PARIS — Resembling a cosmic Hiawatha with her raven bangs, gold headband and licks of glittering war paint smudged across her cheeks, Natasha Khan, the 27-year-old lead singer of British band Bat for Lashes, bewitched the audience at La Cigale on a recent Saturday night — she threw back her head and let out a guttural howl.
“It’s such an amazing, primordial sound that creates a sense of community,” Khan mused after the gig. “I think I heard ‘Teen Wolf’ somewhere out there in the front.”
Rattling wind chimes, ringing bells and pounding shakers against drums are part and parcel of Khan’s mystic stage act, led by her haunting vocals and the hand claps, foot stomps and musical meanderings of her bandmates, Ginger Lee, Abi Fry and Lizzie Carey.
Following the U.K. release of its debut album, “Fur and Gold,” the band — whose music might be categorized as experimental pop — is heading for the States in March to play at the South by Southwest festival in Texas.
Born to an English mother and Pakistani father, a famous squash coach who would take his family along with him on world tours, Khan says her memories of Pakistan are a wellspring of inspiration. Losing a pet goat to a sacrificial religious ceremony, say, is just one souvenir that transfused into a song.
“It was a very mystical and magical experience with lots of storytelling and fables about genies and spirits,” recalls the singer, whose kindred musical spirits include the likes of Kate Bush, Cat Power and David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust phase.
Pakistan’s sartorial customs — embellishment and gold jewelry — also have seeped into her act. She collects chains (mainly foraged in markets and thrift stores across England) and crafts golden headbands for herself and the girls, festooned with old badges.
“My sweetheart wears this very same necklace [across the pond],” says Khan, clutching a vintage King George pendant that she gave to her boyfriend, Will Lemon, a New York-based artist. In return, she’ll often wear Lemon’s tapestry-printed clothing on stage. “I love wearing his wild William Morris prints and biker boots,” says Khan. Not forgetting all that’s gold.
This story first appeared in the November 27, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Wearing anything sparkly is wonderful. It puts me in the mood to perform.”