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In her own words, Natasha Khan remembers the Beat-inspired trip to America that motivated her to pursue music seriously.

In the summer of 1999, when I was 20, I worked 1-hour days in a Christmas card packing factory in Watford just to fund my first trip to America. I knew deep down I wanted to do music, but it was still a secret then, and I had taken a few years out after school because I felt unsure of my next moves.

My boyfriend and I were huge fans of Jack Kerouac and had been excitedly reading all the Beat books, Raymond Carver and William Burroughs, fantasising about escaping our dreary suburban lives and travelling to the heady streets of New York and San Francisco.

”I remember going to hazy bars, visiting Kim’s Record Store and being invited to an erotic film festival in a strange warehouse where someone had built a giant Tesla coil”

We set off at the end of the summer, first stop: New York. I remember going to hazy bars, visiting Kim’s Record Store and being invited to an erotic film festival in a strange warehouse where someone had built a giant Tesla coil: an electrical voltage machine that had short-circuited parts of New York when it was turned on. Strange artists took photos of us as we drank piña coladas with glazed cherries. We stayed in flea-ridden motels with trees and nudes painted on the walls, full of the sounds of beeping taxis and people shouting. We were coming alive!

When we hit San Francisco we traversed the windy hills and visited old bookshops and cafes, feeling so grown up, so in awe of the architecture and gentle California light. We stayed in the Green Tortoise Backpackers Youth Hostel. Lo and behold, there was a piano there, and after a few days of being shy, I joined a drummer and saxophonist in some improvised sessions. When I sang they all told me, one by one, I should be doing this for real. I was buoyed with a newfound confidence; my blood pumped with the possibilities ahead, the spirit of all the writers, musicians, filmmakers I had loved surrounding me like guardian angels pushing me forward to my destiny.

At the end of our three months away in America, I came home and enrolled at Brighton University to study music with visual art the following autumn. I finally knew I had to do this for real. I never looked back.

Lost Girls is out now via AWAL Recordings