Weyes Blood / All photos by Neil Krug
I watched Weyes Blood perform at the Michael Fowler Centre, a week before New Zealand entered our first lockdown in March 2020. There were whispers of the pandemic becoming a real issue, but things still felt free. During the instrumental of her song 'Movies', Weyes spun around before ripping off her jacket and bending back for a long note. I reenacted this moment to anyone who asked about the show. Titanic Rising then became a pivotal album of my isolation experience.
It felt only appropriate and comforting that this new album could give some insight into those times. Our lost but constant search for meaning, attacked with unforgivable romance. Her voice is one that supports a generation, someone so in touch with the collective human experience.
Weyes Blood, AKA Natalie Mering, says “it’s the least we can do as musicians. Make something universal transcend its own pain.”
I’m grateful to have her as a reference of inspiration, and that we were able to speak briefly on the eve of her new album release.
What were you listening to at the time of writing And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow?
The Doors, John Lennon, Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil)… I’m always listening to a lot of music. A lot of Scott Walker too.
Do you gain a lot of inspiration from this 70s/80s era of music?
I’m really inspired by classical music, and all kinds of music throughout history. I kind of get my inspiration from everything. Scott Walker definitely influenced how I felt about this record, and Jim Morrison. In being comfortable with being a crooner, with being a little out of time.
What are you listening to now then?
I like that new Alex G record God Save The Animals. Jan Hamer who did the soundtrack for Miami Vice. This band Belong that did a record called Common Era. They’re a noise band from 2011 that I just discovered recently. I like listening to that a lot.
I’m grateful for the joy that comes from singing along to your music, holding those long, big notes. Where do you gather your sense of melody from?
From listening to so much classical music, it’s the ultimate melody factory.
How do you often come to a song? With space, instrument, melody etc.?
I’ve been writing a lot on piano, and lately there’s a lot of coming up with lyrics after the melody. For this last record I did a lot of lyric writing. Writing music to those lyrics.
Is that something you do in liminal spaces?
I have a little studio in my house I write in, but I change it up to keep things liminal.
And are visuals something you often think of with a song?
I do love the visual components because I keep the music very cinematic.
There’s deep themes of old horror/classic film in your music. Where does this come from?
I love weird movies, it’s true. But I also like old classics and MGM musicals. The soundtracks in horror films are more interesting, so I gravitate towards those qualities. They play on suspense, terror and abstract subconscious stuff.
Do you have any earliest memory of going to the movies?
I grew up in a generation where there were movies everywhere; video cassettes and tv re-runs. Ever since I was a little kid, my grandfather would take me to the movies every Sunday. I really remembered that. It didn’t last that long but it was a cool season of time.
What a special way to grow up!
How are you feeling now? Do you still feel in the world of the record?
I feel relieved, but I’ve been chilling with the album since February so I’m not as surprised as other people will be when they first hear it.
And is there a particular overwhelming detail?
I’m pleasantly surprised at people’s initial reactions. You never know when you set out to do something if it’ll totally work. Taking current feelings of what’s happening and putting it to music, in a way that’s not forced or tried. It’s difficult to be so literal. I do feel this relief that I might of pulled it off, that it feels like catharsis and not just adding to the pile of confusion.
Completely! It’s like reassurance for feeling there’s no end in sight, while wondering if we’ll ever come back to simple connection. What else is arising for you at this time?
I’ve been working on the third record which I’m really excited about. I think there’s a lot of people that are ready to talk about stuff and to figure it out. This year I noticed people having such a limited bandwidth of what they’re able to do. We’re all wiped out and exhausted, and we don’t want to be this way forever. We’re going to figure out how to recombobulate and put some meaning back into what we’re doing. I feel now in hindsight (global events and technologically aside) that the real root is a sense of meaningless and nihilism.
Do you think it’s always been this way?
I think we were always suffering, that’s inherent of being alive, the what is the point? But I think we have had different systems of dealing with that than we do now. Past systems, like World War Two, just caused more conflict. People protected and guarded their systems of thought to a degree that became completely evil. Getting rid of that was going to be a big goal, but in the process of ridding one form of religion; consumer capitalism crept in and became the new mode of thinking. There was no alternative. Everyone was an individual cellular being. Unfortunately their spirits were a bit weakened by the fact that capitalism is not a spiritual answer to the suffering. It’s not a great time in terms of people coming together and agreeing upon stuff.
Making art feels like creating the world you want to live in. So if you could create a universe what would it look like?
I don’t claim to be smart enough to know of a better solution, but part of it would be acknowledging that people need to feel like they’re belonging to something that’s not influencer culture. If you build your identity around that, it’s not going to solve any problems. That aspirationalism is good; but it’s not soulful. There’s a loss of soul when you’re expressly doing everything for yourself, all the time. I don’t know how satisfying that is if you have to document it. People have the wrong idea of what would be a truly satisfying trajectory for their life. How can you blame them? We’re inundated with images and ideas about reality. It’s hard to perceive what’s right and what is an illusion.
We don’t necessarily know the best alternative.
I don’t think we can all go back to the farm. Unfortunately, the cats out of the bag on individualism. We can’t reverse it, but we can evolve. In ways, we’re dealing with the disintegration of a social fabric. It’s not complete, but communities in general are suffering. In that process there’s a paradigm shift. Re-building our connectivity IRL vs with artificial technology might be a good first step. But figuring out how to do that is pretty difficult.
I’ve often dreamt about there being a scenario similar to Katniss Everdeen shooting down the dome of the Hunger Games. Maybe that will happen with a satellite that operates the entire internet.
That would be a cool sabotage until there’s some crisis. It would be cool to deconstruct the internet, but power has become so decentralised. It might be the internet, it might not be. I don’t think we totally know the forces that are moving the dial along. It’s almost like we need to get rid of something else first.
You can listen to Weyes Blood’s new album, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow on all streaming services now, and you can order it via the Flying Nun Record Shop here - as well as all other good record shops.
This is an album where my favourite song changes daily. But at first instinct, it was A Given Thing. This topic of love is one my mum and I talk about, what it is and when it’s right. I think it’s captured perfectly here. Thank you Weyes Blood.