RSVP HERE: Lubo Smilenov of Amalgamy Streams via Instagram + MORE

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE. Due to live show cancellations we will be covering virtual live music events and festivals.

If you’re thinking of learning a new exotic instrument and/or how to become an electronic music producer while in lockdown, look no further than Lubo Smilenov for inspiration. For his musical project Amalgamy he plays every beautiful instrument you’ve never heard of including Kora, Kaval, and Gadulka. He is a one-man band and electronic music producer who can play guitar, bass, keys, program drums and is an Ableton Push master. In 2018, Lubo teamed up with cellist Bryan Wilson on Amalgamy’s debut album Cynefin. The album is full of film score-esque textures, homages to various world musical traditions and electronic soundscape experiments. It’s the music you would imagine playing before an ancient battle.

The next chance you can see Lubo shredding his Ableton Push and playing anything from the Kora to Bulgarian bagpipes is Saturday, May 2nd at 8pm. We chatted with Lubo about how he approaches his sound, his practice routine and the $5 key to his live stream set up.

AF: The music you’re performing live these days is a departure from your first album with Amalgamy. How would you describe it and how are you are approaching it?

LS: My approach to music has been so impromptu lately. It can go in any direction at any moment. One second I’m pursuing music fit for film scores. The next I’m putting break core beats over auctioneer samples and archaic goatskin bagpipes. I’ve recently embraced an anything goes approach more than ever.

A lot of the electronic music I’ve been making lately has been done through my Ableton Push launchpad. I really enjoy having a hands on approach to electronic music. Everything is I do is triggered by my fingers the same way it would be with a piano or guitar. It feels just like a sound palette. I just dip a brush into one of every sixty-four buttons and trigger an intended statement of sound. However, the culmination of all these statements creates something that was previously unintended. Sometimes it’s the idea within an idea that we’re looking for.

AF: What is your set up for live streaming?

LS: I plug a dual 1/4” TS to 1/8”TRS cable into my interface’s main output. The 1/8” side goes into a Radioshack Stereo Jack Adapter, and that piece goes into my cell phone. That adapter is the $5 key to this setup. Thereafter, I mix the audio by recording videos on my phone while playing and listen back to how it sound after I’m done. I make adjustments and repeat the process.

AF: You have a large collection of world instruments. Where did you get them?

LS: I’ve been very fortunate to have earned the trust of a few prominent luthiers whom I admire very much. Most of my instruments come from the the village of Kameno, Bulgaria. We’re talking about bagpipes (Gaida), flutes (Kaval), and bowed lyres (Gadulka). My Kora is from The Gambia via Sona Jobarteh’s website. No matter how rare the instrument I’m looking for, I always find it with the help of other musicians. Musicians in NYC generally have each other’s back with these things. It’s amazing.

AF: What is your favorite instrument? Which do you practice the most?

LS: I can’t seem to stick to one thing and it’s so liberating. What I usually do is spend 15-20 minutes a day picking up different instruments around the house at random. If I do end up practicing something disciplinary like scales, I always reward myself with improv at the end. I’ll play at least one bowed instrument, one regular string instrument, and one wind, before moving onto music production.

AF: Where do you think music and technology are going in the next decade? Do you think an extended quarantine will have an effect on the future direction of live music, or music in general?

LS: There are talks of a budding music renaissance based on the current influx of purchases made on music retail sites. Most of these purchases have to do with electronic music via keyboards, synths, beatmakers, etc. It’s still too early to say anything in confidence given the morbid reality we are facing. However, I do think that the role of the bedroom producer will become more prominent in the coming year(s). It really is becoming more important for people to express themselves through creativity. Remote recording and file sharing will certainly increase without a doubt. Cloud servers that host plugins and resources are going to be utilized more than ever.

Extended quarantine will certainly have an effect on the future direction of live music. Music is made differently when musicians prepare for a live show together vs. when they are alone at home. Music made at home has less restrictions. There’s no one to push back at your crazy idea. Suddenly, you have to fill the role of the drummer, singer, bassist, producer, songwriter, video editor, and marketer all at once. Live streaming has never been more valuable as a tool for musicians. As far as performance goes, it’s all we have now.

RSVP HERE for Amalgamy’s set on Instagram Live Saturday 5/2 at 8pm.

