10/26/2020 1 Comment
J. Gillis // Staff Writer
Folks, have we got an interview for you! Last week, we got the opportunity to sit down with Nat Puff, better known as Left At London, the indie pop icon behind “Purple Heart”, “Transgender Street Legend Volume One”, and a whole bunch of Vines and Tik Toks. We chatted about her upcoming work with WOW OK and the recent release of “Transgender Street Legend Volume 2”. What ensued covered everything from the current state of car show inflatables to the perils of predicting the future. We hope you enjoy- we certainly did.
J. Gillis: Would it be okay if I asked a couple of icebreaker questions in quick succession?
Nat Puff: Yeah, go ahead!
J: Do you believe in ghosts?
N: Ooh- goddamn! Hmm… do I believe in ghosts? I wouldn’t want to. I don’t want to.
J: May I ask why?
N: I don’t know. I just feel like believing in ghosts kind of sucks, and I’m doing it, I’m doing it. I’m believing in ghosts right now!
J: Do you have a favorite kind of monster?
N: I don’t often think about these types of things! I guess my favorite type of monster is whatever the car show inflatables are based off of.
J: That is a really good choice. May I ask why?
N: Oh, I just love them. Just look at ‘em! Just look at ‘em! You don’t even have to look at any other- you just, like, see the car show inflatable and go, “Damn. That must have been based off of something.”
J: They look like they’re having such a great time out there, whatever they are.
N: Yeah! They’re vibing! They’re sim-ply vi-bing!
J: I don’t know if this is a comparison you’re going to want to hear, but something about you selecting inflatable car advertising figures as your favorite monster just seems a little bit indicative of your body of work as a whole. It seems to have an eerily playful or playfully eerie or just eerie or playful or whatever vibe to whatever you put out there, and I’m very curious if you can name any influences to your artistic style.
N: It’s really weird, ‘cause, I get asked that, and it changes here or there, but I feel like I don’t really have a lack of influences. I feel like I’m influenced by every single thing around me, whether that is musical, artistically, comedic-wise, I feel like I’m a very influenced person. I feel like I’m just going with the flow so consistently in my life that one day, I just find something and I like it and it sticks with me and I am influenced by it. That’s as simplistic as I can put it, but it’s definitely not the answer that most people like to hear. Most people just want me to go like, “Oh, this artist!”, and I genuinely feel overwhelmed by the amount of artists that I’m influenced by,so I just say, “Everybody.”
J: Have you listened to any new music lately (or new-to-you music) that has really gotten you going?
N: Honestly, I’ve really been in album mode lately, so I’ve been focusing hardcore on the songs I’ve been making with my friend Robyn.
J: That’s WOW OK, right?
N: Yeah, WOW OK!
J: Yeah! I’m really excited for your first concert [Wild Wild Fest, a concert held in Minecraft in support of Direct Relief on October 17, 2020].
N: Are you coming?
J: I will try. I do not have Minecraft, but I will try to find a way.
N: Oh fuck yeah. Yeah, also streaming on Twitch and Discord.
J: Fantastic! Then I will definitely attend.
N: Fuck yeah! I’m so excited! Yeah, I’m really fucking hyped for that concert. Our setlist so far is ridiculous, and I just have one more verse to get from a Secret Guest Artist, and then the setlist will be done!
J: That’s terrific! Have you ever performed an online concert before?
N: I have performed five or six just in this quarantine alone.
J: How does it feel to perform live in front of an audience versus performing in front of the internet?
N: It’s weird, ‘cause there’s a lot less emotional… like, I can see that you are smiling or bobbing your head or something like that, but instead, you get to hear what everyone’s thinking because everyone’s typing what they think. So it’s this weird emotionless but thoughtful experience, I’d say. It’s kind of this weird amalgamation of the two. I would have to say that it’s a weird experience, but it’s a good weird, y’know?
