Weyes Blood on Karen Carpenter comparisons and her “calming nostalgic music to calm the chaos”

“SOFT rock with apocalyptic overtones was never my goal,” reflects Natalie Mehring. “But that’s what happened.

Like Weyes Blood, she creates painfully gorgeous songs with dark and unsettling undercurrents.

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“Soft rock with apocalyptic undertones was never my goal,” muses Natalie Mehring, who plays Weyes Blood. “But that’s what happened”Credit: Neil Krug
As Weyes Blood, Mehring writes incredibly beautiful songs with dark and unsettling undercurrents.

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As Weyes Blood, Mehring writes incredibly beautiful songs with dark and unsettling undercurrents.Credit: Neelam Khan Vela

This startling duality has turned the hype surrounding the 34-year-old American singer-songwriter into a deafening roar.

“I see it as a union of opposites,” she says. “Beautiful music with a richer message.

“Sugar to help the medicine come down, if you like.”

Mering’s velvety alto combined with rich melodic arrangements is reminiscent of the smooth jazz sounds that wafted from Laurel Canyon in the Los Angeles area in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

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But despite the echoes of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Harry Nilsson and Carole King, her lyrics tell a very different story.

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The uncertain world of the 21st century has been in Mering’s head since the beginning of her exciting fifth studio album, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow.

The opening track It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everyone sets the tone. . . if we stand on the brink of a climate catastrophe in a tech-overloaded world of pandemic-induced fear and isolation, at least we are ALL connected in our plight.

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“I try to be vulnerable like an open book”

Speaking from her Los Angeles home, Mehring says: “People compare themselves to others on social media and might be like, ‘Oh my God, I’m such an alien, how did I end up like this?’

“Or they say, ‘No one seems to care what happens to the planet.’

Although she speaks in the third person, I’m sure SHE feels that way sometimes.

Mehring continues: “But there are forces at work that people don’t really understand.

“I believe that we all have a connection to the planet, animals and everything around us that we deny.”

We’ll delve into Mering’s fascinating career path later, but first we need to discuss her previous album, Titanic Rising, the first part of a trilogy, as well as her breakthrough.

Despite being released in early 2019, a full year before Covid turned our lives upside down, her expertly crafted songs created an atmosphere of impending doom. The striking album cover image of her bedroom submerged in water alludes to the dangerous situation on planet Earth, infiltrating even the most private places.

“I felt that things were not going the way they should, and everything was going to be bad,” Mehring admits. But I just didn’t know how bad it was.

She says: “I always assumed that we would constantly raise awareness about climate change, but we don’t have to argue about it anymore. Assuming it’s real has become part of the common lexicon.

“The strangest, psychedelic thing for me is that we all know it’s real and still do very little about it.”

In early 2020, Mehring, under her stage name Weyes Blood, was still touring with Titanic Rising when the Covid lockdowns began.

“We were cut short,” she recalls, before describing how the forced lockdown forced her to change direction.

“I always imagined that after Titanic Rising I would make an upbeat, uplifting record. But when I sat down to write it, what came out was more like an emotional dig.”

Mehring suggests that the resulting And in Darkness, Burning Hearts, the second part of her trilogy, finds her “in the thick of things,” trying to understand the universal and the personal.

“The recording is more hidden, more internal and intimate because of the time I spent in isolation recording it,” she says. One new song, brooding Grapevine, puts closeness to the punch, hinting at a painful breakup.

“Now we’re just two cars driving past on a vine,” she says as the song ends with ethereal string waves and heavenly backing vocals.

“I try to be really vulnerable, like an open book,” Mehring says, without going into the details of the relationship.

The title track Hearts Aglow features a passage that says that building a career in music is costly for this seductive singer. It reads: “I didn’t have any friends/Oh, I just worked for years and stopped having fun.”

She says: “There were moments in the studio when I tried to record this piece.

“I thought, ‘I can’t say that, I’m going to make it obvious that I’m in my early thirties, which is not what kids in their twenties think about.’

These lines, she decides, are “definitely for older audiences!”

Mehring adds: “When you start to hustle and have little success, especially if you’re a freelancer, you get into a cycle where work becomes your only thing.

“There is no other option, especially in a place like America where there is so much competition and there is no structure to ensure that you have enough money to practically survive.

“It took me a little over twenty to afford basic things like health insurance.

“So yes,” she concludes. “I was very immersed in work and definitely stopped having so much fun.”

In the end, though, Mering knows you just have to say, “Fuck it!” at some point. Later in Hearts Aglow, she sings “The whole world is falling apart / Oh baby, let’s dance in the sand.”

She recalls the dark days of the pandemic, “when it was obvious that vaccines were not 1,000 percent perfect.

“A lot of people said, ‘Fuck it, we’re going on vacation anyway.’ We’ll still have fun,” she says.

“Everyone was holding on to the last semblance of a normal life. The idea of ​​not transmitting Covid to anyone was rejected.”

