Meet the transgender street legend from Seattle who performs uncanny tributes to the songwriting styles of Frank Ocean, Tyler, the Creator and Mitski
Left At London – real name Nat Puff – is a trans woman from Seattle who’s been a figure on our little square screens for quite some time now. Starting out as a Viner back in 2014, she created a cult following through her hilarious short videos – most notably for her ‘relatable post’ Vine, which now has over 28.7 million loops – before then pursuing her passion for music.
Left at London now has two EPs out, Transgender Street Legend Vol. 1 as well as The Purple Heart, and is working on releasing her debut album, You Are Not Alone Enough, which is scheduled to come out sometime later this year. While her online presence focusses on trans rights, crowdfunding and activism, her popularity has recently been given an astronomical boost following a series of viral videos; ‘how to make a ____ song’. Mitski, Tay Keith, Frank Ocean, and Tyler, the Creator have all been subject to a witty step-by-step breakdown of how these artists go about their craft. And her subjects seem to love it, she even made Tyler “LEGIT LAUGH”, and Mitski got in her replies too. While Nat is very, very funny, there is a hell of a lot more to her than that. Dazed spoke to her about TED Talks, righteousness, and Christmas Farts.
So you left your job on March 5 to pursue your career in music, how’s that been going?
Left At London: It’s been going...uh...it's been going, haha. When I quit my job, I was fairly confident that I’d have enough money from streaming to get me through – and I do, it’s just less money than I had at my minimum wage job. It’s baby steps. I’m dipping into my savings here and there, but other than that, it’s been going surprisingly well. I feel like I have more time making plans in regard to my music, and making plans with my friends and my partner too.
How did your interest in music first start?
Left At London: “I’ve been involved in music for quite some time. There were four albums I received as a kid which really got me into music. So there was; Experience Hendrix, which was the best of Hendrix, Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles, Close to the Edge by Yes, and... Christmas Farts. Christmas Farts is an album that's just Christmas songs... but uh... it’s just fart sounds.”
At what point did you decide to start making Vines?
Left At London: I can’t remember the name of the hashtag, but there were these six second rap battles between Viners. I decided to get a vine account just to do that, and then over time I just sort of gathered a cult following, which ended up helping me gain more of a following later on. The fact that people can be like ‘you did Vine’ as opposed to like, ‘you’re a Viner’ is an important transition for me. Some people do still occasionally refer to me as a Viner, and it's one of my pet peeves. It’s like, Vine doesn’t even exist anymore – there’s no possible way on earth that anyone could be a Viner anymore.
“Oh, fuck Vine! I’m done with Vine, Vine’s done with me” – Left At London
A lot of your music is focussed around righteousness and equality, and your fans seem to find you a very emblematic figure of the trans landscape. Do you feel any responsibility as a result of this?
Left At London: I do, actually. In terms of my music especially, there have been times where shit gets real hard, times when I’m self-conscious about my music and I'm like ‘nobody’s actually listening to it’, and I get huge bouts of imposter syndrome. I have to remember that people have, regardless, been affected by my music. And I need to step back and understand that, if I want to continue affecting people’s lives like that. I have to continue going, I can’t just stop now.
And does this responsibility affect your songwriting process?
Left At London: It’s still a personal process. I’d say the closest that it has affected my songwriting is that occasionally I’ll try to write a song about my experiences, in regards to this newfound quote-on-quote fame, because it’s a weird experience being recognised on the street for things that you made at 9am whilst just realising that you’re not gonna be able to go to sleep. Knowing that I am a recognisable figure to people is a lot of pressure. Sometimes I take out that pressure in songwriting, but nothing that’s released yet.
The how-to videos have been great, how do you go about choosing which artist to emulate?
Left At London: Yeah, the days that I released the Frank Ocean and Tyler videos listens to my music skyrocketed, which was very very nice. With the how-to videos, choosing them is mostly on what I’m listening to a lot of at that moment. The first how-to video I made, which was the Tay Keith beat, I was listening to a lot of Sirius XM, which was playing a lot of BlocBoy JB, and with the Frank Ocean one I’d got sick of listening to BlocBoy, and I’d really got into the album Endless, so it's all based on what I’ve been listening to a lot at the time.”
“With the Frank Ocean one I’d got sick of listening to BlocBoy, and I’d really got into the album Endless, so it's all based on what I’ve been listening to a lot at the time” – Left At London
The videos are you essentially dissecting the process of songmaking- do these videos help you in your own process?
Left At London: They definitely help me with my production. I try and produce what I can as a self-taught producer who has been producing for a very short amount of time. But yeah, it doesn’t really help my songwriting skills at all. I’m already able to do the videos because of my songwriting ability, but it helps my production ability – trying to emulate somebody else’s sounds really helps.
In terms of all the publicity these have been getting you, are you still ‘hella unsigned’?
Left At London: I’ve gotten opportunities, but nothing along the lines of being signed, yet. I’m taking it in strides – do I need to be signed, do I want to be signed, what type of deal do I want – because I’m definitely not gonna take a 360 deal as they screw over the artist every single time. So I’m really trying to look for a proper distribution deal, and get myself out there as opposed to waiting for people to come to me and seeing what happens. If nothing happens, I’ll just continue being independent and hope that works out!
So your new album, ‘You Are Not Alone Enough’, is coming out around August time?
Left At London: Well, that was the plan, but with sample clearance and stuff like that, shit’s kind of been hitting the proverbial fan. So we’re edging it back closer to November now– I suspect it’ll be finished by August, but it won't be ready to release until like November, ish.
You’ve just done a TED Talk too –what else does Nat have planned for the rest of this year?
Left At London: I don't know what was up – it hasn’t been released yet – but I was so nervous on stage because ‘voice training’ was particularly new for me, which in turn just made my voice really shaky. I’m worried how it’s gonna sound at the end of it. But yes, I have some things coming up, but I can't talk about them quite yet. They’re still in the planning stages.
Where would you like to see Left at London by the end of the year?
Left At London: I want Left at London, as a project, to start hitting its stride. After the album comes out I wanna focus on promotion, and a couple of these unnamed projects, and then continue making albums past that. I have three albums in the works as of late, and I try to tell people that because I’m like hey, labels, I have myself prepared!
And do you miss Vine?
Left At London: Oh, fuck Vine! I’m done with Vine, Vine’s done with me. People always ask me and I’m like, I dunno, sure it was healthy at the time but, at the same time I’m not really that invested in it? If it was music that got cancelled, I’d be a bit more like, oh shit. But music didn’t get cancelled, it’s only Vine so it’s just collateral damage.