Weyes Blood Meditates On Climate Change And Learns To Cope With Loss

Apr 24, 2019
Originally published on April 24, 2019 7:58 pm

Titanic Rising, Natalie Mering's latest album from her long-running project Weyes Blood, invites the listener in with a comforting, somewhat nostalgic sound. But beneath that warm, dream-pop bed of music is a flood of anxieties about climate change, finding love and a friend's suicide.

Mering, 30, does a lot of talking to her younger self on this album and sees the track "A Lot's Gonna Change," as the theme of the entire record: "Learning how to cope with these changes in a way that doesn't completely bog you down in a sense of hopelessness," she explains.

There's also a strong sense of larger-than-life, celestial wonder on this album. On the track "Movies," Mering remembers how the 1997 blockbuster Titanic had a profound impact on her, but in a different context than most her age.

"I actually took the whole lack of dominion over nature, hubris of man message home. My takeaway from that film wasn't the love story but, really just like, 'Oh man, look at look at these rich men.' ... The third class you know gets screwed," Mering says. "To me, that was the big message and it was almost like putting a match on a wet blanket in terms of its impact politically."

YouTube

While some tracks like "Something to Believe" feel big picture and abstract, other cuts get deeply personal. "Picture Me Better," is about a friend who took his own life around the time Mering was writing this album.

"It caught all of us completely off guard and the absurdity of it was just so all-encompassing and insane," Mering says, explaining that the song's message has a lot to do with perception. "Everybody is constantly putting themselves under a microscope in terms of their productivity and their financial success and this whole idea of 'Picture Me Better,' like picture me, you know, who I'm supposed to be versus, you know, just accepting who we all are."

Mering spoke with NPR's Ari Shapiro about writing Titanic Rising, relatable loneliness and life in an age mediated by screens. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The new album from Natalie Mering's project Weyes Blood invites you in with a comforting, kind of nostalgic sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A LOT'S GONNA CHANGE")

WEYES BLOOD: (Singing) A lot's gonna change in your lifetime.

SHAPIRO: Beneath that warm, dream pop is a flood of anxieties about climate change, finding love and a friend's suicide. The album is called "Titanic Rising." Natalie Mering, who's 30, told me that this first track, "A Lot's Gonna Change," is sort of a guide to her younger self.

WEYES BLOOD: I felt like "A Lot's Gonna Change" was kind of the theme of the record, you know, learning how to cope with these changes in a way that doesn't completely bog you down in a sense of hopelessness, which I think a lot of people in my generation are kind of, you know, dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

SHAPIRO: When I started listening to the album, given the name "Titanic Rising," I sort of thought about rising seas and climate change, and then I listened to the song "Movies."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVIES")

WEYES BLOOD: (Singing) The movies I watched when I was a kid.

SHAPIRO: And I noticed how often screens come up in your lyrics and I thought, is this "Titanic Rising" a reference to the Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet summer blockbuster?

WEYES BLOOD: Oh, it's - oh, yes, it is. I mean, it's all in there. I mean, it's really all in there. You know, I think "Titanic" was such a massive blockbuster hit. And it - as a young person watching it, it had a pretty profound impact on me. And I actually took the whole lack of dominion over nature hubris of man message home. And, you know, my takeaway from that film wasn't the love story but really just like, oh, man, look at these rich men kind of...

SHAPIRO: The class divide.

WEYES BLOOD: Yeah, the class divide and the third class, you know, gets screwed. And to me, that was the big message. And it was almost like putting a match on a wet blanket in terms of its impact, you know, politically.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVIES")

WEYES BLOOD: (Singing) Of my own, my own.

SHAPIRO: I kind of love that, like, you talk to people about their sociopolitical awakening, and they might cite some, like, book by Foucault, and it's like, no, it was "Titanic." It was seeing those third-class passengers go down.

WEYES BLOOD: Yes, big time - I mean, big time.

SHAPIRO: You were how old at that time?

WEYES BLOOD: I was probably 8 years old.

SHAPIRO: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETHING TO BELIEVE")

WEYES BLOOD: (Singing) Drank a lot of coffee today, got lost in the fray.

