Sitting in a small hotel room in Berlin with a variety of exterior noises subtly creating the backdrop of human existence outside, Natalie Mering’s handshake is firm and slightly hints at the directness and determination that is about to follow during the next half hour of our meeting. With the release of her new album And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, Weyes Blood is not holding back in digging deep into her soul in order to make sense of the word around her at a time that feels as volatile and tiring as ever.

The album’s essence isn’t anywhere near any kind of bitterness though. That would have been the easy way out in dealing with today’s global challenges and the confusing times of figuring out how to deal with all of that. While the emotional burden is high on all levels, Weyes Blood serves as the calming voice. Rest assured that it will all work out in the end. Turning back the clock a few months, Mering talks about her creative path that shaped the direction of the new songs:

“Post ‘Titanic Rising’ I really wondered, oh I got to make a pop record, like make something really catchy, but then I realized that would be false. It would be false to pretend that everything was sunshine and roses and happy and poppy. I had to stay true to myself as an artist and stay true to the narrative of the trilogy and dig my heels into who I was as opposed to trying to be somebody else.”

Weyes Blood (Credit: Naceil Krug)

Weyes Blood (Credit: Naceil Krug)

The perfect place to do so was almost on the doorstep in the heart of Hollywood as Weyes Blood reveals:

“We got to record in a really beautiful space. It was studio 3 at EastWest where they made Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys have that quality for me where it’s like a nostalgia zone that I do want to hit constantly over and over again.”

The real work most definitely started much earlier than that though with Mering’s inward journey of which she says:

“I did find transcendental meditation was great for creativity and very hard to do consistently because when you really do start to meditate every day you encounter road blocks and hidden trauma. My journey with meditation has been really start stop because of that. Knowing that I’m tapping into some deep stuff that you have to work through and it’s not a piece of cake.”

Feeling comfortable in the dark

When deep diving into the subject of darkness which the album title And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow makes impossible not to touch on – Natalie Mering’s eyes immediately light up:

“I feel very comfortable in the dark. I’m really good at walking in the woods at night in the dark. I like exercising that muscle because the dark is such a fertile place for fear where you can kind of hallucinate in the dark and see strange things. If you look at it and think about it too much, it becomes something pretty fast. I feel like I got really good at tuning all that stuff out and just focusing on walking through it.”

While briefly mentioning her late night walk around the Berlin neighborhood the night before, Weyes Blood continues to vividly describe the magic of walking around her Californian neighborhood:

“The best thing is on the East Coast at night it stays hot and humid and there are cicadas that are really loud and when I was walking at night it felt like an orchestra of insects in the heat. It is just magical. I’m a big fan on the nighttime walk. I wish I had more neighbors and we would just go on a walk.”

Apocalypse fantasies

Listening to the confidence in her voice while she speaks, it quickly becomes clear that Weyes Blood has accepted darkness as much as the light and even more so, it has provided her with a great deal of inspiration. Explaining her fascination with it, she adds:

“Deep down, our fear of the unknown is a fear of ourselves. Knowing what happens to us after death, what our human soul is – it’s a fragile subject. The dark is where our worst fears can play out. I feel like now we are in a mini dark age because there is such a sense of impending doom, but it’s also so abstract in this idea of what could happen and how things are changing. It’s all not very clear. You could project your worst fantasies onto it. Apocalypse fantasies.”

The elasticity of the human spirit

While this fear is highly uncomfortable for most people, Mering tries not to get swallowed up by it and has found a way of working through it:

“I just spend a lot of time trying to balance this idea that desire and holding on to your expectations is the root cause of all suffering. The point is to learn how to go limp and accept the changes and understand the elasticity of the human spirit – it’s heartbreaking and difficult to imagine the future that is so different to what we anticipated as children. But it is a very typical thing since the dawn of time that we don’t really get to choose what part of history we land in. In a lot of ways it’s been the stories since the beginning of learning how to accept the paradox of being so alive:  conscious and intelligent, yet sublimely stupid. We feel so self-aware and advanced, there is this idea that we squash all human suffering, but I think it’s inherent in our expectation.”

Seeing past the bad news

With the amount of bad news around on a daily basis, a way of navigating through it all, Weyes Blood keeps reminding herself that there is always more than the widespread negativity and it is healthy to let in the positive things as well which can easily be overlooked sometimes:

“I started doing this thing where all the bad things that happened to me on a given day that felt so personal and designed just for me, I would write a list of good things that happened. It was more uncomfortable to think about the good things that happened. I think that is because the bad things feel more personal. Something good happens and we are a little bit unsure. We are still trying to figure out the last negative thing that happened. I flex that muscle of learning how to think about the good things that happened. It is uncomfortable because I want justice. I want explanations.”

Warm hands and heart aglow

A few years ago, Mering’s encounter with her musical hero Lou Reed would have made the top spot on her list of positive things for sure. Recalling this chance encounter dating to her time in New York before she relocated to Los Angeles, she says:

“The one time I met Lou Reed, that was right before he died, and it was in this huge protest in New York called Occupy Wall Street. I was walking away from the protest with my weird sign. I was like a zombie and he looked at me saying ‘How is the protest?’ and I came up to him telling him ‘I’m such a big fan!’. He took my hands and he started warming them and he was looking at me with his crazy brown eyes and I just remember feeling like he really cared. It’s so funny because he was so mean to most people. I do know that he gave me this kind of knowing look and I felt like I had been seen and it was bizarre.”

“With him I felt like he saw into my soul and I felt okay. I didn’t even have boyfriends warming my hands.”

Weyes Blood (Credit: Neil Krug)

Weyes Blood (Credit: Neil Krug)

Let’s giggle

Sometimes, all it takes is a small gesture like that to make people feel seen. And remind them of the fact that there is much more to life than all the bad stuff. If you don’t happen to bump into your musical hero on the street any time soon, you might want to consider playing badminton to light up the mood. Weyes Blood highly recommends it:

“The last time I got the giggles, I was playing badminton in my back yard. I love it. So I played badminton one day, jumped up and tried to catch one and just fell. Completely. It was so stupid. I just hit the ground. Me and my friend just couldn’t stop laughing. I think there is special chemistry you can have with people that leave space for that level of stupidity.”

“I make a lot of dad jokes. When people like my dad jokes, we usually get along really well.”

Forgiving and forgetting

Not all relationships can be saved with a good sense of humour, but it does help to feel connected to each other on some level. Exploring all kinds of themes around human behaviour and our desire to feel loved on her latest album And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, the topic of forgiveness is not far in our ongoing conversation with Weyes Blood further going into detail:

“Learning how to forgive to me seems like a lifetime of acceptance. I tend to forgive people logically right off the bat, no matter what. In terms of when my emotions catch up to that or my subconscious I don’t know. I have dreams about people and friends where everything is copacetic and fine, but in my dream I’m yelling at them so I know it’s in there. Learning how to forgive without forgetting – because I do think it is important to avoid future betrayal – I think it is really nuanced and way more difficult than people think. I wish I had done a better job at protecting myself from certain people, but I was so keen on this idea of forgiving and forgetting.”

Moving on

Especially in trying times like these in the current political climate and years of enduring a pandemic, forgiveness is a virtue that is at the root of how we want to go through life. And eventually, what determines our own path moving forward. Spirituality in one way or another, is perhaps another chapter, we might want to open ourselves up to a bit more as a society:

“Unfortunately, spirituality and religion have gotten a bad reputation and have become obsolete in a lot of the political discourse. I think to save ourselves, we are going to need that.”

And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow is out now on Subpop.