bat for lashes' new album is a soundtrack for an imaginary, tragic wedding
After premiering her short film ‘I Do’ at Tribeca Film Festival, Natasha Khan is preparing to release her first new album since 2012, ‘The Bride' — and perform it live in churches around America and the UK.
Natasha Khan uses a tragic wedding story as the narrative for her latest record, The Bride, and it's perhaps her most unique work yet. Khan has been releasing music as Bat for Lashes since 2006, but it was her love for cinematography that fueled this latest project, which she envisions as the soundtrack to a feature-length film one day. Khan worked on the album for 18 months with the help of long-time collaborators and friends Simone Felice, Dan Carey, and Head and Ben Christophers. Inspired by Khan's short film I Do, which recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, The Bride chronicles the wedding day of a woman whose fiancé dies in a car crash on the way to the ceremony. Following the devastating event, "The Bride" embarks on a honeymoon alone, where she deals with the emotions of losing a loved one and learning to love herself on her own. The concept album brilliantly illustrates a sweeping cast of characters, feelings, and places in a way that feels inherently cinematic — so Khan's desire to turn her gorgeous soundtrack into a theatrical film is no surprise. With songs that incorporate outside noises (including a crashing car) along with Khan's chilling, ethereal vocals, The Bride already sounds more like a film score than an album.
To support the thematic elements of The Bride, in May and June Khan will play select shows in churches, where attendees will act as wedding guests. Prior to the release of The Bride on July 1, we caught up with Khan about her film background, the ritual of marriage, and retreating to upstate New York to create The Bride.
Tell me about why you decided to tell this particular story.
I wanted to use the construct of [a character called] The Bride because I thought it was a really good way of having a dialogue about relationships and love — the idea that we all recognize the marriage ritual. It's really interesting to take The Bride out of the context of a conventional wedding and [follow her] on her own on the honeymoon after this tragedy. I thought it was an interesting cinematic tactic to use. I like the idea of the narrative of someone wanting to get married and not being able to.
What's your fascination with weddings in general?
I wouldn't say it's a fascination, but I'd say I just like the idea of the ritual of committing to somebody else and the questions that that raises about romantic love: how sometimes we can have a lot of expectations and dreams of heightened romantic ideals. What happens with tragedy? And what if the external form is taken away and you need to rely on your own happiness?
Could you see the music of The Bride being set to a feature-length film?
I would love to be able to make a feature-length film. I love the idea of having a character arc, a narrative, and all of these characters The Bride meets on her way. Working in film is something I've done for a long time, and the idea of being able to explore the feature-length format would be great.
Tell me about your plan for the concerts at churches. It's going to feel like you're at an actual wedding, right?
I really like the space, the acoustics, the ritual, and all of the audience coming dressed as wedding guests. I think it will create a beautiful atmosphere, and it's a little more interesting than a regular venue. It's the perfect setting for [telling] The Bride's story. There are a lot of beautiful churches with such nice acoustics and they should be used for music. It's perfect to create that sense of ritual and excitement.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I studied film at university. From the age of 20, I was making animations, short films, and mixed media [pieces] across the board. We were really encouraged to work in all different mediums. It's another form of storytelling, which is how I usually work with creativity — music and song for me serve that purpose. I thought it would be really nice to not just enjoy making this album for itself but as a soundtrack for a landscape I could see very clearly in my imagination.
Tell me about the recording process. You built a studio in an old house in upstate New York. What was that like for you?
We went to Woodstock and found an old, New York Jewish lady's beautiful house in the mountains. I wanted to be somewhere where we could invite collaborators and musicians into the space. We really built up the energy, had pine trees all around the house, which felt very much like the landscape of the film and the music. The house itself had a big fire pit so we could get together with all of the synthesizers and drums and stuff. It was nice to be somewhere that sounded like it belonged to the landscape of the music. There was a lot of space to think. It was a really unique way to make a record.
Did you draw on any personal experiences relating to marriage for the album?
In a way I do think about it with regards to me, but the story is definitely not based in reality. Marriage is just a metaphor for love and exploration of deeper parts of yourself. It's like a catalyst for tracing the journey of a girl into a woman and dealing with her grief and who she is, as a being who stands alone. She needs to be happy with herself before she relies on the external.
Text Ilana Kaplan
Photography Francesca Allen