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An interview with British singer Natalia Kills about her noir-esque aesthetic, anthemic dark pop, and touring with Robyn

Natalia Kills is the noir-esque British pop star who’s all over the radio with a hit that’s a rare thing: a pop song about sex, Mirrors, that actually sounds like the way people talk about sex. The singer herself is something of a Jackie-of-all-Trades. Beyond songwriting and performing, the former TV actress produces her own web series, directs her music videos, and lends her Sin City aesthetic to everything that comes flying out of her creative magician’s hat (worn with stilletos and a swipe of blood-red lipstick, naturally.) We spoke with her about touring with Robyn and Kelis, her love of dark pop anthems, and the songs she’s dancing to at three in the morning.

SDTC: How was the tour?
Natalia: All of the shows have been really great so far. It’s a surprise for me because I’m just being discovered, obviously, as an up and comer, but when I see people wearing my tshirts and singing the lyrics in the front row it’s amazing. It’s a big surprise, and really nice. I think this is the perfect audience to break me to. It’s not too old, it’s not too young, it’s not too gay, it’s not too straight, it’s just so diverse. Robyn, she’s really well established, especially in Europe where I’m from, just getting to be around her, and her being so nice to me, and me watching the show and how she performs every night, the whole experience has been a dream come true.

SDTC: What are some artists that inspire you?
Natalia: I actually really like a lot of the old school style dramatic pop. Kate Bush and Queen and Depeche Mode and Eurythmics. Big pop anthems about a darker subject matter-an emotional intensity and that’s influenced my album.

SDTC: Do you draw from your experience as a TV actress when making your music?
Natalia: I definitely use my TV experience when I’m making my online show, Love Kills. But I actually stopped doing TV because I didn’t want to play a character, I just wanted to be myself. I didn’t want to say lines and rehearse and calculate all of the different expressions, I just wanted to be free, and now I have a chance to really do that in music. To take all of the things that I learned from being on a TV show and apply it to filming and creating visuals and directing my own music videos. I just live to express myself, all of my life experiences and opinions are in my album. I did a lot of songwriting before that, so it was good that I got the practice in before making my own music. I just think I got really really lucky that all the amazing producers I worked with on that album allowed me to really define my sound and get involved with the production, and the director that I worked with taught me, before we even started making visuals, to direct. At the time, I’d always been an idea person. I know myself and I know what inspires me and I have a lot of ideas, but all the people that I worked with taught me how to actually make those ideas into a reality, with and without using other creative partners. So I think I just got really lucky, that everyone was willing to let me do whatever I want and teach me how to do it for the future.

SDTC: What are some other works of art that inspire you?
Natalia: I’m actually really inspired by film, from Film Noir to Hitchcock and Kubrick even Tarantino, David Lynch. A lot of movies have really inspired me, just the way music is used in film to create suspense and drama and emotion. I would say my favourite book is probably The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. My album’s called Perfectionist, and that entire book is about trying to come across as socially perfect, beautiful, talented, intelligent, all at the same time as being popular. I love a lot of Tarantino’s work, because he makes heroes out of bad guys, and that’s genius to me. We don’t all have to sing about falling in love and the world being perfect to be a public figure. Things go wrong, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about when we make mistakes. I definitely am inspired by Tarantino, and his poetry and the violence.

SDTC: Is being a perfectionist a blessing or a curse?
Natalia: It’s both. It’s absolutely both. It’s just impossible for it not to be. I mean, my album Perfectionist is nothing to do with being perfect. It’s actually about the perfect way to deal with all of the heartbreak and disappointment and flaws and stress and horrible things that generally happen to all of us, it’s unavoidable. It’s a double edged sword. I think it drives you to want an excellent life and to be the best you can be, and it definitely drives me in that way. At the same time, you can become so self-critical, and so self-absorbed, that you often detach yourself and can destroy yourself.

SDTC: What is your live show like?
Natalia: Every night on stage, we make a bit of a party of the show. It’s really wild. My live show’s inspired by Sin City. When I was a little girl, the only thing I really wanted to do when I grew up was to be in a bad bitch girl gang, and we definitely do that onstage. There’s a girl gang in The Warriors called The Lizzies, and even in Pulp Fiction, Uma Thurman’s character, she’s an anti-hero. You want the best for her and you love her as a character, but you definitely know that everything she does is wrong, and I bring that and the party spirit of those feelings into my live show.

SDTC: It’s three in the morning, everyone is coming back to your place. What are the three songs you put on?
Natalia: Definitely Robyn, Hang With Me. It’s so good. I love all her songs, but Hang With Me, I love the message in it. [sings] ‘Don’t fall hopelessly, recklessly in love with me.” That’s amazing. I love that. I definitely would put Sleigh Bells on, particularly I like the song [sings] ‘I got my A machines on the table, got my B machines in the drawer.’ Amazing, love that. I love the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Zero. What girl doesn’t want to invite a bunch of girls ‘round, and scream at the top of their voice, [sings] ‘YOU’RE ZERRRRROOOO!’

SDTC: You toured with Kelis. What was that like?
Natalia: I’m definitely closer to Robyn, but Kelis is lovely. Her sense of style is incredible, her outfits are amazing, and her fan base is really loyal.

SDTC: What inspires your style?
Natalia: I don’t really follow fashion, I love style in general. Fashion is obviously very brand-based, and it’s very momentary, but style is like the eternal version of fashion. It always changes, and moves. Style can be anything from Ebay or a vintage flea market to high fashion, runway brands. I definitely like to look around, I’m inspired a lot by film characters, even the hair, the clothing, and the way everything looks.

-Haley Cullingham

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