SHAPIRO: I want to ask you about the song "Something To Believe" partly because it's just my favorite song on the album. I think it's just a great melody.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETHING TO BELIEVE")

WEYES BLOOD: (Singing) Then by some strange design, I got a case of the empties.

SHAPIRO: But I also wonder whether this song ties in to your upbringing. You were raised Christian, and it seems that there's a lot on this album about wanting something in your life to believe in.

WEYES BLOOD: Definitely. I am somebody who feels a bit of a void there from having, you know, had that be such a big part of my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETHING TO BELIEVE")

WEYES BLOOD: (Singing) Give me something I can see, something bigger and louder than the voices in me, something to believe.

I think, yeah, once you kind of have that structure within your mind, you would like to fill it with something else.

SHAPIRO: There's this lyric - I got a case of the empties - and I actually said to my producers, is that a thing that people say, or does it just sound so natural and understandable? And they were like no, I've never heard that before.

WEYES BLOOD: Yeah. I don't think people say it. I think it's a 2019 vibe, you know?

SHAPIRO: It's such a perfect way of putting into words something that everybody relates to, I think.

WEYES BLOOD: Well, yeah, and there's so much information and content that we're constantly being inundated. And it's easy to feel as those things become more disposable and fleeting a sense of emptiness.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETHING TO BELIEVE")

WEYES BLOOD: (Vocalizing).

SHAPIRO: Towards the end of the album, there's a song called "Picture Me Better."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PICTURE ME BETTER")

WEYES BLOOD: (Singing) Picture me better. I finally found the time to write you this letter.

SHAPIRO: While some of the other tracks on the album feel sort of big picture and abstract, this one seems very personal and specific.

WEYES BLOOD: Yes. "Picture Me Better" is actually about a friend of mine who sadly committed suicide kind of right around the time I was making the album. And it caught all of us completely off guard. And the absurdity of it was just so all-encompassing and insane. I just had to try to find a way to write about it. And, you know, the chorus - waiting for something with meaning to come through - is really just, you know, when you yearn to have contact with that being and just waiting for some kind of sign from the great beyond that they're OK and they're in, you know, some restful place.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PICTURE ME BETTER")

WEYES BLOOD: (Singing) Waiting for something with meaning to come through soon.

A lot of artists and musicians, especially, get lost in their lack of worth, and there's a lot of lost souls who are incredibly talented who might have not known how much their work means to other people.

SHAPIRO: And in the context of an album filled with themes of the fate of the world and climate change and collapse, it seems to have a double meaning. On the individual level, picture me better as a friend who's lost somebody, but also kind of on the level of humanity, picture us better.

WEYES BLOOD: Yeah. And also just that the whole idea that everybody is constantly putting themself under a microscope in terms of their productivity and their financial success and this whole idea of picture me better. Like, picture me, you know, who I'm supposed to be versus, you know, just accepting who we all are.

(SOUNDBITE OF WEYES BLOOD SONG, "EVERYDAY")

SHAPIRO: Let's end on an upbeat note.

WEYES BLOOD: OK. Great.

SHAPIRO: Let's bring in "Everyday."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYDAY")

WEYES BLOOD: (Singing) Wake up, baby, it's getting late now, fell so hard like I always do. I'm so scared of being alone. It's true.

SHAPIRO: To me, this feels like the sunniest kind of music from the '60s that I would listen to on my parents' vinyl. And on an album with a certain degree of kind of nostalgia and lament, it's so refreshing.

WEYES BLOOD: You know, it was interesting. I'm going to give my dad, my father, some credit on here because he gave me a phone call, and it was right when I was like, you know, in the heat of writing the album. And he's like, can you please just do me one favor? Please write one upbeat song.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Just one.

WEYES BLOOD: (Laughter) And I was like, oh, Dad, no problem - anything for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYDAY")

WEYES BLOOD: (Singing) And then again, it might just be me.

SHAPIRO: Natalie Mering, thanks so much for talking with us about your music.

WEYES BLOOD: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

SHAPIRO: She's the artist behind Weyes Blood, and the album "Titanic Rising" is out now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYDAY")

WEYES BLOOD: (Singing) I need love every day, I need... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.