As you’ll hopefully have gathered by now, Weyes Blood‘s Titanic Rising is Uncut’s Best Album Of 2019.
Here’s a Q&A I did with Natalie Mering about her album’s spectacular victory in our end of year poll, which ran in our January 2020 issue.
UNCUT: Congratulations! But were you surprised by the initial, positive response to the record?
NATALIE MERING: I was! But when I first gave it to my label, my manager and some close friends, they were so excited that I had a sense that I was sitting on something pretty good. So that, I think, prepared me a little bit.
It’s seven months since Titanic Rising came out. Has your relationship to the album changed much?
It takes me a long while not to listen to a record critically. It’s like I’m still mixing it. All I can think about are the infinite possibilities and paths we didn’t take. It takes a year or more for me to hear it as it is, without ideas or changes or regrets… for my obsessive, perfectionist mind!
Titanic Rising felt like a development from Front Row Seat – both thematically and musically. Do you see them as connected?
Yes, I do. When I came into Titanic Rising, I had one record that I had made with other people and one record I’d made completely on my own. If you like, I had Papa Bear’s porridge, I had Mama Bear’s porridge – now it was time for the porridge that Goldilocks’ chose!
There’s a sense of anxiety on this record – is that a reflection of the times?
There’s been so many paradigm shifts in my lifetime. That’s what “A Lot’s Gonna Change” is about – how I never could have perceived the kind of drastic changes that have happened over the course of my adulthood. That’s a lot to digest. I find that making music about it and trying to ease the passing and give people hope is a great way to deal with it.
What sources fed into the album – culturally and politically?
Starting with the cover, I’ve always considered the bedroom to be a strange initiation into society for a Westernised teenager. In a lot of ways, it’s inadequate; it’s an isolated capsule where you come up with your own concepts of reality based on imagination, movies you’ve seen, records you’ve heard. It’s easy to disassociate from reality. That makes a lot of real issues like climate change hard to wrap your head around – so what can you do to help? Those are the two main themes: this strange initiation into adulthood and massive, huge impersonal problems that still have a personal effect on people.
How about the musical influences?
I love the period when jazz, classical and folk music coalesced into popular song – songs like “Stardust” by Hoagy Carmichael. They have all the ingredients of a modern song but come with lush arrangements and chord changes that are full of tension. I was also a fan of the deconstructionist music that came in the ’60s and later. So it was fun to think about classic styles to talk about these modern issues. We made some funny comparisons – Bob Seger meets Enya!
What were your favourite albums of this year?
Lana’s Normal Fucking Rockwell. Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors. Tyler, The Creator’s Igor and Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You.
Talking of Lana Del Rey – tell us about performing with her and Zella Day at the Hollywood Bowl.
We became friends when I was working on Titanic Rising and she was working on Norman Fucking Rockwell. She said, “My record’s kind of nautical.” I said, “My record’s nautical, too!” We developed a camaraderie. For the Hollywood Bowl, she asked me and Zella to perform. I came home from tour the night before, we met up and rehearsed it a couple of times. The night of the show, we decided to sit and that gave us all a sense of peace so we could relax. It was special and organic.
So what’s next?
Next year, I go to Australia to tour and I’ll start on my next record. I have a couple of songs, but knowing me, there’ll be different iterations before I settle on the final version. I get a lot of inspiration randomly, so there’s lots of voice memos on the phone. It takes me until I get home, and I can cut myself off, before I can piece it all together. At the moment it’s a treasure hunt on the road – noodling at a soundcheck and finding a chord sequence that
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