By Kathryn Helmore
Natalie Mering has built an international following, drowning her listeners in delicate chamber folk mastery as Weyes Blood.
While her recent album, Titanic Rising, might use the iconic vessel to talk about climate change, Mering and her musical repertoire is more akin to an iceberg, hiding great depth below the surface.
Born into a deeply religious Pentecostal family in Pennsylvania, Mering fine-tuned her angelic voice in American gospel choirs. While performing for thousands in megachurches lead to an incredible vocal range, her divorce from Christianity at the age of 14 underpins her melancholy sound and refreshing vulnerability.
“With my background in Christian values, I’m more aware of our mortality,” says Mering. “I’m preoccupied with the idea of salvation. Also, once you grow up believing a certain ideology and leave it, you have a pretty big void to fill.”
Mering fills this void with experiences, new age philosophy and tracing the mythology of religion.
“I’m interested in the psychological measure of the history of human mythology,” says Mering. “I love looking at the route of where religion first came from and why it was even created.”
It’s this curiosity for human history that lends depth to Merings work. Titanic Rising, for instance, is an impressive musical feat due to its orchestral sound fused with modern synthesizers and slide guitars. Yet it’s Mering’s social critique and commentary that makes it so intriguing.
“Titanic is the ultimate hubris of man’s story,” says Mering. “We thought we had conquered nature and built this unsinkable ship and then it sank and the people who got screwed were the third class. That’s what’s happening with climate change.”
The album is not just biting social commentary. Typical of Mering’s Joni Mitchell-esque conversational vocal style, the lyrics transcend description, making the work an identifiable swan song for a generation of people watching our world sink into the icy depths.
Like the musicians aboard the Titanic or the writers of Gospel choir hymns, Merings swelling violins and honest, raw lyrics are an expression of pain and a much needed catharsis.
“I’m constantly trying to transcend pain and create something beautiful from that pain,” says Mering. “I think this is the most valuable.”
Weyes Blood performs Wednesday, August 14 at the Imperial.
Tix: $20, eventbrite.ca