I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Natalie Mering, the dominating voice behind songwriter act Weyes Blood. Formerly of Jackie-O Motherfucker and an associate of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Mering has just set out on a month-long, full-band tour. We talked about how it feels playing with a backing band, the drone-shot “Bad Magic” video, and how she’s progressed as a performer since her 14-year-old self nervously played a house show.
Boston Hassle: How has the tour been so far?
Weyes Blood: The tour has been really amazing so far; I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a lot of friends and seeing things grow in terms of the turnout. It’s been really sick.
BH: You have a full band playing with you this time, right?
WB: Yeah, yeah!
BH: Do you prefer playing alone or with them?
WB: I like playing alone a lot, it’s really fun. But playing with a band is this different thing, and it can be really cool. It seems to be that people who don’t have music as their first passion like the full band more, just because there are more things sonically to choose from, like drums and all this different stuff. But the solo thing is this melodic and beautiful heartache-y thing that some people really like too.
BH: So you recorded The Outside Room solo and your new one is with a full band. Was it difficult approaching The Innocents with other members?
WB: It really was, yeah. I wrote most of it, but I had a bassist who did his own parts on a couple of songs. At times it was really easy and perfect and other times it was like, “Ah, this is where I do this alone.”
I have a very specific vision, and it’s definitely difficult to work with other people who have their own vision. Really, some of the hardest parts were working with somebody recording and having somebody else mix the record. That’s a very key component to what you make and how it sounds. It’s a very scientific art to mix music.
BH: You almost have to find the perfect match of everyone involved to get the music to come out exactly the way you envision it.
WB: Yeah, totally. I think The Innocents turned out great, but I am going to do the next album on my own. It’s just one of those things.
BH: So I wanted to talk about the “Bad Magic” video. Using the drone was a really great idea. How did that come about?
WB: My friend Joey, who is a conceptual artist, has a drone-pilot friend and he hasn’t made videos that many times before. He was just like, “Let’s do this, I really like the song.”
We actually started doing it for another song, and then halfway into production he changed it because he’s really spontaneous.
BH: Do you think it fits better with “Bad Magic”?
Definitely. Yeah, it was a good call. That song is just so slow that it’s nice with all of the sweeping shots.
BH: There’s a certain vulnerable feel to the song, and I thought the idea of a drone almost watching you overhead goes nicely with that atmosphere.
WB: Totally, and the main point of the video is when the drone sees itself and becomes self-aware.
BH: Yeah, I think that really matches the ideas in the song. So let’s go back to your roots—what was it like performing live for the first time?
WB: It was really, really intense. I was extremely nervous and I was shaking and sweating. I was like fourteen or fifteen playing at a house show.
BH: And you were playing solo?
WB: Yeah, just acoustic. No PA system, nothing. Just me and a guitar and a big group of college kids from UArts. It was fun. [laughs]
BH: Where was it?
WB: In Philly at a place called “The What House.” It was on Whart Street but the r was missing so it just said “723 What.” It was pretty funny.
BH: Did you almost feel like you were presenting your diary to a group of strangers?
WB: Kind of, but my songs weren’t really that story-telling back then. They’ve gotten more like that recently, but back then they were more like paintings and weird poetic words about feelings and parables. But nothing like [sings] “This is what I did today.”
BH: But I feel like people are still able to pick up on emotions and try to put themselves in your head and what you may have been feeling when you were writing.
WB: Yeah, it was definitely very emotive and emotional, but it wasn’t like singing about my ex-boyfriends. I was usually singing about existential things and pubescent feelings.
BH: I’d imagine that performing has gotten easier since then; you’ve definitely come a long way.
WB: Yeah, and it’s gotten harder too.
BH: How so?
WB: Sometimes it’s hard to get nervous and extract the performance you want. And you get more tired because you’ve been doing it for, like, five years. There comes a time where you’re not as young and spritely. It just means you have to take more care of yourself. But when I was younger, I was able to smoke and drink and play fine most nights. And nowadays I have to do a lot to perform like that every night.
BH: Just keeping yourself in a healthy mentality?
WB: Totally. Yeah. The traveling is draining. Music is sort of a glorified service industry; it’s all centered around my late-night party vibes. [laughs]
BH: It completely disrupts your normal schedule.
WB: Yeah, it can be really crazy. But that’s just a part of it, and it is usually ends up being pretty fun.
Weyes Blood is currently touring down the West Coast after an extensive East Coast jaunt. Catch her at the following dates if ya know what’s good for ya.