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Weyes Blood arrives on European shores: an interview with Natalie Mering

We catch up with Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood amid her European tour supporting Kevin Morby.

Written by Gemma Dietrich

Natalie Mering Weyes Blood full length
Having released her second album under the title Weyes Blood at the end of last year on Mexican Summer, collaborated with the likes of Ariel Pink and been a one time member of the experimental troupe Jackie-O Motherf**ker, Natalie Mering is no newbie to the music scene. As she joins Kevin Morby on tour and takes Europe by storm, we catch up with the formidable songstress and get a sneak peak into the genius music world she has created for herself.

Natalie Mering profile
Welcome to Europe Natalie! Have you toured this side of the pond before?
Yes I have, this is my fourth time across the pond for musical purposes. First tours were very noise/drone/experimental scene-centric. These last two have been my first foray into more indie shows.

Is there a particular country you’re excited about visiting?
Yes! Switzerland is especially dreamy, because I am a mountain woman and feel most at home at high elevations. I also love free human souls and dairy (Interesting people and grass fed milk cheese). Portugal is also a highlight because of the climate and general vibe-lots of great artistic minds there. I always have the best, most idealistic conversations about art and music with promoters from Portugal. The country seems a good 30 years lost in time. There’s a strange noticeable spark in how people respond to new music. I also feel close to their traditional music, Fado. It resonates with my soul and I think I’ve channeled its particularities unknowingly.

Weyes Blood – Be free – Urban Outfitters Performance

You released your second album ‘The Innocents’ last October on New York label, Mexican Summer. What’s your favourite track to perform?
I love performing ‘Bad Magic’ because it’s very demanding, emotionally and vocally. It tends to draw everybody in.

Weyes Blood Urban Outfitters
How would YOU describe your sound and style?
I’d say my sound is reminiscent of cathedrals-church with a bit of soul and R&B, soul church. Sweet Metal? There is a bit of darkness there, some doom, but its sweet and I try to play into the tradition of folk ballads. I have been very influenced by drone composers like Lamonte Young and Terry Riley, but also love a good psyche pop anthem. That said, there’s usually one note you can play through the entirety of any of my songs, a drone note that carries everything through. My favorite musical example of this is John Cale‘s infamous piano note played through the entirety of The StoogesWanna be Your Dog’. If I could sum up all my musical infatuations in one composition it may just be that. I have dreams about John Cale a lot, and the records he produced with Nico. He’s a wonderful drone man that built that bridge into popular music, and secretly I hope my style draws from that with a medieval twinge.

Weyes Blood – Bad Magic – Official Video

You studied herbs in the New Mexico desert before moving to New York and settling into the music scene there. Was music something you always did?
Yes music was always first, even as a child. But back then I was more interested in theatrical arts. It wasn’t until I was 12 years old that I realized being an actress wasn’t nearly as interesting as diving into the sonic realms of music exploration. From that point onward it was my main purpose for being alive, no hyperbole.

Weyes Blood Natalie Mering
Your parents are both musicians. Have they had an influence on your own style?
A bit. My Father’s favorite band was XTC, so he was always open to “the next wave” and innovative music. Being a new waver himself, he stayed interested in recent music and always wanted to know how rock n roll was evolving. But like any classic baby boomer he couldn’t really follow me into the 21st century, pretty much drawing the line at Radiohead. My Father and I went to a Radiohead concert together and we really bonded, but it took him a while to come around to my music. My mother is obsessed with Joni Mitchell so she was always playing in the house. ‘Court and Spark’ is permanently branded into my subconscious.

Your voice has a unique and haunting quality to it. Has it always been that way or something you grew into?
It’s always been low and raspy. I’ve grown into singing with more strength over time. There was definitely a time it was a source of embarrassment, but its something I’ve come to appreciate over time. It’s good for impersonations. I do love high voices, though, and my register as singer is definitely alto and below. Sometimes hearing my voice on recordings really freaks me out, I hear it so differently in my head I can’t imagine what it sounds like to other people.

What inspires you?
To keep it extremely concise: chaos, synchronicity, duality and empathy.

Weyes-Blood-The-Innocents cover
I love your attitude. You seem very focused and clear on what you want. Does that make working with other people more challenging when they’re not as serious as you?
Haha, well thank you. I can also be extremely unfocused and confused about what I want just like the rest of us. I guess I just force myself to take things across the finish line even if I’m having those feelings. And as far as dealing with challenges working with other people-it’s always been an issue, but something I’ve learned to get over. I don’t expect anybody to take what I do as seriously as I do, so I like to take most of the load myself and collaborate with people who are looking to go on a journey with me into my chasm of unattainably high standards. That’s one of the reasons I’m a solo musician-I honestly just wanted to be a girl in a band, a la Kim Gordon, for most of my life. I just could never find anybody as serious as I was about pursuing it-almost like a fanatical religion, I heightened music to a philosophy of life.

I love this one documentary about Sun Ra. The interviewer asks a member of the Arkestra if he minds not having a social life anymore because he has to practice with the ensemble all the time… he says so candidly, “music is everything, why would I want anything else?” I’ve always felt that way. As I get older I’ve stopped being so serious, I enjoy lighthearted half assed efforts into the music realm as a means of therapy after years of carrying the burden of taking something so seriously. It’s important to lighten up, but I always have a “spirit of excellence”. Whatever you’re doing, even if you’re trying to make some crappy music to make your friends laugh, is an important process to be enjoyed to its fullest extent.

Weyes Blood Natalie Mering 2
I read that you starting recording with a 4 track in your early teens. Do you still record onto tape?
Yes! I love the natural compression of tape. It’s a magnetic universe I’ll never leave. Tape is infinite in its possibilities, and its natural compression is my favorite.

What’s your favourite part of the production process? The inspiration, the writing, the recording, the mixing?
The inspiration comes the most naturally-its like a lightning bolt, a spark, and I usually have to jump around the room a bit to deal with the excess in body electricity after I feel like I’ve had a good idea. Writing is more gruesome, choosing things-creating shape from the formless void. Recording is like purgatory, where you’re not quite sure if you’ll be able to capture the lightning bolt – sometimes I like to record first and improvise, keeping the “lightning” in the recordings. Mixing is basically downhill, but also a nitty gritty process. At that point if you’re not satisfied there’s not much you can do, so if you’ve made something good, mixing is an enhancer. If you’re still not satisfied, mixing is a never ending void. Production in a nutshell.

If you want to catch Weyes Blood in action she is currently supporting Kevin Morby on a European tour including these UK dates – 17 June at The Lexington, London 
and 18 June at The Hope, Brighton.


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