More great live streams this week…

5/1-5/3 Love from Philly: Kurt Vile, G. Love, John Oates, Man Man + More via YouTube. 12pm est, all donations benefit Philadelphia’s Entertainment Community. RSVP HERE

5/1 Foxygen via Pickathorn Twitch. 4pm est, RSVP HERE

5/2 Live From Here: Chris Thile, Watkins Family Hour, Sylvan Esso via WNYC. 6pm est, RSVP HERE

5/2 Remote Utopias: Tame Impala, Weyes Blood and more via NTS App. 5am est, raising money for Gloval Foodbank Network RSVP HERE

5/2 Nap Eyes via Baby’s TV. 8pm est $5, RSVP HERE

5/3 Bang On A Can 6-hour livestream. 3pm est RSVP HERE

5/6 Breathwork with Kimi Class via Instagram. 7pm pst, RSVP HERE 

5/7 Alkaline Trio via Riot Fest Facebook. 7pm est, RSVP HERE

5/7 Tori Amos via Murmrr Theatre YouTube 2pm est, RSVP HERE


NEWS ROUNDUP: Grimes is (Sort of) Back, RBMA Announce 2019 Shows, and MORE

Grimes photo by Eli Russell Linnetz

So, About Grimes…

Where to begin? Claire Boucher (who turned 31 on Sunday and now prefers to be addressed as the italicized, lowercase letter ‘c‘) gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal; between the very odd conversation and her recent Instagram posts, it seems like she’ll be appearing in our News Roundups for a while, so buckle up.

First of all, she’s officially announced a new Grimes record. It’s called Miss_Anthropocene, and revolves around the concept of  the “anthropomorphic goddess of climate change,” according to her own Insta post. She describes the character thusly: “A psychedelic, space-dwelling demon/ beauty-Queen who relishes the end of the world. She’s composed of Ivory and Oil” and continues, “Each song will be a different embodiment of human extinction as depicted through a Pop star Demonology. The first song ‘we appreciate power’, introduced the pro-AI-propaganda girl group who embody our potential enslavement/destruction at the hands of Artificial General intelligence.”

In the same post, she also hinted that there might be an EP coming soon as well, which would ostensibly contain some of the stand-alone stuff she’s been working on while putting the LP together, like “Pretty Dark.”

On to the interview, which is behind a paywall I can’t afford and don’t want to pay to a conservative pub, so bear with me. c wants to “kill off” Grimes in a “public execution” because she feels limited by the branding she created back in 2009; her vision of herself as an artist is much more expansive, necessitating a Game of Thrones-esque book that will create a “lore” around her art and music. “It’s super, super pretentious,” she notes.

Reiterating her Instagram post, she says that she aims to make climate change “fun” with the new record, feeling that people ignore it largely because it makes them sad. Her solution to this dilemma is a series of “apocalyptic PSAs” in which she sits nude at a Last Supper-style dining table eating species on the brink of extinction, like a big bloody elephant head. You know, fun.

The album features an epic love ballad called “So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth” which Grimes says was inspired by the Assassin’s Creed movie trailer rather than her relationship with Elon Musk, whom she all but refused to talk about. She did say she “loves him” but was “simply unprepared” for the attention/criticism that dating him has brought her. WSJ did quote an email Musk sent to them about Grimes, saying, “I love c’s wild fae artistic creativity and hyper intense work ethic.”

Grimes tweeted that she was mostly pleased with the interview, but that generally she hates doing them because “it’s like fighting a battle with a fake version of urself to see who the public believes more.”

Red Bull’s NYC Music Academy Lineup is Here

Taking place across NYC throughout May every year, Red Bull Music Academy has become one of our favorite non-festivals – the lineup is always diverse and well-curated, with an eye on slightly more obscure avant-garde acts playing off-the-beaten path venues. Now in its 16th year, the programming for 2019 has been announced, and there’s a lot to be excited about.

For one thing, RBMA will host breakout Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalía for her first live appearances stateside. Her stunning 2018 album El Mal Querer flips Flamenco on its head, and the elaborate visuals that characterized her gorgeous visuals will likely make their way into the two performances scheduled for the newly-reopened Webster Hall.

Also performing over two nights, FKA Twigs returns to NYC for her first shows here since 2015, when Red Bull staged her vogue-opera Congregata in an abandoned hangar. This time, she’ll take over the Park Avenue Armory’s similarly cavernous drill hall. She hasn’t released new music in a while, so we’re curious to see what form these shows will take.

