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Bat For Lashes - Natasha Khan's guide to new album The Haunted Man

Bat For Lashes - Natasha Khan's guide to new album The Haunted Man
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Bat For Lashes, aka Natasha Khan, releases her third album The Haunted Man on Monday (25 October). She gave Q a personal tour through the record…

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“Every time I write an album, the first track is my favourite in a way. This one especially because the content of the song is a really good manifesto for the rest of the record. It starts out haunted by being lonely or not able to get inspiration, feeling a bit isolated. By the end it moves into this pro-life, elated full-on ending. For me, the album is about letting go of things and resolving something. I think because I wrote it over such a long time – a period of two years – I was almost trying to get away from extremes, trying to be a real person and settle down and find out about those bits in between the drama of feeling really sad and fucked up and really euphoric and happy, because I’d written the last album in that dramatic dark place. I wanted the The Haunted Man to be a bit more eclectic and varied and rich, I suppose.”

All Your Gold

“This song was a real pain in the arse. It was the troubled teenager of the album. I wrote it really early on and it was kind of like an En Vogue-style R&B tune. I loved it but didn’t know what to do with it cos it wasn’t quite right. I tried it a few different production things, but in the end I realised it wasn’t the production – the songwriting wasn’t up to scratch. So I rewrote it with just the main hook and changed the key and re-wrote the chorus. It’s really simple and with [co-producer] Dan Carey on the MPC [hip hop sampling machine], we sampled old indian drums and took lots of electronic hip hop 808 sounds and put them through old amps. We used forks on glasses of water as well, so there’s loads of layers of percussion that made it what it was. It’s a song about the difficult choice that women have; the choice between the good new guy and the old bad guy. If you know someone’s bad for you and you really want them, it’s really hard when you get someone nice. Women are really bad for that. This album is me taking away all the glitter and the feathers and all the things that have become passé in a way and also for me I felt like I’d pushed those visual symbols to the extreme. The question was, If I strip it away, can I still convey something powerful? I embraced it and if it feels like less like a reinvention than it does peeling back the layers to get to the essence of what you’re feeling like. For me, this album is going back to square one. It was exciting, but it was a long process.”

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Horses Of The Sun

“This was the first song I wrote for the album. It was written in a hotel room at the end of the Two Suns tour. It sounds most like the old stuff to me. I wrote it on an autoharp in a hotel room. When I brought it back, what moved it into the realm of the new album was [co-producer] David Kosten and I working on this Rihanna-y, Lil Wayne style snare beats, thinking of Snoop Dogg. I was really exploring my voice, trying out the lower part of my register. The content of the song makes sense that it’s the first one, it says I curse the road. It’s walking back through my door off this crazy journey and deciding to stay at home in England and not move for a couple of years. I wanted to incorporate a much more English sound on this album. I was looking at the history of the English side of my family and reading a lot of old English authors and romantic poetry. There are quite archaic themes in there.”

Oh Yeah

“I wrote this one quite early too. I thought the syncopated hip-hop beat in it was really sexy and then I found a sample of the gospel, choral part. It took a long time to develop the lyrics. Eventually, I visualised a big Henri Rousseau painting, or those big jungle paintings with all the naked ladies in it. It’s about blossoming into womanhood. It’s quite a sexy song, trawling through this jungle-y flora and fauna, a hot and sweaty landscape where nectarine dripping. It’s basically my biological clock ticking, loudly!”

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“I wrote Laura with [Video Games co-writer] Justin Parker. We played around the piano chords together and then I went away and did the vocal and melody. We just put it down that day and that’s the recording I use, the first moment I sang that song. It captures that starkness and the feeling. The orchestral arrangement I wrote the day before we went to Abbey Road, then I quickly arranged it all. That’s when I realised that maybe I have developed a bit of a craft in some ways, because some people would go in and ham it up and I remember writing it and thinking, This has to grow so slowly. I wanted to hold it back. I’m proud of that arrangement. When we went to Abbey Road and they actually played it, I think everyone in the control room had a tear in their eye. We were like, It worked! I knew it would never be chosen as a single because it would depress the nation so that’s why we put it out as a free download. The record company wanted to put something out and it’s a classic ballad in terms of the 70s ballads. I just wanted to give it a chance. It would never be supported by Radio 1 or whatever.”

Winter Fields

“The end of Laura has these fading orchestral, minimal low notes, and moving into Winter Fields seemed to work because it’s a similar set-up which is bass flutes and low cellos. They kind of relate to each other in some ways but Winter Fields becomes much more rousing and moves into that English landscape place. I think it’s the most nostalgic track on the record, harkening back to my memories of childhood, being in the back of a car driving through country lanes as it’s snowing, looking out over the fields. Those real childhood depictions of the English landscape. It’s a little bit haunted, lost in the flurries of snow.”

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The Haunted Man

“I think the whole album is about The Haunted Man, he features in most of the songs, where he can be a lover in a relationship that’s gone wrong or relationship baggage I want to let go of. In this one, it’s a husband who’s come back from war. It’s using that metaphor of war. hTe man is really traumatised, the woman is trying to help. By the end of the song, the male voices and female voices are speaking to each other but it’s about how men and women speak very different languages sometimes. So the women will try and fix something by being nurturing and show love and the men are saying, I just want to go to my cave. It was using the idea that my Granddad went away to war, nobody was offered help in those days, and how did that affect his relationship with my Grandma. Our families have all experience a lot of that in this country and that dynamic can come through in modern relationships too. I wanted to make it like a mini-musical, so the woman is alone and then the soldiers come over the hill and we panned the sound across so it sounds like soldiers coming over a hill. I feel like it explores all the different textures of the record. I wanted to write a song that was like a soundtrack.”


“This is one of my favourites. It’s really romantic to me. It’s one I worked with Beck on and the little arpeggio sounds and shoegazey guitars came from the sessions with him. I’ve got fond memories of recording it. It’s about being in love with someone who is unattainable. It’s a romantic, gushy sweet song. I love how experimental and playful Beck is still. He’s always got an energy. He has a lovely family too. I hung out with his kids and his wife and we had a lovely time.”

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A Wall

“In the past, I’d done not as many happy songs. For me, A Wall is definitely a more positive slant on coming through something and looking at it positively. It’s been going down really well live. The end is really euphoric and the outro is really happy. If we do it as a single, it’d be good to get it remixed. I feel like it could a really nice dance song.”

Rest Your Head

“I was working with Dan Carey on the beats and stuff. Rest Your Head has got this dubby vibe to the low notes with me playing some piano for real over the top. We were listening to the Jamie xx/ Gil Scott Heron album and I was also thinking about some 90s dance music. I like to combine the electronic with organic things and give them a bit of humanity. I’ve got no idea where I’ll go next – I’ve got absolutely nothing. It’s like when you’ve just had a baby and you’re breastfeeding. I don’t want to think about another baby right now!”

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Deep Sea Diver

“This wasn’t written as a closing song, and for a while I didn’t know what the last song would be. As it developed, I really like the ambient layering. It’s a comforting song for me, it sets everything back to neutral. It’s a good cuddle at the end of the album. It built-up slowly with loads of layers. The beginning of the song has a really important refrain: Let your hair down, throw your head back, relax, it’s alright. By the end the music takes over and it’s called Deep Sea Diver. Maybe you’re on your own, feeling really good sitting at the bottom of the sea!”

Niall Doherty@NiallMDoherty

For more head to Batforlashes.com.


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