From the eerie maritime album title to the submerged cover art to the aquatic-themed music video for lead single “Movies,” Weyes Blood’s latest album, Titanic Rising, is filled with references to water, both ominous and benevolent.
Natalie Laura Mering, the creative force behind Weyes Blood, said the repeated mentions of water were a reminder of the essential role it plays in every being’s life.
“Water represents to me, the beginnings of life, it is where we come from in our most primordial sense,” says Mering, who will perform at the Outside Lands Festival at noon on Sunday at the Sutro Stage. “It relates to some of our deepest subconscious thinking — it’s a force we can’t really see or understand, we just get glimpses of. But it’s a part of us all.”
While water is a benevolent life-sustaining force, it can also be a wholly destructive one, leading to floods, famine and death — dangers now heightened by climate change. While Titanic Rising acts as an ode to this omnipresent substance, it is also a stark warning that if we do not act collectively, we will be overwhelmed by water and the subsequent perils it presents.
“Climate change is often the first thing I think about it in the morning, and the last thing I think about before I go to bed,” says Mering. “It is not something that escapes that my mind, so inevitably, I had to kind of express that existential terror through art and music. My hope is to channel that confusion and energy into something good.”
For an album fraught with cataclysmic themes, Mering manages to provide comfort and solace through her warm, velvety tunes. Combining the polished, bright productions of Laurel Canyon rock with the dewy, verdant atmosphere of 80s British pop groups, Titanic Rising sounds like the Beach Boys fronted by Kate Bush. Each song is lush and layered, bathed in soft strings, delicate guitar playing and swelling synths.
“Something to Believe” is a Nilsson-indebted number, a beautiful, piano-driven ballad that weaves between the personal and universal. When Mering sings about “living on a fault line”, it can easily be interpreted as a fraught emotional declaration or a literal fear of seismic terror. Album opener, “A Lot’s Gonna Change” is a sweeping statement, transitioning between solemn moments and grand proclamations, as Mering warns about “Falling trees/get off your knees.”
As a committed advocate and concerned global citizen, Mering says she questions whether music is the best vehicle for her to initiate change. She worries that singing about this critical issue to her fans will amount to nothing more than screaming into an echo chamber, as her followers likely share her sympathies and concerns.
To help amplify her voice, Mering has been working with eco-conscious companies such as Patagonia on campaigns that highlight the importance of conservation. She’s partnered with those outdoor businesses on ways to convince hunting and fishing aficionados — folks who normally fall on the opposite side of the political spectrum — that climate change affects their lives as well.
“I do think about wanting to quit my life and become a full-blown activist,” Mering says. “But unfortunately, we all need to make money to live, and I play my music so I can eat.”
Playing her music simply for sustenance is selling her vision short. Over the duration of her musical career, which stretches back to her teen years, Mering has built a devoted following, and while those fans might not be the converts she is seeking, the conviction in which she delivers her messages provides solace and hope for those that share her concerns.
Ultimately, it can all return to her references to the duality of water. We may all face danger due to the rising tides, but that same aqueous presence is a reminder that climate change affects everyone.
“I’m trying to do my small part to help people see past their differences,” says Mering. “Hopefully, I have some kind of butterfly effect and my message goes beyond my fans. Because ultimately, we are all in this thing together.
Sunday, Aug. 11, 12-12:45 p.m., Sutro Stage