Meet Burberry-Approved Weyes Blood, a Postmodern Singer With a Renaissance Soul
On the heels of her biggest headlining show yet, Natalie Mering, AKA Weyes Blood, sounds off on fashion, politics, and Flannery O’Connor.
“It takes a lot of guts to be in this band,” announced Natalie Mering, the singer-songwriter who records as Weyes Blood, on a recent evening in Brooklyn. “There’s a lot of rampant vulnerability.” Presiding over the 550-capacity Music Hall of Williamsburg, where Weyes Blood was playing her largest headlining show so far, the 28-year-old musician paused midway through her set to acknowledge the musicians filling out her band (Matt Eccles, Tim Rogers, and Walt McClements).
Mering has been on the road almost constantly since the release of her third album, Front Row Seat to Earth, which debuted in October to much acclaim. She hadn’t quite anticipated the reception, she told me the next day, when we sat down in a back room of her manager’s office. And yet, “the adulation is like a red flag—’Don’t get too full of yourself, there’s still work to be done,'” she added.
Thursday’s show marked her first time playing with this particular band—and her last time playing in the United States before heading to Europe to finish out yet another leg of her tour. (She’ll kick things off again in Rouen, France on Tuesday, ending in Dublin in mid-April.) During Thursday night’s performance, Mering stood center-stage, clad in a powder-blue brocade suit, flanked by glowing candelabras on the dimly lit stage—as if channeling Twin Peaks by way of Nosferatu.
“I try to keep kind of a sharp look,” she said. “This record theme was all earth themed so it was all earth tones, earth colors.” On the cover of Front Row Seat to Earth, Mering wears a sky-blue suit, posed lounging on the shores of a lake with mountains silhouetted in the background. That look set the tone for the tour; Mering found a similar suit for her shows. “I try to put something that kind of transforms me out of my normal Natalie shell into the performer.”
“I like baroque things,” she added. “I like an old-world influence because I feel like I’m singing in an old-world style, but with some modernity thrown in there.” That may have been what drew Burberry’s Christopher Bailey to Weyes Blood—the brand used “Take You There,” a track from Mering’s 2015 EP Cardamom Times, in its winter campaign “The Tale of Thomas Burberry,” the short historical drama starring Sienna Miller, Domhnall Gleeson, and Dominic West that debuted in November.
“It wasn’t until recently that I took an interest in fashion as an art form,” she explained. “There’s a kind of shimmery brilliance to good clothes that is appealing.”
Much of Mering’s stage aesthetic is located where opposites meet, just like her music. On “Generation Why,” which she introduced as “Generation Wifi” during the show, Mering sings, “It’s not the past that scares me, now what a great future this is gonna be, Y-O-L-O.”
The intersection of the violent and the sublime is very Flannery O’Connor, I said. (Mering’s stage name, Weyes Blood, is a take on O’Connor’s 1952 southern gothic novel Wise Blood.) “Oh, yeah,” Mering said. “That’s why that novel resonated with me.”
For all her mid-20th-century sonic inspirations, Mering’s postmodern lyrics stand out even more against the contemporary political landscape.
“I definitely stopped writing about boys,” Mering said of her work over the past few months. In addition to constantly writing new material, she’s also gone into the studio with longtime collaborator Ariel Pink and Mike Hadreas of Perfume Genius, with whom she appeared at the Marfa Myths festival. “It’s grander gestures, writing about narcissism and millennial isolation through social media, and all these things that we talk about a little bit but haven’t been turned into songs, necessarily.”
“You feel selfish if you’re not somewhat involved in that conversation about the direction that humanity’s going in,” she added, “because it’s kind of dire.”
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