Zeitgeist can be a very tricky thing. It’s the golden age of superficiality where the general attention span only lasts as long as the next Tinder date, and active vocabulary is replaced by buzzwords. It almost feels like a paradox that in these weird and rather turbulent times an artist like Natalie Mering, known musically as Weyes Blood could represent a different spirit of the times.
Los Angeles-based Natalie Mering is recording under the name Weyes Blood, and her last two releases, Front Row Seat to Earth and Cardamon Times, both released with label Mexican Summer, gained her much more than just a bit of momentum. Her songs flirt with ’70s-infused psych-folk while her engaging tone rings close to timeless vocal heavyweights such as Joan Baez, Catherine Ribeiro, Harry Nilsson or Karen Carpenter. And yet, her body of work isn’t necessarily held together by a transfiguring idea of nostalgia, but through an overwhelming sense of yearning for something better and more complete.
Weyes Blood´s latest album Titanic Rising feels like the logical follow-up to her 2016 breakthrough album. Her elaborate and very personal lyrics confidently stand on the intersection of profound sadness and deep melancholy. Heavy yet with an earnest outlook that can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. But maybe that’s exactly what it needs if you’re about to reframe the current. Zeitgeist. Here, she talks through a selection of songs from the album, describing in her own words what each means to her.
In this case the title says it all, really. It’s basically my older self singing to my younger self that a lot is going to change, beyond just growing up. It’s a way bigger scale, the world is gonna change, your concept of reality is about to change because of this intense paradigm shift that no one expected to happen within one lifetime. It’s technology versus ou fragility of human life on this very planet. About a different kind of evolution. Watching the weather changing these days is particularly psychedelic. And somehow each and every one of us is forced to have the strength to deal with it. You know, I grew up being the center of the world. As a kid you should be allowed to feel that way. I felt as if I could do anything I wanted, and that all the happy endings in the world could be mine. So, yes, I grew up with the overall feeling that the world will be ok, and having children wouldn’t be connected to a philosophical breakdown. I thought everything would be pretty much the same as my parents generation. Obviously, I was very wrong.
This is a song dealing with learning how to trust again. With being so disillusioned with love that you need to decide to be psyched by it, you know, as opposed to simply falling for it and love being this very natural thing. This is connected to the myth of Andromeda where her father chained her to a rock and she has to be saved by Perseus. It’s this concept that you need to be saved, which it plays into as well. I think a lot of people feel like that sometimes, even though it’s a lot to ask from anybody. ‘Please save me and make my feelings and my trauma go away.’ It’s an impossible task! But there’s some hope in that song, too. I believe that it’s up to you to make it work out.
That’s the poppy one of the album. It’s about the restlessness of modern dating. This kinda ADD-attitude fed by those dating platforms. It’s as if people are floating around these days, bouncing from thing to thing. It’s as if monogamy is a little out of style, as if it’s something almost exotic for a lot of people. Damn, that’s really hard to explain! Usually you’d settle for whatever comes around, because that’s just how human beings are—even though we’d love to hold out for a soulmate. The idea of what this person should be like, how this person should make us feel, it’s so unrealistic. So we end up hooking up with someone different everyday. It’s almost like a paradox.
“As a woman in music you have to kinda occupy this space where I feel I have to downplay my femininity or be the good sport. It’s such a male-dominated industry, it’s almost surreal.”
SOMETHING TO BELIEVE
This song is about having a hole in your cosmology. You know, I was raised in a pretty sheltered environment and within a strict religious household. I had all these medieval ideas about reality. And to see all these disappear after denouncing Christianity, I was left with this gaping hole, like, ‘what is the purpose? what is the meaning?’ I think I stopped believing in God when I was ten years old but I still had to go to church even though I felt that there’s something really wrong with that view on the world. When I became an adult I realized that I still want something to believe in, and that’s why I did this almost imperialistic thing where I borrowed a bit from this religion and a bit of that esoteric idea and so on. But it was never my intention to collect this patchwork, stretching meanings from other cultures just to find something that I could have a little more belief in. So, yeah, that’s my existential crisis song! You want to believe in something bigger than yourself, but as a sceptic and somebody who believes in science, it gets increasingly harder. It’s hard for me to borrow from other cultures but I can extract little pieces of truths.
That song is all about being brainwashed by movies. You know, all human beings need myths in one way or another… that’s a part of how we psychologically understand our purpose on this planet. Movies have taken the place of classic storytellers, they are telling the myths of our time. It’s a strange medium to become obsessed with. As a kid I was definitely obsessed with it. it was such a big part of my development—probably in everybody’s life, regardless how much we try to play it down. But it’s pretty much a white-washed industry, it’s basically about white dudes trying to make a buck, and that’s where things are getting a bit difficult, right?!
This is a love song about two people that are very similar. It’s as if you’re looking into a mirror and see somebody who plays the exact same games you play to give you a taste of your own medicine. ‘No one is giving you a trophy for all the things that you have been through’ is one of my favorite lines of this song because that is a very personal line for me. As a woman, it’s good to see that we’re becoming a focal point through the #metoo movement and stuff, that trauma gets finally acknowledged. But I believe there’s still so much emotional labour that cannot be really expressed in this avenue. As a woman in music you have to kinda occupy this space where I feel I have to downplay my femininity or be the good sport. It’s such a male-dominated industry, it’s almost surreal. At the moment I’m having this kind of momentum, and I’m really happy about it… it took me quite some time to get there, and no one is giving me trophy for it. I guess, you could say that about all kinds of trauma.
PICTURE ME BETTER
This is about a friend of mine who committed suicide. It’s kinda just like wanting to send a message to him. He was a musician like me, and we both got caught up in this rat race to constantly get better in order to reach a certain level. And since this is a very time-consuming process, every musician deserves to get paid. Unfortunately, it still is really hard to make a living in America as an artist because there is no health care system that would benefit us. He did need specific things which simply were out of reach for him because of that shitty situation. For me, this song is an exercise in trying to grapple with some of the really sensitive people that have died because they were unfortunate enough to choose to be an artist. It certainly isn’t all fun and games, it can be really draining and emotionally impossible to handle.
It’s a wild time to be alive. Just imagine how many people there are, it’s like we’re living in this gigantic hive right now. It’s beyond our comprehension at this point. It’s a bit scary, I think, even more so when you think about how many of these people still want to live in the American Dream and how many resources we need to burn in order to fulfill their dream. The magnitude of overpopulation.
Natalie Mering known professionally as Weyes Blood will release her latest album, Titanic Rising on April 5, 2019 on Sub Pop Records. Find tour dates, buy, and listen to the new album over on Sub Pop’s website. To follow more of her work, see her personal website.
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Text: Sven Fortmann
Photography: Robert Rieger