With Titanic Rising – Uncut’s Album Of The Year in 2019 – WEYES BLOOD’s Natalie Mering conjured up a beguiling mix of bold cinematic dreams and ecological fears. For her follow-up, And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow, she has further refined her singular vision. She tells Jaan Uhelszki about Buddhist anthems, Greek myths and – of course! – the end of the world: “My idea of impending doom is a lot closer than people think”, in the latest issue of Uncut magazine – in UK shops from Thursday, October 13 and available to buy from our online store.
Altadena – the tiny Californian town that Natalie Mering now calls home – is one of those places that time forgot. Pushed back against the towering San Gabriel mountains, it’s isolated on three sides by jagged foothills and dark primeval woods. Eldridge Cleaver is buried here; so are Alice Walker and George Reeves, the first TV Superman, who died under mysterious circumstances. Johnny Otis spent his final years here without anyone the wiser.
Largely ignored by Pasadena, its haughty neighbour to the south, Altadena was where rich millionaires from the east and well-heeled Angelenos used to come to beat the heat, before moving on to more exotic and cooler playgrounds to the north and south. It has few restaurants or shops. The single art store is called McGinty’s Gallery At The End Of The World.
It’s the kind of place where you could elude the law, exes or creditors, wait out the apocalypse… or maybe just be left alone to make an album. As Mering did over the last two years, plotting and writing And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow – the follow-up to Uncut’s 2019 Album Of The Year, the prophetic Titanic Rising.
Wild flocks of peacocks and peahens dart from rooftop to Altadena rooftop – including Mering’s, where a stately male is unfurling his plumage on the low slope of her slate roof. “It’s no big deal,” she says, waving her hand dismissively as she unlocks the door to her rambling white ranch house, set far back from the street. “They’re everywhere. They have the run of the town.”
If no-one looks askance at a majestic blue peacock on a rooftop, what are the chances that Altadenans will recognise an artist of Mering’s calibre living in their midst? That must be part of the appeal, to move here two years ago.
“Well, that, and I’m certainly a lone wolf! But I got this house cheap because it doesn’t have air-conditioning,” she laughs. “Which wasn’t that big of a deal until last week, when the power kept going out and I had to stay with friends.”
She’s talking about a 10-day heatwave that overtook Southern California, sparking wildfires and sending temperatures soaring to 110. “I think my idea of impending doom is a lot closer than people think,” says Mering quietly. And, unfortunately, it’s getting closer all the time. When Mering made Titanic Rising, the year before the pandemic, she wrote about a world where technology was evolving as fast as the climate was collapsing.
“As a kid, I thought we just needed to clean things up. I was shocked when everyone else wasn’t as concerned as I was,” she says, edging a little forward on her white velvet settee. She has perfect posture and small elfin ears that she tucks her lush hippie hair behind. “I always felt our generation couldn’t really put our finger on what was wrong, but making art about the stuff in a way that didn’t feel trite or bizarre or off-base seemed like the way to go. I was always toying with how can I put these concerns into a beautiful song so this is specific to our generation, and not more pebbles on the mound of music. How can I make this about now?”
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