Lindsey Best We're back with more photos from Day Two of Coachella.…
- Posted on Oct 8th 2012 3:40PM by Caitlin White
"I think it's definitely a record about being haunted by something and wanting to let go of those ghosts," Khan tells Spinner. "And I think especially as it's connected to your family patterns and your ancestry. It really became apparent that there are certain relationship patterns and ways of behaving that have trickled down my family tree for generation."
The "Daniel" singer looked at the pattern of relationships throughout her family history, but then considered those patterns against the gendered roles of greater culture.
"I'm kind of haunted by the history of my family. I was looking at my granddad and the fact that he went away to war and how it must've affected him and he was traumatized, and in The Haunted Man it's that metaphor," she says. "I might be with someone who has been really traumatized by something and it's like, 'How do you communicate?' What do women usually do with that?"
Even a cursory listen to Khan's third full-length album reveals a work steeped in trauma. Her decidedly feminine perspective on the depth of these wounds and how women can deal with the haunted men they're destined to encounter is present in nearly every track.
"Women try to rescue or nurture or be strong and carry the burden, you know, all those things are going on," she says. "Especially in our society now where I feel like the male role is lost in terms of what men feel they should be doing in relationships. So, it's complex, but it's all encompassed in this 'Haunted Man' fake other, he kind of comes in throughout the record."
If the male role has been lost, a strong female spirit is very much present and accounted for -- particularly on the album cover. The album artwork for The Haunted Man features Khan completely naked, defiantly carrying the a limp man across her shoulders. Though many album covers for pop princesses show as much skin, or vamp up the performers into glossy, passive objects, Khan's cover struck a chord when it was first released. Media outlets rushed to declare it NSFW and collectively gasp about her nudity choice.
"Well I find this so interesting, and I just like, it drives me crazy sometimes!" she starts. "For example, I love Beyonce, but I saw a video of her and she's just in white lingerie and nothing else [Beyonce's "The Best Thing You Never Had]. It's really sexual and really suggestive and there's loads of front covers where it's photoshopped, glossy skin, lip gloss, boobs out, really sexual poses. And I'm so surprised that people think this is controversial."
But perhaps the symbolism of it is exactly why they do -- a sexualized female body has become a banality that doesn't even cause a blip -- but a completely natural, make-up free woman literally supporting a man leads to endless speculation.
"It says something about our day and how we view women as sexual objects," she says. "I think I chose a specifically unsexy pose. There's lots of shots, I could've chosen one where I looked more curvy but I didn't want to do that. I think it freaks men out because I'm carrying a man, which is kind of a crazy thing, it's like 'Ooh, I don't know if that's sexy.'
"I think it freaks people out because I've got no makeup on, there's no retouching. It's super-raw and wild and black and white. But that's what Patti Smith did, that's what PJ Harvey did, that's what all the coolest people have done, from my icons anyway."
Speaking of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey, Bat For Lashes is consistently compared to great female rebellion-rockers like these two greats. But any male comparisons are consistently absent from reviews and interview questions. Which seems odd, as her music clearly doesn't reflect all-female influences.
"I do think it's strange because, I'm super-inspired by all of those women because I think they're fabulous... but I'd say even more so, when I was growing up, like Kurt Cobain was a massive influence, Lou Reed, Neil Young, Robert Smith from The Cure, huge influences. I think my music sounds, like you can hear the Cure references in there, and loads of film scorers and things, like that, who are male."
This is a problem that a lot of female musicians face still in 2012 -- the idea that their music exists in a separate genre as female performers, and is received as that. Khan says she loves being compared to strong, innovative women, but some of comparisons seem strictly based on gender.
"I think it's really interesting, the way that you get kind of pulled into this group of female musicians no matter how disparate and eclectic you are, just because you are a woman. I don't see male musicians coming out ... imagine if all the male musicians coming out all got grouped into one group? It's just like, really weird to me."
Musically, the record features influences from a lot of men, including the root story of Khan's grandfather going to war. She collaborated with notables like Beck, Dave Sitek, and Rob Ellis to achieve an album with timeless and unique qualities. For the male vocal choir on title track "The Haunted Man" the recorded part is actually a slapback echo from a choir singing across an Italian canyon in Perusia.
"We projected it across a canyon and recorded the slapback, the natural reverb that came off of the mountain. Because, symbolically, it's that all the male soldiers are coming back over the hill from war," she says. "And to hear it, like, coming back. It was so funny because dogs kept barking and then all these bull frogs started croaking, it was hilarious to hear it resonate with the animals."
Out on Oct. 23, The Haunted Man is an album of burdens and eerily beautiful specters, but Khan said she treasures this album more than her other two because of the difficulty.
"I felt desperate about the record quite a lot of the time -- that it wasn't coming easily. I almost lost my way. Maybe the hardest records are the best in the end. But this record definitely made me bleed for it."