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Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan on Dinnertime With Radiohead, and Her Alien Alter Ego

Bat for Lashes is the outfit of unicorn-loving, feather-adorned, half-Brit, half-Pakistani Natasha Khan. Earlier this month, Khan released her second album, Two Suns, an epic, romantic endeavor forged from predominantly eighties influences (a little Cure, a touch of the Bangles, and big chunks of Kate Bush). On the eve of the North American leg of her world tour — Khan plays the Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow — she spoke to Vulture from her seaside home in Brighton about movies, cars, and touring with Radiohead.

You’ve been living partly in New York recently — what do you think about the music scene here?
In Brooklyn and Williamsburg, which is where I was living, there has been quite an interesting scene happening that was kind of bubbling away when I was there. There were these new bands like Gang Gang Dance and TV on the Radio and MGMT and Yeasayer. So I saw a lot of interesting gigs, and had a really nice exchange and conversations with musicians and got inspired.

And your alter ego, Pearl — whom you have a song about, “Pearl’s Dream” — did she come out of that time?
Pearl isn’t really my alter ego. Pearl is just kind of a representation of New York for me. For me, it was more about my obsession with Diane Arbus and Cindy Sherman — kind of a bit of an art project that I did for myself, and a kind of private dressing-up thing I tried. If there was a film, she’d be like a strange, alien character that just kind of comes in and out, dreamlike, I suppose. She’s very much that kind of New York subterranean character, like in a book or a film.

You toured with Radiohead last year.
Yes. It was great. Very inspiring. It was really amazing to play for those massive audiences. Kind of scary. You have to raise your game, I guess, when you’re playing with people who are so professional and amazing.

Did you hang out with Thom Yorke?
Yeah, as much as one can. He’s a very private person. And it’s pretty hard work doing two hours straight a night. We’d see them at dinnertime and have nice chats and stuff. But not much partying.

You’re often compared with Kate Bush. How do you feel about that?
I think it’s really interesting — for the 5 million interviews I did for the first album, I got, “Oh, you sound like Björk,” and now that this album is a little more electronic, it’s, “Oh, you sound like Kate Bush.” If next time I did harmonium a lot, then it would be like, “Oh, you’re the new Nico.” People need more imagination. I’m very flattered. But it’s kind of a double-edged sword.

What’s up with you and cars? You’ve mentioned memories of driving in cars in several interviews and in the video clip for “Daniel” you’re driving a hearse-like vehicle …
I love David Lynch, and I love the highway-movie scenario. I guess this album is a lot about journeys and traveling and escaping or searching for something. I’ve been reading a lot about the mythology of road movies and how they focus on people who are outlaws or living on the fringes of society. They use that character that’s traveling through as a vehicle for looking in a satirical or sociological way at societies. Like Jack Kerouac in On the Road. There’s definitely a teenage escapism in a lot of the songs that I loved to sing in the car when I was growing up. My mom and I would sing a lot of Fleetwood Mac and Journey, all those guitar-rock songs, in the car.

And your song “Daniel” — it’s an ode to Daniel from Karate Kid?
I think it just symbolizes that kind of teenage feeling. I love to look at those films like The Karate Kid and E.T. and Stand By Me that, growing up in England, I thought were very romantic. And I kind of had a crush on Daniel LaRusso.

Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan on Dinnertime With Radiohead, and Her Alien Alter Ego