For solo artist Natalie Mering, music has always been in her blood — it’s even part of the inspiration for her musical creation, Weyes Blood. The name comes from a combination of Mering’s own musical genes, along with the influence of Flannery O’Connor’s novel Wise Blood, which the musician read when she was 15.
When asked about the reasoning of blood in particular, Mering mentioned that she fell in love with the idea of blood having characteristics being passed on for generations. “Blood never really dies,” she explained, “it’s just regenerated.”
Growing up in a family of musicians significantly impacted the California native’s life, as she found herself surrounded in a world of musical influences. At a certain point, Mering confessed that her parents became extremely Christian and involved in their own bands during her upbringing, which may explain why listening to her music is similar to a religious experience in itself: classical piano chords mixed with angelic vocals remind the listener of a divine and mystical sound.
The discovery of her father’s band led to a long, unfolding process of Mering’s own self-discovery in music. Realizing her talent, the musician soon followed in her parents’ footsteps, which she calls her destiny: “My breakthrough moment was when I was 15. I remember picking up my electric guitar and being able to play barred chords for the first time,” she admitted.
This realization led to a serious epiphany which showed Mering the way, giving her the final push to follow her dreams in the music world and simultaneously carry on the pattern of musicians in her family. “I remember thinking that if my dad can do it, then I can do it too,” she added.
Weyes Blood is also influenced by Mering’s musical idols, which include Sonic Youth, Ween, Syd Barrett, Joni Mitchell, and Enya, to name a few. The Los Angeles-based songwriter was lucky enough to work at a record store and go through the new arrivals section consistently, which exposed her to a wide variety of music at an early age. Mering always planned to be in a band, but sadly, she couldn’t find anybody that took music as seriously as she did.
“I was so obsessed and willing to give up everything to do this,” she said. “I always wanted to be in a band, but I realized that I had to play alone. I couldn’t find musical soul mates.”
Despite not having any additional members, Weyes Blood does not disappoint: Mering’s 2016 album Front Row Seat to Earth is packed with powerful vocals and hazy, ethereal sounds. Much of the album’s inspiration comes from the desire for societal and cultural changes among the rise of technology:
“I felt like things were reaching this boiling point of words, and we could no longer perceive truth,” Mering explained. “We’ve become so desensitized to current events and things that are happening outside of our realm. So this album [Front Row Seat to Earth] is saying, ‘Here we are, a first world country with access to our community, but we are witnessing everything through what feels like theatre.’”
Mering went on to discuss the impact of screens we see every day on our smartphones and computers, mentioning that they provide that “buffer” through which we absorb copious amounts of information: “Our perceptions are limiting our scope of emotional empathy. It’s just a really strange time in terms of our grasp on what’s happening with technology right now.”
Since her last album, Mering has stayed on the radar: she just released a new LP and a joint EP with singer/songwriter/producer Ariel Pink in the last few months. The collaboration features a four-song EP entitled Myths 002, which Mering described as having “a similar Renaissance-harmony feel”: “We had been friends for a while and started playing together and it all just started to make sense.”
When asked to describe the sound of Weyes Blood in one sentence, Mering calls her creation “neoclassical folk balladry that’s vulnerable and sometimes includes computers.”
Weyes Blood was at the Cobalt on February 25. Before playing the show, Mering was excited about her Vancouver premiere and visiting BC. Aside from playing her show, Mering looked forward to hiking with friends and getting deep into the zone, nature-wise: “I love how beautiful BC is. It feels like you’re kind of on the edge of the world.” For myself, listening to Weyes Blood can evoke that same “edge of the world” feeling if you just close your eyes and listen — no mountains needed.