Bat For Lashes

Natasha Khan – the essence of Bat For Lashes – was recently called “indie rock’s only authentic mystic.” Perfect.

Khan, a former nursery school teacher, is thoughtful and humble during her interview, a contrast from her intellectually intimidating music and mysterious persona. With a voice that conjures Björk and Kate Bush, and an ability to play as many instruments as Sufjan Stevens, Khan can easily play herself off as an eccentric, a musical savant.

And Khan recently revealed that while living in New York she wore a blond wig to summon her musical alter-ego, Pearl.

In other words, Khan does have her artistic side and she does not want to damage her muse. That means the boilerplate Pollstar questions get unique answers.

“I try not to think of myself as a business commodity because I think that can kill your creative spirit a little bit,” Khan told Pollstar on a phone call from England.

“You don’t want to be thinking about it,” she said. “That’s why I employ other people to have political or record-company ideas, or promotional/marketing campaigns and things. I think, as an artist, it could take some of the innocence out of what you’re doing.”

Believe it or not, that’s uncommon. Most artists maintain close ties to the business side of show. Maybe they spent too much time booking their own gigs to give their agents autonomy. Maybe they want to comprehend the fine print of their record contracts. But they usually keep a close watch.

What this means, though, is she’s low maintenance, something that doesn’t bother her agent, Steve Ferguson, at all.

“Natasha isn’t one to call up and say, ‘Cleveland sucked,’” Ferguson told Pollstar. “She’s very friendly, though. When I see her, it’s always ‘Hi, how are you? Nice to meet you, sir.’”

Maybe she’s not immersed in the details but make no mistake: Khan knows what is good for her and her career.

Photo: Doug Seymour

“I just say ‘no’ to things I don’t want to do,” she said. “Like really cheesy stuff. Like online stuff. Games you play with Twitter and things like that. I’m kind of old-school in that way. I’m not inclined to sell myself in that cheesy way, so I probably don’t make it very easy.

“I think, luckily, the people who work around me kind of respect that I’m an artist who doesn’t want to be compromised too much in that way. People can like it or lump it.”

Khan, who had a somewhat nomadic childhood after being born in London, talked about how she taught herself piano at an early age and listened incessantly to Nirvana as a young teen.

She eventually graduated from the University of Brighton with a degree in music and visual arts, citing Steven Reich and Susan Hiller as influences during that time. After she graduated, Khan worked at a nursery school and occasionally played a gig around town. One night she was playing at the Sussex Art Center, opening for a band that was managed by a man named Dick O’Dell.

“He saw me play, then approached me,” she said. “We just started talking. He said he’d be really interested in hearing any other things I had, and he had some great contacts. So we got together and that’s when he started playing my demos to people. It all took off from there, really.”

Her debut single was soon released digitally by Drowned In Sound records and on her own imprint. Her first album, Fur and Gold, released on Echo, had some U.K. success, but it got a jumpstart when the video for “What’s a Girl to Do?” was released.

Photo: Brooke Nipa

For all of its bunny costumes and choreography, Wayne Coyne and OK Go might as well have directed it. Along came a 2006 nomination for the Mercury Prize (won by Klaxons) followed by two Brit Awards nominations. M.I.A. announced she was a Bat For Lashes fan, Thom Yorke took Khan & Co. out on a Radiohead tour and Kanye West blogged about one of her videos.

Khan released her sophomore album, Two Suns, in April, a luscious work, tinged with Yeasayer’s production, that documents that blond girl Pearl’s emotional journey.

Meanwhile, Khan continued to build her Stateside impression. Ferguson and Paradigm started her off with a brief tour in 2006, launching her at the intimate Joe’s Pub in New York, then sent her and her band to small rooms in the largest markets.

Paradigm subsequently kept “creeping up” the caps as she built a following. Last year, Bat For Lashes got slots on all the big festivals although Khan’s atmospheric sounds are easily suited for sultry nightclubs.

Bat For Lashes is expected to support Coldplay on a February-March trek through Latin America. The rest of the near future will be devoted to creating more music.