New York's Weyes Blood Releases Cardamom Times: "It's a Little More My Style"

click to enlarge Weyes Blood will perform at Off Broadway on Sunday, October 17. - From the artwork for The Innocents
From the artwork for The Innocents
Weyes Blood will perform at Off Broadway on Sunday, October 17.

Rockaway Beach is a New York City neighborhood of unusual extremes. Situated on a peninsula, and separated from the rest of Queens by Jamaica Bay, it's home to quaint bungalows, but also abuts some of the city's roughest housing projects. You can take a subway there, but it's much further and harder to reach than the Ramones would have you believe. In the winter, Rockaway Beach takes on an eerie, melancholy quality.

It's in this environment that Natalie Mering, who records and performs as Weyes Blood, wrote the newly released (October 9) Cardamom Times. Recorded at home on an analog four-track, each of these four songs has a lonely, solitary feel, with lyrics evoking reflective moods, half-remembered dreams and promises of love and faith. There's a hint of '60s psychedelic folk in Mering's rich and proper vocals; it's easy to imagine her sharing a bill with Bridget St. John or Vashti Bunyan.  At times slow and surreal, at others upbeat, Cardamom Times is true to its origin, a strange and powerful mix of urban and natural influences.

click to enlarge New York's Weyes Blood Releases Cardamom Times: "It's a Little More My Style"
Cover art for Cardamom Times
Rockaway Beach is the latest port in which Mering finds herself. Born in Southern California, Mering grew up in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, not far from the hippie haven of New Hope. In Doylestown she discovered college radio (her favorite: Princeton University's great WPRB), worked in a record store, tried and failed to get a band together, and ultimately started releasing her own music at age fifteen. Since then, she's lived in various places: a tent in New Mexico, a small Kentucky hamlet where she studied herbalism, a converted artists' warehouse in Baltimore, and finally New York. We started by discussing the ways location informed her latest music.

Natalie Mering: There's a soaked-in quality of Rockaway in the songwriting. I lived about a block away from the beach, but I went to the beach every single day. It was really wonderful. It's on Jamaica Bay, which is a beautiful natural phenomenon, but totally polluted. That's where we shot the EP's cover. I was inspired by the subway going over the body of water, but with all this trash.

RFT MUSIC: That area is a little removed from the rest of the city.

I lived there through the winter, so it was very isolated. There's nobody coming out there then. There would be a snowstorm, and I'd walk out onto the beach. There weren't even really restaurants. You can only really get Chinese food out there. It's disconnected from everything Brooklyn. Which I really loved. I'm not inspired by Brooklyn. I still love the Lower East Side and Manhattan, but I lived in Brooklyn for a few years and never could get down there.

Do you get inspired by traveling?

I really like changing things up and experiencing other cultures. Just to note the similarities and as an observer, to see that these things are all in relationship with very complex architecture. Going to more places, you gather more research and understanding. I love meeting people who have never been anywhere else, because I get to see their fabricated perspective of the rest of the world. Everybody is in the dark, and that's fun to realize. Like: “People don't travel that much! It's not a requirement! They can just stay in the same town!” They have an idea of what a place is like from the news, and I get to do field research and live there.

How do you record?

Mostly by myself. I'll go to studios to do overdubs, or someone will help me mix. Most of it I try to do myself. For my last record (The Innocents) I worked with engineers, and that was exciting. But now I do home studio. I find it's a little more my style.

Was there music in your house growing up?

Yeah. By that time my parents had become born-again Christian, so they would play at our church's worship services.

Continue to page two for more.

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