Music by VICE

The Internet Musician Left at London Has Perfected the Art of Going Viral

The singer-songwriter’s impressions have been cosigned by Mitski and Tyler, the Creator. Now she wants you to listen to her original stuff.

by Zing Tsjeng; photos by Chona Kasinger
Nov 18 2019, 3:16pm

This article appears in VICE Magazine's 2019 Profiles Issue. This edition looks to the future by zeroing in on the underrecognized writers, scientists, musicians, critics, and more that will shape our world next year. They are "the Other 2020" to watch. Click HERE to subscribe to the print edition.

It takes a lot to make Tyler, the Creator laugh, but Left at London (aka Nat Puff) is a natural. Back in April, the 23-year-old Seattle-based musician put out her savagely funny but affectionate impression of the Odd Future rapper: “This is how you make a Tyler, the Creator song. First, start with a shitty piano and pick a fucking chord. Next up: Record the audio of you playing the piano, pitch-shift it up a little bit so the audio quality kind of is ruined, and then just add the drums!” Two minutes and 20 seconds later she had 8.2 million views and an especially admiring fan. “This lowkey spot on OMG,” Tyler tweeted. “You forgot the ‘ayo’ though.”

Maybe you first encountered Left at London when the Tyler video was retweeted (64,200 RTs and counting) into your feed, or maybe you recognize her from the many internet platforms she’s improved through her presence. She’s the kid from the “hahaha I do that” Vine (28.7 million loops). She made the viral Smash Mouth–approved mashup of “All Star” and “The Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance. Most recently, she’s been impersonating some of your favorite musicians—including Frank Ocean and Mitski—on Twitter. She’s part of a generation of kids who grew up on the internet, flitting effortlessly between mediums and managing to be excellent on all of them. We talked to her about being one of the few good things left on the internet, her upcoming album You Are Not Alone Enough, and whether she could see herself becoming the next Lil Nas X.

VICE: Do you feel like you’re a product of the internet?
Left at London: This debut album is very much a product of the internet. It’s basically about being on Tinder and the weirdness that comes with being a mentally ill person that tries to navigate the complicated world of dating in, at the time, 2017. As far as my other content goes, tomorrow is actually the five-year anniversary of my first Vine.

What was your first memory of the internet?
I was so tiny. I was somewhere between 7 and 10. I was obsessed with making Miis [Nintendo Wii avatars] that looked like celebrities. I tried to make a Mii out of Adam Savage from Mythbusters and I clicked on a picture of Adam Savage [in Google Images]... What I got was a picture of somebody with their ass cheeks spread wide open, revealing a tattoo of a clown with the anus as the mouth. I told my mom immediately, because I was like, “The internet is a scary place.”

That is way too young to look at people’s assholes with clown tattoos.
I think there’s no proper age where you can do that.

What about when it comes to music? What are your first memories?
When you’re trans, your childhood just jumbles into one mess. I can remember when I got these [ear] piercings to the day, but I cannot remember for the life of me what age I was when I first started going to dance classes. But that’s what my first memory of music was—dance classes, because my sister took them... It was my first experience with hip-hop.

When you make a video, do you script it or do you just grab the phone and shoot?
I come up with the concept, and usually I’ll just improvise until I get a good take and then keep on going.

How do you prepare for one of your how-to impression videos? Do you listen obsessively to the artist?
They honest-to-god just happen. With the Tyler, the Creator one, I made the beat and then I relistened to his entire discography in the span of three days. It’s just happenstance, it’s never me planning to make a video like that.

Were you ever tempted to do comedy full-time?
For me, doing comedy is always just an accident. I’ve never done it on purpose and I think keeping that dynamic—just having humor happen when it happens—ends up being a good thing for me. It makes me less boxed in. But that being said, I do have a YouTube series in the works currently being crowdfunded through Patreon. It’s going to be like those how-to type of videos but more professional, more long-form, and more vague because it’s going to be about songwriting as a whole, not songwriting as a specific artist. It will have punch lines, but it will also be an actual learning experience.

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How do you walk the line between being respectful because you like the music and also angling for the punch line?
I think, If I were this artist, could I take this critique? The how-to videos are just done out of respect. The two artists that did notice their videos, Mitski and Tyler, both saw that and appreciated it.

Was it crazy realizing that they had watched it?
Mitski was less of a surprise because she already followed me, but I am thankful that she saw it like, two days before she deleted her Twitter. But the Tyler, the Creator one was definitely the most surreal. I have a friend who knows somebody who works at Blonded Radio [Frank Ocean’s Apple Music radio station] and they sent it to them. So there’s a chance that Frank Ocean saw it and did not respond. I kind of like the open-endedness of not knowing whether or not he actually saw it and liked it.

He’s a shy person. You never know.
I read an interview where he said he wouldn’t think of himself as reclusive as other people think of him. I think that’s an interesting notion, about how because he’s not constantly projecting his life out there into the void, we consider him reclusive. As far as we know, he could be going to karaoke bars every day.

You, on the other hand, are quite open about yourself.
Almost to a fault.

You’ve been on the internet for most of your life now. Do you ever regret being that open and very online?
I don’t, really. I feel like I’m open but I’m safe about it. People can find shit out about me but nothing that I don’t necessarily want them to find out.

How much does online success translate to real-life success? Do people recognize you in the street?
I have been recognized in the street, actually. Quite a bit. I went to Dick’s recently, which is like a burger joint that we have in Seattle, and the person working the counter asked me to sign a takeout bag. It’s now framed. [laughs] My life is weird.

Do you ever want to turn the page on being the shitposter on Twitter and be like, “I’m just a musician now, forget about everything else”?
I don’t think that I have the strength to stop shitposting. I have tried to go on breaks just to focus on music, but I will still find a way to get an idea for a tweet that I just have to pop off.

What do you think of Lil Nas X?
I actually have a cover of “Panini” in the vaults.

The parallels seem really obvious to me. He used the internet to make his song huge.
I think [this is] the only place where Lil Nas X and I differ. My songs are unfortunately very un-meme-able. The thing with “Old Town Road” was that it was just a fun song to listen to. You can’t meme “Waiting on a Ghost.” I can definitely imagine people doing sad TikToks to them, but I don’t think that would be a great look for that song.

You’re obviously very versatile when it comes to writing songs, because you can pick up the tropes of different songwriters so quickly. Have you ever been tempted to just make a meme-able song?
There is one thing that I want to release—a Christmas song I wrote called “Santa’s Homophobic.” The concept of the song is literally just like, [ deadpans] “If Santa doesn’t give me the gifts that I asked for, then automatically, I have to assume that he’s homophobic.”

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