BY MARY LYNN DOMINGUEZ Weyes Blood is the appropriately creepy band name of Natalie Mering, former touring member of spacey-folk collective Jackie-O Motherfucker and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti during the Mature Themes era. On the surface, I have a lot more in common with her than I could have predicted: we’re both former choir girls from Bucks County, and the only understanding our parents have of our music taste is that it’s not what sweet girls from the suburbs ought to listen to. Noticeable differences between us include the fact that only one of us has pursued music making as a career, and that consequently only one of us has taken mushrooms with Ariel Pink. Her newest album The Innocents, sounds like a well-orchestrated song and dance of the ghosts of a young woman’s past. It’s all rather grand and otherworldly, as it should be. She plays Johnny Brenda’s Saturday night (January 10th). Let the buyer be weird.
PHAWKER: First off, what is Weyes Blood and is there a cure for it?
NATALIE MERING: I like to think of it as a physical object. The idea of how there’s a bucket of blood, and it’s wise, because it comes from a person that was wise. It’s just the idea of inheriting ancestry, which I don’t actually believe in. I think it can also be acquired. It’s like we all have the same blood, generated from the same source.
PHAWKER: OK, next question. You grew up outside Philly, and where was that exactly?
NATALIE MERING: Doylestown.
PHAWKER: What impact, if any, did that have on your decision to pursue music and/or the music that you make?
NATALIE MERING: Well, I also lived in California, and I have been into music ever since I was a little girl. Doylestown is close to where Ween is from in Bucks County, Michael Hurley, and the creators of the Berenstain Bears. It’s a very inspiring place. Pink also is from Bucks, too. She might have not had the biggest influence on my career. The biggest influence was the choir program at Central Bucks West High School. There was this guy, Dr. Joseph Ohrt, and when I went there, he was really intense and worked us super hard. There was just a lot of music that came out of that experience. My dad influenced me the most when he started playing music, but he’s not from Philadelphia.
PHAWKER: After high school, did you move to Philly?
NATALIE MERING: Yeah. I graduated high school early, when I was 17.
PHAWKER: Oh, wow. Did you start going to school in Philly, or just start making music there?
NATALIE MERING: I just started making music in Philly. Also, the architecture, the really old Pennsylvania architecture and trees, the landscape probably had a big impact on my music.
PHAWKER: You were once a touring member of Jackie-O Motherfucker, which is either the second or third greatest band name of all time. (Weyes Blood is number one, obviously) Was it difficult to explain to the family around the table at Thanksgiving that you were going on tour with a band called Jackie-O Motherfucker?
NATALIE MERING: Yeah, I just said that the band was called Jackie-O. My parents are pretty Christian.
PHAWKER: Did they ever listen to Jackie-O Motherfucker?
NATALIE MERING: No, they were pretty withdrawn. They kind of knew what I was into was kind of weird. They could tell that the stuff that I listened to in my bedroom was weird. They really didn’t get into my music until this record, because it’s the most accessible.
PHAWKER: Your music is a combination of some of the creepiest and most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard. In the past, you’ve cited Donovan and Joan Baez as well as Mark Linkous and Sonic Youth as influences. Can you go through each and explain what it is/was about their life or art that influenced your work?
NATALIE MERING: It’s funny, because in interviews, when people ask about influences, I’m kind of put on the spot. Since then, I would say Arthur Russell.
PHAWKER: I love Arthur Russell.
NATALIE MERING: Yeah. The reason I find him so inspiring is because he was insanely talented, and put out so much stuff, but didn’t really have acceptance or validation in his lifetime. He kind of died without a lot of money and total insecurity. I find that so insane, because he’s so exceedingly talented. He’s one of the most underrated musicians of all time. I find that incredibly inspiring that he just kept making his music and living his life with AIDS, and dealing with what he dealt with. He also did a lot of genre hopping, and pursuing the demo as a legitimate form of an album. Sometimes albums have kind of a demo quality. I think it’s really cool, and it’s part of his magic.
PHAWKER: What’s your favorite Arthur Russell album?
NATALIE MERING: I really like World of Echo, just because that’s the most meditative and weird.
PHAWKER: How did the opportunity to work with Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti come about?
NATALIE MERING: I met Ariel in Germany. We played a show on the same night in Leipzig, Germany. We met through a mutual friend, and I ended up hanging out with them a lot, and it just came up. He was recording Mature Themes, and he was like, “You should come by.” It was all very impromptu.
PHAWKER: And that led to you touring with them?
NATALIE MERING: Yeah, I played like four shows with them when they were playing Mature Themes live.
PHAWKER: Do you have any fun or interesting stories about that experience?
NATALIE MERING: If there were any funny stories, it wouldn’t be my business to say. One funny story when we weren’t on tour was the time when me, him and this other kid took mushrooms. In the middle of the trip, Ariel was like, “I wanna take a bath.” Then, we put some carrots and vegetables in his bathtub and his reaction was just, “Haha. I’m cooking.” Like a rabbit being cooked.
PHAWKER: He wanted that? He asked for vegetables?
NATALIE MERING: No, we just did that. His reaction was kind of just like, “Haha.”
PHAWKER: He seems to have gotten into a shooting war on Twitter with Madonna and her fans. Whose side are you on?
NATALIE MERING: Ariel has a tendency of saying really sexist stuff. I think Ariel is a troubled human being. He’s incredibly talented, but nobody should trust him past two feet in front of their face, because the dude has some complexes sometimes. He does say incredibly sexist stuff. But there’s always a little granule of truth in whatever he says, and I think that he knows that, and that’s why he goes public. It’s truth, but it’s also kind of shrouded in this beta-male-misogynist veil. I read an article about beta-male misogyny, and he is the perfect example of what a beta-male misogynist is. It is true, but I’ve also seen him be very feminine and nurturing, offer advice, and care about people. And he does think a lot. He’s not a careless human being. He’s an incredibly opinionated, weird, awkward person. I’ve seen him exhibit levels of care and taking care of the people around him that goes deep. He’s not this awful human being. He’s just weird.