Weyes Blood on Titanic Rising and the climate crisis
Five months on from the release of her fourth album as Weyes Blood, we speak to Natalie Mering about Titanic Rising and the ongoing climate crisis
On the cover of Natalie Mering’s latest album as Weyes Blood, a model of herself can be seen staring out the window of a bedroom submerged in water. The visual relates directly to the album’s title, Titanic Rising, referencing the melting ice caps and subsequent rising sea levels that play a part in the ongoing climate crisis.
Speaking to Mering five months after the release of the album – and ahead of a string of live dates to close out the year – the record’s key themes feel as prevalent now as they did then. At the time of our conversation, many are still reeling from the shocking scenes filtered through the media of the burning Amazon and the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian, with worldwide climate strikes set to take place in the coming weeks calling for immediate action.
Titanic Rising is a love letter to the natural world, and a reminder that while this world is ours to nurture, it is also one we are now rapidly destroying. ‘I’m wondering how we ever got here / With no fear we’d fall’, Mering sings on Wild Time, before her haunting vocals deliver the chorus of ‘It’s a wild time to be alive’ with the kind of resounding impact few can achieve in such a simple line. It’s a telling nod to the complacent attitude we’ve had towards caring for our planet that has landed us in this current crisis.
But Mering is not here for scaremongering or doom and gloom, instead she wants us to know that we can still make a change and wants to remind us that our planet can still be saved. “I think millennials in general are extremely burnt out and heartbroken because there was kind of an illusion of how life was supposed to be and then there are a lot of things that have changed that are beyond everybody's control,” she says.
“In general, there's just a lot of fatalistic stuff, like Chernobyl, The Handmaid's Tale. I feel like our whole generation sides with the worst possible case scenario every time… so I'm not about to write about anything that's like giving up because we're going to need a little bit of hope to get through this. It's important to approach it philosophically and keep people in a benevolent state of mind, because I really believe the universe is benevolent… I really believe it's about structuring a benevolent philosophy that will hopefully heal the kind of fear and the sickness that I think causes most of the world's biggest issues.”
Also referenced in the album’s artwork and a running theme across the record is the idea of youthful expectations not lining up with our current reality. The bedroom Mering can be seen in on the cover is designed to look like that of a teenager – the walls clad with posters, a teddy bear on the bed, and an old-fashioned laptop on the dressing table. “The water also kind of represents the subconscious, and so... this bedroom is an imaginary place in my mind, and the water represents that it is imaginary,” she says.
“The bedroom is really symbolic for how most kids were raised in the 90s, kind of positioned in a place where our coming of age is spending time alone in a room with posters and idealisms… and it becomes this very safe, subconscious zone that has very little meaning or value otherwise,” she adds. Beginning with a lament to her young, naïve self on album opener A Lot’s Gonna Change, she later contends with her obsession with the silver screen on Movies, and how they impacted her expectations of how life would be.
At the album’s emotional core, though, is Mering’s untangling of her faith on Something to Believe. Growing up Christian, her struggle to maintain her faith into adulthood is addressed as she pleads for something tangible: ‘Give me something I can see / Something bigger and louder than the voices in me / Something to believe’. “Denouncing Christianity at a certain point left a pretty big void in my mind of, like, a belief system and a moral compass... and realising that there's not a lot that I believed in,” says Mering. “And I had kind of sided more with chaos, and how that wasn't really serving a greater purpose in my life.
“Negativity is a strange virus that can affect most of your thoughts, in which case it's very difficult to see the light in any given situation, so Something to Believe is about some sense of salvation, like something you can believe in to kind of quiet the negativity, and the voices, and the doom, and the fears. I think that's really what belief is for, belief is like the antidote to fear, which is a very natural primal emotion, but it seems to bring out the absolute worst in everybody.”
And just five months on from Titanic Rising’s release, Mering is already thinking about what’s next, with concepts for the album’s follow-up already in the works. But a complete change of subject matter is not something that’s on the cards – she is still very much focused on drawing our attention to our environment and the climate crisis. “I can't move on and just talk about something else; this is me, this is something I think about every day,” she says.
“I'm constantly in a state of trying to understand and comprehend what I can do personally to hopefully change it, and hopefully convert some people who are on the fence away from the fear and control side to the benevolent, holistic side of the environmental issues. So I will always be talking about this.”
As our planet, quite literally, burns before our very eyes, Titanic Rising is a beacon of hope amid all the chaos; a reminder that we don’t have to resign ourselves to a disastrous fate, and that even the slightest of changes can make the biggest of impacts. It’s a pertinent piece of art for those not ready to give up.
Titanic Rising is out now via Sub Pop
Weyes Blood plays The Art School, Glasgow, 28 Oct