J: A lot of the new music you’ve been recording over quarantine all seem to have different flavors and styles, and different recording techniques have obviously had to be used. What’s the most fun you’ve had recording a piece of music?
N: Released or unreleased?
J: Your choice.
N: Alright, there’s this unreleased song of mine that was written so quickly and it sounded so good, and it’s called REDACTED. The reason why that song was so fun was that I wrote it with a friend of mine, and we just were talking online and all of a sudden I started playing this bass riff, and then I just recorded it, and then all of a sudden two hours later we had a whole song written.
J: That’s amazing.
N: Yeah, it’s not finished yet, so I’m really excited to get somebody to do vox on it but I don’t know who I wanna get vox on for. I wanted to get Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, but she did not respond to my tweet.
J: That’d be the collaboration of the century, I tell you.
N: Oh, it would be. Her voice would be im-peccable on this shit. If you know any good soul singers, let me know.
J: If I know any, I’ll let you know. Have you ever heard about how they recorded the song Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This?
N: No, actually.
J: Alright, so the two members of the Eurythmics were having this terrible fight, like, worse than any they’d ever had, and it threatened to break up the band. All sorts of shit going on. And they’re in the studio, and while they’re in there, one of them is standing in front of the synthesizer and starts messing around with it, starts pounding out this bassline. Within half an hour, they had the song written and recorded. It’s really wild- they whipped it together in this fight, and now it’s their number one single.
N: Jesus! That’s incredible. I love the idea that it would happen during their worst fight, too. Are they reminded of that fight every time that they perform it? Do they look back on that song fondly, or are they kind of annoyed by how popular it ended up being?
J: Do you have any kind of that relationship, annoyance with fame over certain parts of your body of work? I don’t wish to get too personal.
N: (Laughs) No, I love getting personal. I mean, one of my most popular songs is a love song written about my ex, and I have weird feelings anytime somebody acts like it’s my only song. I don’t really wanna talk to this person anymore… I’ve written plenty of songs about how I don’t wanna talk to her anymore, but goddamn, it still sometimes stings to see people sort of view REDACTED as my only song. That’s why I’m sort of thinking, like, do the Eurythmics have this sort of complicated relationship with Sweet Dreams?
J: Yeah. That’s some heavy shit.
N: For sure. It’s all good though. I mean, people are still fucking with Volume 2, so…
J: Your work shines a light on a lot of very underrepresented groups in media. Have you ever felt especially represented by a certain work of media during your life?
N: My initial response is, like, I’ve never really read fiction that I feel really connected with my aspects of my identity as a mentally ill queer person. If I had to think about it, though, I feel like my biggest inspirations and my biggest “I feel myself in this character or this person” are usually things that are based on real life. I have been listening to a lot of generally sad-as-fuck songs and some happy as fuck songs, and I feel like the thing that connects them is that they’re made by artists that I feel I can connect with. Weirdly enough, I can’t tell you anything else about this song, but the song “Graceland Two” by Phoebe Bridgers... genuinely, the moment that I heard the repeating lyric “Whatever she wants, whatever she wants,” I literally just started crying,’cause I was like, “Oh, god, that has some major yearning vibes, and I heavily identify with that!” I feel very blessed and privileged to live in a world where I can rely on real people and stories of real people as opposed to works of fiction to understand myself ‘cause I feel like those lived experiences are a lot more valuable, at least to me and my experience with this general life.
J: That is incredible. It’s amazing what music can do for people.
N: For real! That’s why I’m hoping my music gets through to people in a similar way, and from what I’ve been told, it seems like it has to at least some people. The cis, not as much. I saw a hate comment earlier today on a KEXP upload that was like, “She’s only famous ‘cause she’s trans.” Being a dumbass, I literally responded with, “No it’s not. It’s also because that I’m gay.”
J: Why do you write music?
