“I felt far more like a writer and director than musician…” - hmv.com talks The Bride with Bat For Lashes
Ever since she arrived in 2006 with her stories of dark magic and paganism over a strangely hypnotic folk pop soundtrack Natasha Khan has always done things a little different. A song is never just a song, it always has a rich backstory and an ambition beyond what most singers have to offer.
But for her new album The Bride (which you can preview and purchase on the right-hand side of the page), she’s taken that ambition to a whole new level. The LP is a concept album that follows the story of a woman whose fiancé has been killed in a crash on the way to the church for their wedding who flees the scene to take the honeymoon trip alone.
As she releases the album we spoke to Khan about why she settled on this grand concept, why she decided to produce herself this time and why she’ll keep touring to a minimum...
How did you come up with the idea for The Bride? It sounds like a huge amount of work has gone into this...
“I’d finished the last album and I was thinking that what I wanted to do next was write scripts for films and short films. I’d started working with a production company and was looking to direct videos, I really wanted to change things up a bit. In that time I came up with this synopsis about a bride, and, me being me, I couldn’t help but write songs. I wanted to do the film, but I decided to do the music first and I realised that I had an album.”
What was it about this story that gripped you?
“It was the melodrama and the romance of it. I’d been watching Rebel Without A Cause and The Wizard Of Oz, lots of older films with heroic journeys. I wanted to put a character in a situation that we all understand and then go somewhere unexpected, in this case somewhere very tragic....”
How did you find writing to such a set structure?
“It made the writing easier. I wrote all the song titles in order and had them set, I then found it quite easy to write the songs to fit the titles. I’ve tried to make it mirror the stages of grief, the shock, the sadness, the anger, it was like writing a novel, I felt far more like a writer and director than musician. Producing was difficult, I couldn’t move any of the songs around. If you record an album normally there’s room to move songs around and keep the tension for listeners, for this one I couldn’t do that so I had to be quite careful with the songs, make sure they were varied and there weren’t too many slow ones in a row.”
You recorded the album in a cabin in upstate New York, it sounds like a lovely place to work...
“It was wonderful. I loved living up a mountain in this wooden house, it was fabulous. The landscape really bled into the songs, it was very foresty and David Lynchy.”
You co-produced the album with Simone Felice of The Felice Brothers, how did you end up working with him?
“My manager suggested Simone to me, I’d been living with the songs and demoing for about a year and a half and I wanted to be the main producer, but I knew I needed help. Simone was great, he let me take the reins and really helped me find my vision, I had a lot more responsibility, which was scary, but I was glad I took it on.”
You’ve done every record previously with David Kosten, why did you decide to change it up this time?
“I did the first two just with him and then the third one with him and Dan Carey. I love David, but I did felt like we’d definitely a language and were doing the same things. I wanted to break away and try something different, I wanted to use different techniques and create all these weird atmospheres, so it was quite liberating to not have anyone tell me how to do that. I feel so close to this album and I didn’t want to keep translating it for someone else.”
Every artist we speak to says self-producing is so much harder than anybody thinks, was that the case for you?
“It’s really f***ing hard and a right pain in the arse. I knew it was going to be hard, but all the administration, just remembering who played on what song, is hard enough. But to sort all the string arrangements and vocal harmonies, there was so much. I remember taking to bed with a migraine and genuinely thinking I couldn’t do this. That’s when Simone really helped me and was such good emotional support.”
It’s a record with a huge concept, were you ever overwhelmed by all the moving parts you needed to get right?
“I was, but I really felt that the story and the songwriting was strong enough to hold it all together. The details were difficult to get down, but they always are, the songs will tell you what world they belong in, it’s your responsibility to put it all together. It was constant revolution and reworking and it kept me up at night, but I knew the idea was strong enough.”
Were there any other concept albums you looked to for inspiration?
“Not so much concept albums, I think the only one was Lou Reed’s Berlin, but that’s just because I love that record and how he uses storytelling, it’s a strange weird novel. It was more soundtracks, particularly The Night Of The Hunter, The Wizard Of Oz, Wild At Heart, True Romance, lots of 30s and 40s soundtrack with weird keyboards, that was more what I was listening to.”
When you take the album out live will you be doing the whole thing? Or dipping in and out?
“We’ve been doing it as one thing and I’m happy to keep doing that. Some of the older ones go really well with it, especially the darker ones, so that’s the kind of set you’ll see. Touring will be much more minimal this time, I want to make all my shows events, I don’t want to whore it out this hundreds of dates, I want to an experience every time and very theatrical.”
Finally, having done this grand project do you think you might do something a little simpler next time?
“Maybe just a piano album, I don’t know. I have loved playing on my own just on the piano, but I have no idea. Every time I try and predict what I’ll do next it never happens and I get swept away by something else.”