Folk Singer Weyes Blood is a Modern-Day Nico

The deep-voiced singer talks about her love for analog equipment, going back in time, and why you won't hear her singing about crystals and Druids.

Weyes Blood is one of the weirdest additions to the music scene in recent years — and we couldn’t be happier. Possessing a willowy, wan voice and a penchant for the uncanny and bizarre (her music video for “Seven Words” has mermen in it), she truly is an outlier and everything she touches — like her most recent album, 2016’s Front Row Seat to Earth — seems to be made of musical gold. 

Unsurprisingly, the 28-year-old, long-haired beauty is also pretty damn cool. She humored us as we asked her questions about her favorite old-timey things, where she’d time travel to, what her religious beliefs are, and how a hot Bob Dylan wannabe in high school helped her come up with her artist name.

Catch Weyes Blood at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 21, at Swedish American Music Hall. More info here.  

SF Weekly: It’s a Wednesday afternoon in February. What are you doing right now?

Weyes Blood: I’m in Echo Park, walking away from the lake back toward my apartment.

SFW: Echo Park Lake, with its lotus flowers and paddle boats, is a fun place. Do you go there often?

WB: I try to go there everyday and get my fresh air negative ion quota. I walk the loop. If I ever have to meet anybody for business or any interview thing, I make it there. I make my friends come there and get coffee, too, because my apartment is so microscopic, I can’t really fit anybody in it, so I always suggest going to the park instead.

SFW: Your music has a very retro feel and reminds me of a combination of Vashti Bunyan and Nico. Are you yourself a fan of old-timey things/the past?

WB: Yeah, I’m a bit of a Luddite. I appreciate older technology more. I think it was a little better, a little bit more well-constructed. I mean, there are some recent developments that I’m interested in, but for the most part, when it comes to analog sound and video, you’re just dealing with a little bit more ephemera, like unexplainable frequencies that are captured by magnetic tape that digital doesn’t capture. Or with film, the way that the light touches the film. Digital is so harsh, and there’s so much grace in tape and film that I think makes it an easier format to get a pretty stunning result. And I feel like with digital stuff, you kind of have to work twice as hard to sculpt the amount of crappy information that’s coming in. Old things are vibey.

SFW: Since you’re such a fan of the past, if you could go back in time, where would you go?

WB: There are a couple things I’d want to check out, like 18th century France during the baroque period. Have you ever seen the movie Dangerous Liaisons with Glenn Close and John Malkovich? I would go back to that time. I would also checkout the Renaissance, the Stone Age, the sixties, the eighties. I mean the sky’s the limit. I have an infatuation with all of history for the most part.

 

SFW: Everything about your music – from your voice to the samples of old movies you included at the end of Front Row Seat to Earth – is weird. Do you think you’re a weird person? (And I mean this in a positive way.)

WB: Oh, yeah, I think I’m really weird. I always had a lot of empathy for the deep outcast weirdos in school. I was kind of like the more sociable weirdo, but I was always talking to the real weird ones. I was always interested in the fringes of culture and society and in expressing myself in a distinctively different way, like always rooting for the underdog, that kind of thing.

SFW: You have a great sense of humor, so I know that you’re not always being 100 percent serious in your music (like in “Generation Why” when you sing the word “yolo”). But do you ever worry that people think your music is a joke?

WB: You know, it’s cool that people are reading it kind of like a joke. Truly, it’s very sincere and it is maybe a little bit backhanded, but for the most part I mean what I’m saying. I have a sense of humor, but I try not to be sarcastic. There are some things in there that are kind of ironic, but I try not to be a sarcastic, negative, pessimistic person when writing.

SFW: Even though you sound like Vashti Bunyan and Nico, you’re not singing about fantastical things, like glow worms and Druids and buried treasure. Why is that?

WB: I try to make it accessible to where you can hear it and understand it. I don’t want to get too abstract and too weird. It’s important to me to create archetypes of human experiences and make them so that the song has a sense of purpose when you experience those emotions. You know, just making people feel like they’re not alone. I can’t talk about that stuff [like crystals and Druids]. There’s too many other things going on.

SFW: What are your thoughts on the current political climate?

WB: Its’ so weird to have this kind of massive movement of feelings I’ve had for a really long time suddenly become more mainstream. And it’s like a really beautiful thing. But amidst all that, I’m wondering what can I do now? What is the next level? What can we do besides just showing up to protests? That’s kind of occupied my thoughts a lot lately.

 

SFW: You grew up in a devout Born Again Christian household, which you started separating yourself from in your teens. What are your religious beliefs now?

WB: I have my own cosmology that’s kind of like an esoteric mix of a lot of different things that work for me and that to me, are worth exploring. There is a little bit of the archetypal Christianity that I’ve kind of reconciled because when you’re raised that way, inevitably that infrastructure will persist into your adulthood. So I’ve kind of reconciled it and I’ve found the things that I like about it and I focus on that and I don’t focus on the guilt or the shame or the darkness of it. And I definitely don’t have any resentment toward my parents. So I’ve kind of just come to terms with it all. But I don’t go to church or read the bible.

SFW: How’d you come up with the name Weyes Blood?

WB: I was 15 and there was this really cool Bob Dylan wannabe boy at my school who was super obsessed with writing. His room was a stack of books and a typewriter and nothing else. He told me to read the book Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor and I got it out of the library and I read it in like a week. I was kind of fascinated at the weird, dark undertones. I haven’t read it since then which is so incredible. But I’ve kind of left it in this weird, hazy pubescent space. But it was right after I read it that I decided I would be called Wise Blood. It was kind of an immediate thing. I changed it to Weyes Blood in my early 20s because there’s another band called Wise Blood from the ‘80s. Somebody warned me. They were like, ‘Watch out for those guys from the ‘80s. They’re looking for money and they might sue you.’

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