N: Well, I like it. I have a very easy time articulating why I dislike things, but I don’t really have an easy time articulating why I like things, and feel like that’s sort of the general reason I can be such a negative person sometimes, because it’s much more easy to articulate the negativity, but I feel like music is a positive way to articulate that negativity at the same time. Like, I can talk about the heaviest bullshit that is happening in my life, but in a way that people really like and can really respond to. I feel like music is a really positive way of going about that.
J: What do you think the future will be like?
N: It’s dangerous to predict the future.
N: Because no matter what happens- your prediction can come true, it can not come true- but no matter what...if it comes true, then you think, “Oh, shit! Not that I have the power to change the future or anything like that, but now every single worry that I have will feel validated by this time that I predicted the future successfully.” And predicting the future and being wrong… it humbles you in a way that I feel damages you along the way, I feel like. So I just don’t predict the future, or at least try not to. There are times where I’m like, “Oh, yeah, this shit is going to suck!” but I overall try not to predict the future. There have been several points in my life where I thought I would be dead by, and I’m not, and I’m happy that I’m not, ‘cause I’m here, vibing, talking to you, working on a setlist (that I’m in love with). Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal of predicting the future, but oh my god, is it a dangerous game.
J: What do you think the future should be like?
N: There is a song by Kimya Dawson- well, it’s not by Kimya Dawson, it’s a choir in Olympia that Kimya Dawson covered [The group being referred to is the Olympia Free Choir, of which Tin Tree Factory, the writer of the song at hand, was a member], and the song is called “Utopian Futures.” She did a cover for her “Thunder Thighs” album. The first lines are, “Somewhere the bombing all has stopped/And people begin to sit and talk/And somewhere insomniatic stockbrokers can rest their bloodshot eyes/Cause there's nothing left to buy or sell/Or kill or die for anymore/We're living inside eternal moments that we've searched for all our lives/There's nobody living by the clock/And every door is left unlocked/Cause property died all alone and capitalism lost its home/There's plenty of fresh air here in town/And plants are growing on the cars/And all of the streets are used for dancing/And at night you see all the stars.” It’s a beautiful song, and it’s just her and her guitar, in true Kimya Dawson fashion. During the few days when CHAZ/CHOP was like, “Oh, shit! This is a very real and good thing that people haven’t corrupted yet!” I could see the parallels. It was very beautiful.
J: How are things in Seattle currently?
N: I don’t know. I feel like the community in which I live in -I live in a nine person house a little bit north of downtown- I feel like everybody’s really committed to making sure everybody else is feeling okay and checking in on each other. I feel like I only really have experience in this little bubble, and while it’s a nice bubble, I’m worried that it’s exactly that: a bubble where it can cause me to be out of touch with the pulse of the city, at least being holed up here for as long as we have, only leaving to go to the grocery stores and whatnot.
J: What’s on the horizon for you?
N: “Volume 3,” “You Are Not Alone Enough,” two more albums, and a bunch of stuff with WOW OK.
J: Fantastic. I forgot about “You Are Not Alone Enough.”
N: A lot of people have. A lot of people lost faith in it.
J: Throughout your work, one of your main thematic threads appears to be the term “milf”. Is there any deeper significance beyond the obvious?
N: No, I just love milfs. Shouts out milfs...shouts out milfs!
J: Do you have a favorite Tom Hanks movie or incorrect title for a Tom Hanks movie?
N: “Castaway” is always a classic, “Oh, this movie’s on cable? Imma watch it,”, y’know? I don’t know what it was about Castaway. I’ve never seen the theatrical version, I’ve only seen the version meant for TV with advertisements crammed in the middle, where it's like, “”WILSON! WILSON!”... “Wanted great prices?””
J: Do you have a favorite word?
N: I feel like one of my favorites is “caterwaul”.
J: That’s one of my favorites too!
