychedelic backbone and powerfully delicate vocalization reminiscent of Kate Bush and Roisin Murphy.
Khan was born in on October 25, 1979 to an English mother and a Pakistani father. She has said in interviews that she identifies most closely with her British side, citing that she has little contact with her Pakistani family members. Khan’s artistic life has been formed by an education that was rife with experimentation. She had access to instruction that helped her to create multi-media work and installation pieces that have both influenced and been influenced by her work with sound. Playing everything from piano, guitar, bass, and even glockenspiel, Khan is no novice at creating a world based on textural and natural elements. She has, however, shown an aptitude for synthesizing her folky, psychedelic roots with electronic and digital effects
The group came to fruition with the release of 2006’s debut single, “The Wizard” (Drowned in Sound), which was released on Drowned in Sound Records – a UK label associated with a webzine of the same name. Khan later released “The Wizard” 7” vinyl on her own label, She Bear Records. Following the release of the single, Khan took Bat for Lashes to Echo Records and Bat for Lashes’ full-length debut, Fur and Gold (Echo/Parlophone/EMI), was released on September 11, 2006.
Fur and Gold was nominated for the 2007 Mercury Prize but did not win despite popular media opinion that it would be a sweep. The album was re-released in 2007 when Bat for Lashes left Echo to sign with Parlophone Records. The re-release includes previously unreleased material. Both versions of this album capture a certain wild-eyed childhood curiosity, a sense that getting muddled down in life is just too much work. This theme is no surprise given that Khan was working as a nursery school teacher as she began crafting the words and sounds that would become Fur and Gold.
Bat for Lashes was invited to perform at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas in 2007 for the ASCAP Presents... showcase. Aside from the performance, Bat for Lashes was also awarded the ASCAP Vanguard Award. In 2008, as Bat for Lashes took time to record the upcoming album, Khan came to the attention of indie music buffs with the release of the peculiar video for “What's a Girl to Do?,” which features a nocturnal bike ride through a rural area, accompanied by animal mascots with decent BMX stunts. Following on the heels of the success of the video, Bat for Lashes was nominated for Best British Breakthrough Act and Best British Female at the Brit Awards. Although she left the awards empty handed, Khan did not slow down. Bat for Lashes filled the opening slots for Radiohead’s 2008 tour.
Bat for Lashes’ second full-length album, Two Suns (Astralwerks/EMI), was released in April of 2009. The inspiration for Two Suns came from time that Khan spent living in three tremendously different environs. Moving from Brighton to Brooklyn, and then to Southern California made for a plethora of sights from which she could craft the album. A concept album based around Khan’s alter-ego Pearl, the release includes collaborations with Scott Walker and Yeasayer. Early on, critics have agreed that Two Suns is a bigger, more robust album than the debut, though fortunately not at the expense of losing the innocence that makes Bat for Lashes so unique.
As a student of both music and the visual arts, Khan has referred to her songwriting process as being almost wholly visual. Citing her need to be inspired by nature, Khan has said that she feels “drained thematically” if she is in the city too long. The visually inspired Khan is also known for her eclectic sense of style, one that seems to be connected by color and texture to her music. Often seen wearing clothing of the likes Stevie Nicks would have worn in her heyday, Khan’s aesthetic seems rooted in the mythical, magical styles of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Khan is also known to wear make-up that is more war-paint than cover girl, creating designs that could have been pulled from Uriah Heep’s Demons and Wizards (1972 Mercury) album art.
In her personal life, Khan is in a relationship with Will Lemon of the Brooklyn-based band Moon and Moon. Bat for Lashes has collaborated with Moon and Moon, an obvious choice for the couple given the similarity in the bands’ approach to creating performance and experience over simply making records.
Most recently, Bat for Lashes has included Ben Christophers, Charlotte Hatherley, and Sarah Jones. Former members included Abi Fry, Caroline Weeks, Alex Thomas, Lizzy Carey, and Katherine Mann.