As for the final part of the trilogy, her next album, Mehring plans to focus on what we all need to cling to – hope.

“I’m working on it,” she admits. “I can already imagine how it might sound and feel.”

Mering has been writing and performing since the age of 15 under various spellings of Weyes (pronounced wise) Blood. “I have always loved to sing and had a natural affinity for music,” she says.

“My dad played the guitar and I looked up to him. There was also a piano in the house, which my mother played.”

“When I was six, I started with a small guitar. I also heard the eclectic music that my parents listened to.”

Her father’s favorite band was XTC, whose deliciously twisted interpretation of the punk era spawned the hits Making Plans For Nigel, Sgt Rock (Is Going To Help Me) and Senses Working Overtime.

Mering says: “He also liked Stevie Wonder and Weather Report, and my mom liked Joni Mitchell and (guitar virtuosos) Django Reinhardt and Segovia.

“My brothers were into rap, so I grew up on a weird mix, but I took music pretty seriously.”

As a teenager, she expanded her sonic ambitions by “playing a bit of bass and a bit of drums”, and now she “can play a bit of everything”.

“I made an impulsive decision at the age of 15”

At age 15, American writer Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood had a profound effect on Mehring, inspiring her stage name.

She says, “I had four-track records and weird songs, so I had to come up with a band name.”

In his book, O’Connor reveals that “blood is the only thing passed from mother to child.”

Mering has been writing and performing since the age of 15 under various spellings of Weyes (pronounced wise) Blood.  “I have always loved to sing and had a natural affinity for music,” she says.

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Mering has been writing and performing since the age of 15 under various spellings of Weyes (pronounced wise) Blood. “I have always loved to sing and had a natural affinity for music,” she says.Credit: Neelam Khan Vela

Mehring was amazed: “I find it so beautiful that the blood comes from our ancestors and remains alive.”

She adds, “I changed the spelling (eventually settling on Weyes) because I wanted to make it my own, and not just an homage to Flannery O’Connor.”

So has that name served her over the past two decades? “Yeah! I think so,” she replies.

“I mean, a lot of people mispronounce it, and there are times when I’m like, ‘Dude, if I could just be called something simpler!

“But I made an impulsive decision at 15 and I’m sticking with it.”

Mering’s early forays into music were a far cry from the luscious retro sounds she produces today. She even participated in the underground noise rock scene.

She compares her early years to “a sculptor who spends the first three years of her career smashing marble just to watch it crumble”.

Everything changed in 2008, when the world shifted on its axis due to the financial collapse.

“It was around that time that the pendulum really swung from experimental material to nostalgic and beautiful music,” Mering says.

She realized that nostalgia could serve as a balm to “calm down the chaos” and so embraced the throwback vibe of recent albums.

However, she had to come to terms with comparisons to Karen Carpenter.

“It made me insecure because I thought people might think I looked like The Carpenters,” she says.

“I was confused by this idea, but I went back and watched a video where Karen plays drums and sings. She was amazing, just not very cool for me!”

Mehring goes on to consider the actions that had a real impact on her. “As a kid, I thought of Joni as my mom’s music, but now I love all of her albums and definitely feel her influence,” she says.

“It’s the same with XTC. Now I’m reading about Andy Partridge and his freaky band ahead of their time.” Though not fashionable, Mehring is also a big fan of The Doors.

“I really love them,” she says. “But I run into people all the time who want to give a sh*t about them.

“Jim Morrison was such a wonderful convergence. He was the godfather of punk who showed how much he didn’t care by doing risky things.

“But he also claimed to be a poet like William Blake and a crooner like Frank Sinatra.

“He drew a line between generations. It was very similar to Los Angeles and I just love it.”

While living on the West Coast, Mehring was into hippie bands, but she’s also fascinated by the era-defining East Coast band, The Velvet Underground, which is darker and more edgy.

Prior to Covid, she recorded the song Story Of Blood with one of the band’s surviving members, John Cale, for his upcoming solo album.

She explains how the collaboration came about. “I interviewed Cale and my questions were so specific that he could tell that I was obsessed with this scene.

“Then he heard my music, he liked it, and he invited me to come and sing.”

And, you know, Cale wanted Mehring to sound like German singer Niko from The Velvet Underground. “He was trying to get the low notes out of me,” she smiles.

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Like Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison and John Cale, it’s clear that Natalie Mering is a fiercely independent spirit.

“I don’t feel like an outsider,” she says. “But as an alternative musician, it’s a long game and you have to keep going.”

Like Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison and John Cale, it's clear that Natalie Mering is a fiercely independent spirit.

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Like Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison and John Cale, it’s clear that Natalie Mering is a fiercely independent spirit.Credit: Neelam Khan Vela
Her new album is called And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow.

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Her new album is called And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow.Credit: Neil Krug

VAYES BLOOD

And in the darkness hearts burn

★★★★☆

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#Weyes #Blood #Karen #Carpenter #comparisons #calming #nostalgic #music #calm #chaos

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