N: Really? I literally wrote a song called, “My Caterwaul.” It’s pretty much about complaining when your partner is away because you don’t really have any other joys in your life. I wrote it in the perspective of a friend of mine. The song goes like, “My caterwaul/A familiar sound/My caterwaul/When my baby isn’t here at all/What else is there but my caterwaul.” It’s such a good song, but I just never got a good recording of it. I did sample a recording of it for another song that has yet to be released.
J: You have a very distinctive style in your work. There’s a level of wit to it, whether it’s being funny or serious, happy or sad, just some sort of ethereal quality to it. Do you have any idea how you’ve come across that quality over the course of your artistic development?
N: I have a vast amount of respect for songs that can give me chills, so my goal is always to make songs that can do that sort of thing. I have one song that is yet to be released that I think is the most beautiful song that I’ve ever written, and I’m going to close the “Transgender Street Legend” series with it.
J: During the research for this interview, I was very impacted by your journey with OSDD-1b. How has the journey been processing that you live with OSDD-1b?
N: I learned about it about a year ago to the day, and I had experienced it since 2017. People thought it was schizophrenia, some people thought it was bipolar-related delusions, I didn’t know what it was. I feel like the system I was a part of has gotten much healthier over the years, and I’m really thankful for it because I really want to make sure that everybody that’s here is doing okay and can feel like they are a part of the system as much as I am. That doesn’t always happen, but we talk and we try to work together. Admittedly, we could be doing more, but that’s sort of on me. It’s like transitioning into a healthier life, and it’s really nice to be a part of that.
J: When listening to your new album, it felt like there was an arc from “6 Feet” to “My Friends Are Kinda Strange,” like it had gone from a pretty turbulent and dissonant time to when you were a lot more tranquil and at peace with yourself.
N: Yeah. I mean, 6 Feet was kind of like the catalyst for realizing that I did have OSDD-1b, so I felt like I owed it to my system to make a positive song about them, you know?
J: Yeah. That’s really good. Gotta get that internal harmony.
J: Do you have a favorite kind of dinosaur, or specific favorite dinosaur?
N: Does Dinosaur Jr. count? They made a couple songs.
J: Yeah, absolutely!
N: Fuck yeah!
J: Do you have a favorite video game?
N: I have a couple. I don’t play video games all too much, and my choices are very simplistic, very ThinkGeek.com user choices. I feel like my favorites are Windwaker HD, Super Mario 64, the Sly Cooper series, Portal 2 (damn classic), and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. Great game.
J: That game has had such a cultural impact, of which I understand nothing, because I never owned a PlayStation or an XBox. It makes me very curious...when I go to a skate park, it still seems to have the same energy of the bits of the soundtrack I’ve heard from that game.
N: Oh, yeah. The soundtrack is impeccable. Honestly, you could just listen to the soundtrack. Just find a copy on either YouTube or Spotify, and The Shit. Will. Hit. For real, for real.
J: A bird in the hand or two in the bush?
N: A bird in the hand, ‘cause fuck Bush.
J: Which would you rather watch: a timelapse of a decomposing rabbit or “Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood”?
N: “Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood”, only because I know how it ends.
J: What do you think about Frankenstein?
N: Great scientist. Great scientist. Revolutionary.
J: Do you have any particular favorite queer anthems?
N: The first one that came to mind, and I hate that this was the first thing that came to mind, was that song where somebody was singing over one of those Undertale soundtrack things, where it was like, “Fingers in his ass/Fingers in his ass/Kanye West he likes/Fingers in his ass.” That’s my queer anthem [Referring to “ASSGORE (Fingerfückung)” by BotanicSage, which can be found here: https://youtu.be/1P4EP5TI574].
J: You’ve talked about becoming internet famous at eighteen, and the various phases that have resulted from that. What’s it like living in the public eye from stage to stage?
N: I already contained multitudes before, but this is ridiculous!
J: Which is better: ghosts or elves?
N: Elves! More personal.
J: Do you have any final words for our readers?
N: Stream TSLV2, stan WOW OK, and...yeah, there it is. Stan WOW OK and stream TSLV2.*