A year after the release of her debut album, Nat Puff talks inspiration, mental health, upcoming EP
It seems that Left at London (real name Nat Puff) is always doing something interesting. Whether that something is a TikTok comedy sketch or an album about mental health, she is constantly creating under the public eye.
When I catch up with her over Discord, she is in the middle of recording a three-song EP in the fervent span of 24 hours. This EP, entitled “Stone Fruit,” will be out everywhere in November, and is currently available on her Patreon. She plays me snippets of the three tracks before we dive into the interview, which are all songs worth listening to when they are out. Afterwards, I ask her what media she has been obsessed with.
“I’m on my fifth rewatch of Breaking Bad,” Puff said . “It’s my second rewatch this year. I don’t know what happened … There’s nothing else I want to watch right now. It’s my comfort show. It shouldn’t be. I don’t feel like that show is particularly comforting.”
Soon after, I ask her about her favorite music, particularly bands or artists that people are shocked that she enjoys. She mentions Death Grips, sea shanties and, of course, classical music.
“I will literally turn up to Vivaldi’s ‘Winter,” Puff said, before recounting a TikTok sketch about “America’s Next Top Sea Shanty” that she made. “I still have the mandolin I was carrying (in that sketch). It’s necessary to have a mandolin if you’re going to do a sea shanty record.”
As may already be apparent, genre blending is a key part of her music, as she has sung hyperpop bangers on the same tracklist as piano ballads. Puff said her traversing of genre lines comes naturally.
“If I make two songs in the same genre, I get easily bored,” Puff said. “I’m like, that just sounds like this old song of mine and then I give up. I just don’t like the song anymore. I gotta stay unfocused as I am, in my music. I feel like it’s representative of who I am and what I do”
Puff then turns her attention to “The Ballad of Marion Zioncheck,” a track on her 2021 album “t.i.a.p.f.y.h,” which references the two title tracks “there is a place for you here” and “THIS IS A PROTEST FOR YOUR HEART!!!” “t.i.a.p.f.y.h” spins Puff’s signature brand of genre chaos into musical gold.
“The Ballad of Marion Zioncheck ” is a standout song full of twinkling piano keys played by Vera Much, with vocals from Puff and Sophia Konat. Marion Zioncheck was a congressman from Seattle who died by autodefenestration, or throwing oneself out a window, in 1936. The song relays his life and eventual suicide, before concluding with a proclamation about the modern stigma attached to mental health.
“So first of all, this was early quarantine,” Puff said. “I had started conceptualizing the idea of making an album in quarantine that was entirely based around the city of Seattle, or just the greater Puget Sound region, maybe even the entirety of Washington State” … I ended up finding an article – it was a listicle – and the second thing on the list was the rumor that Marion Zioncheck haunts the Arctic Club in downtown Seattle, which is a hotel that’s currently being renovated,” Puff said. “I’m assuming because the elevator keeps on going to the fourth floor for some reason, which is supposed to be the floor Marion Zioncheck’s office is on. Plus, there’s the sound of voices, flickering lights, etcetera – the classic ghost stuff. It explained a bit of (Zioncheck’s) crazier antics in the article.”
An article written by Jeff Stevens for a series about Seattle’s history called “City of Anxiety” helped finalize her research, though she was denied access to archives at the University of Washington.
“I was living really close to the University of Washington and I called to see if I could access their library,” Puff said. “They had printed articles on Marion Zioncheck in the archives. They won’t let me in because it was early fucking pandemic, which is understandable but I was like, damn it.So I had to improvise, because I’m an impatient person.”
She refers to Zioncheck as “a mental illness icon.” I would have to agree. With the topic of mental health, the topic of her personal self care practices comes up. .
“I haven’t been caring for myself in a way that feels satisfying as of late,” Puff said. “Sometimes that acknowledgement is enough … Are you surviving? Do that for a couple of minutes, days, months, whatever you need to do. Just stay the fuck alive. Stay alive. And if you can do things to yourself or with yourself that keep you more alive, do that, by all means.”
The topic switches to performativity, and what it is like being transgender and neurodivergent online. Puff, in particular, has been subject to the hordes of trolls established creators talk about, especially on TikTok.
“In terms of my boundaries that I have with the world and stuff, and people not upholding those boundaries, I feel like we’ve created this image of who’s the enemy and who’s the friend,” Puff said. “The fact of the matter is people from all fucking sides of the political spectrum have said weird fucking bullshit. I’ve had people that I share politics with send some crazy fucking DMs.”
She paused, coming to her culminating thought.
“There is no political stance that you can have that can keep you from causing harm,” Puff said. “There’s definitely political stances that can get you to cause significantly less harm, but not absolutely zero.”
She tells me about being compared to male celebrities.
“Because (many people) want to compare me to a man. And some of you are saying sorry when you do it. You know that it’s wrong. You know it’s a bad thing to do. You know it might get you in trouble. What is the risk, and what is the reward?”
As the conversation comes to a close, I ask her about the advice she would give to the mentally ill creatives out there. She cracks a joke about carving her own niche.
“Stay out of my territory,” she jokes, before getting serious. “Learn how to be intentional first … After a while, after you get a good handle on that, start being a little more self indulgent. It’s really fun. I’ve been making the best music of my life lately.”
Puff recounts how an ex-girlfriend told her directly “you should be more self indulgent.”
“That literally improved my music a fuck ton. It was such a funny thing to be like, oh this is what I need to do? I just need to be a little more pretentious? Great! …I feel like that’s the ultimate goal of any musician that wants to take themselves seriously and a little less seriously. That’s why I’ve been trying to embrace cringe, so to speak. There are some genres I feel like people won’t touch, and I’ll try to make little remixes of songs that belong in those genres, or make songs to remix that turn into that genre.”
She laughs, and then states “cringe is kind of cool.” I’m compelled to agree.