Q&A: Left at London talks songwriting, life as a viral star and Tyler, The Creator

Left at London. Photo by Lily Roussel

Musician, poet, viral sensation — these are just a few of the many hats worn by Nat Puff, the Seattle-based creative behind the up-and-coming indie-pop project Left at London.

You might recognize Puff from her days as a Vine star, from her often-viral Twitter videos (watch “How to make a Tyler, The Creator song” here) or from her presence as a vocal LGBTQ+ advocate. Stream her flagship EP, Transgender Street Legend, Vol. 1, on Spotify here.

We caught up with Puff to discuss Left at London, her rise to virality and the pressures of online stardom:

MIXED MANTRA: When did you start making music?

LEFT AT LONDON: I probably started making music when I was in fifth or sixth grade. I didn’t release music until high school when I started releasing acoustic demos. I didn’t start releasing music officially, like on Spotify and shit, until June of 2018.

MM: What’s the story behind the name of your project, “Left at London”?

LAL: I was walking to my guitar lesson, and next to the place I learned guitar at was a place called The Loft at Tandem. It was written in cursive, so I misread it as “Left at London.” The place has since closed down. I misread the sign and asked a couple of people, “Hey, is this a cool band name?” They were like, “Yeah, it’s a cool band name.” So I just went with it.

MM: How many instruments do you play?

LAL: I play guitar, bass, mandolin, piano and vocals.

MM: I read that Death Grips is one of your biggest inspirations. Can you elaborate?

LAL: Death Grips has always been an inspiration to me in the sense that I don’t tend to find inspiration from people who sound like me. If I find inspiration from people who sound like me, I’m essentially going to keep on sounding like those people. If I find inspiration and joy from artists that don’t sound like me, such as Death Grips and Kanye West, I can use those influences within my own music and create more of a unique sound for myself.

MM: We’re really interested in songwriting processes. Can you walk us through how you wrote “Revolution Lover”?

LAL: I made the instrumental after having this dream about The Simpsons and that guitar riff [from the theme song] was playing in the background. I was like, “That is a sick fucking guitar riff. I’m gonna record that shit when I wake up.” I frantically recorded the instrumental at like 9 a.m., trying to record it as soon as I woke up. That’s probably the fastest I’ve ever gotten out of bed. I knew it was going to be a hit. I made it one long instrumental where all I did was repeat that one four-bar phrase, but occasionally I’d remove the guitar and the strings. That gave it enough dynamic to move the song forward. That’s literally all it is — the same riff with the occasional instrument taken out of it. I find inspiration from hip-hop, which does the exact same thing. It wasn’t out of laziness, it was out of like, “This riff and chord progression is strong enough on its own. Why not have it lead the song?” I came up with a melody and I was like, “What should I write about?” My girlfriend was feeling pretty sad about the political climate, as was I. I really wanted a song that was just going to say, “You’ll be alright.” Whether or not I actually believed it at the time, I’m not sure, but it was really important to me to get that out.

MM: What’s it like being a viral sensation?

LAL: I get a surprising amount of positive comments versus negative comments. It wasn’t until the Taylor Swift tweet I made that I started getting a lot of hateful comments. Even then, the positive comments sort of drowned them out. What’s weird is that even when all of the comments are positive and you’re receiving a shit-ton of them, it can still be very toxic, which is something I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to get this “viral,” period. When I started getting viral, I was like, “Wow, this is kind of not a great place to be.” It’s a weird experience. I’ve been trying to distance myself from trying to find more virality in my tweets and stuff like that. I sort of just tweet whenever and whatever I want to. Before, I was sticking to a formula and I realized I was having a bad time within that formula — making mashups, how-to videos and videos period. I just moved on and started doing what I wanted to do again. It’s been really freeing. I haven’t done one in a while, but I’ve been trying to talk to my fan base on Instagram Live about growth and stuff like that. It’s such a different experience because it’s so intimate. Less people show up to Instagram Live as opposed to a viral hit. It feels like a group therapy session. I’m going to try to do that a little bit more. If they catch on, they catch on. If they don’t, they don’t. Either way, as long as I’m happy, we’re good.

MM: How are you so good at impressions?

LAL: Weirdly enough, I want to say I’m a very intuitive person. I tend to find that’s partially thanks to my autism. I detect patterns and it’s easy to mimic patterns for me. The impressions I do are very much based on noticing small patterns and trying to imitate them to the best of my ability.

MM: What was it like to get a shout-out from Tyler, The Creator?

LAL: I woke up from a nap and got the notification. I had to check it three times to make sure it was real. I immediately told my roommate, who’s a huge Tyler fan. He said it kind of ruined his image of him. Not because it was a negative experience, but because he had to be like, “Oh shit, Tyler’s a human being who’s real and has thoughts and feelings and stuff.” It was wild because seeing him react to a celebrity reacting to me, and knowing some people view me as a celebrity — my roommate obviously doesn’t give a shit — kind of made me realize that when I reply to some people they have the same feeling about me, which is wild to me. The entire experience was just like, “Oh shit.” I had a bunch of realizations at once when that happened. Having that support from him really meant a lot to me. If one day I become this indie-pop star — make sure to put that in quotations with laughter after it so I don’t seem like an asshole — and I meet him again, I wonder if he’d remember something like that. If I had the chance to see Tyler, would he remember this entire interaction? I think about that a lot.

MM: What’s the average day in the life of Nat like?

LAL: It really depends. I don’t really have an average day anymore. Every day is new. Every day is ridiculously different. The common threads seem to be eatin’ good and smokin’ weed.