Four more women will bring immersive shows to the fest: Harlem’s own Teyana Taylor presents House of Petunia, a “spectacular audio-visual experience spearheaded by her all-female production company, The Aunties, featuring provocative stage design and mesmerizing choreography from a world-class team of dancers;” Tierra Whack headlines New York for the first time at the iconic Rainbow Room with “quirky and surreal stage design” that mirrors her surreal “Whack World” project; composer and sound artist Holly Herndon premieres the live iteration of her forthcoming album PROTO, “incorporating a fluid ensemble of eight vocalists, Spawn (a nascent machine intelligence), machine learning specialists, choreographers, and visual artists;” and Moor Mother weaves sound and history together with a “large-scale performance” she’s curated alongside an installation by Black Quantum Futurism, both of which are based on the race riots that engulfed America in the “Red Summer” of 1919.

More from RBMA’s press release:

Additional Red Bull Music Festival New York shows include: Rapper/producer JPEGMAFIA, who will showcase his gritty and abrasive beats with a dynamic live show in-the-round; NYC’s Onyx Collective bringing together their notable friends from the worlds of jazz, hip-hop, soul, and R&B for a free and unreplicable performance of intense, genre-expanding jazz at one of New York City’s beautiful parks; and the festival closes with Nyege Nyege Night featuring a propulsive and bass-heavy set from Ugandan DJKampire who – after laying the bedrock for the creation of safe party spaces for women and the LGBTQ+ community at home – will  make her US debut, co-headlining with rising singeli duo MCZO & Duke.

Tickets are sold for individual events and can be purchased here.

That New New

Speaking of Red Bull, break out that Hennessy – it’s Jenny Lewis Day, bitches.

Fresh off her Tim Presley collab DRINKS’ sophomore LP and tour, Cate Le Bon has announced her next solo album, Reward, out May 24 via Mexican Summer, with lead single “Daylight Matters.”

Nearly fifteen years after the release of their collaborative EP In The Reins, Calexico and Iron & Wine have reunited to record a full-length, Years to Burn. “Father Mountain” is the first single from the LP, out June 14 via City Slang.

Damien Jurado shared a new song from his stripped-down acoustic record In The Shape of a Storm, out April 12.

Juan Wauters has released the first single from Introducing Juan Pablo, out May 31. “Letter” was written in 2015; the record as a whole is something of a companion piece/prequel to his recently released La Onda de Juan Pablo LP.

Surprising no one, there’s a second volume to Broken Social Scene’s recent Let’s Try the After Vol. 1 EP on the way. Vol. 2 is out April 12 and its first single is “Can’t Find My Heart.”

Papercuts released a new three song EP, Kathleen Says, this week.

Lizzo and Missy Elliott have collaborated on a track, so music is basically over. Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You is out April 19.

Building on the momentum of recent single “Not What I Thought,” Somalia-born, Toronto-based vocalist Amaal brings the heat with another scorcher, “Coming & Going.”

Czarface, a hip-hop and comics collective featuring Inspectah Deck, has just released a collab LP with old Wu-Tang buddy Ghostface Killah. Czarface Meets Ghostface is out now, and so is this rad video for “Powers and Stuff,” seen from the POV of a very good boy.

Obliques are back with their first single since 2017’s “Instant Pleasure.”

Reptaliens’ sophomore LP VALIS arrives on April 26 – on cassette and limited edition pink vinyl. Watch the video for “Venetian Blinds” below.

Kero Kero Bonito released a video for “Swimming,” from last year’s Time ‘n’ Place.

Fat White Family return with a new video directed by Roisin Murphy. “Tastes Good With The Money” will appear on their third studio album, Serfs Up!, out April 19.

Plague Vendor unleash their new John Congleton-produced Epitaph Records LP By Night on June 7, and have shared a rowdy video for the raucous first track “New Comedown.”

Ibibio Sound Machine have a new album, Doko Mien, out today, and have shared a video for “Wanna Come Down.”

The latest video from Colombian breakout “Artist on the Rise” Elsa y Elmar is a journey, fam – and “Ojos Noche” is the Spanish-language alt-country bop you didn’t know you needed. Her next LP Eres Diamante arrives May 17.

Analogue special effects make for some gorgeous visuals in the dreamy new single from Heather Woods Broderick, who releases her newest album Invitation April 19. She’ll open for longtime collaborator and bandmate Sharon Van Etten at Webster Hall May 4.

Following the official announcement of her April 5 release Titanic Rising (and a video for “Everyday“) Weyes Blood shares a video for the album’s next single, “Movies.”

Tame Impala has released a new stand-alone single, “Patience,” to promote a headlining Coachella spot, numerous other festival appearances, and Saturday Night Live debut on March 30.

Honeyblood, now the solo project of Stina Tweeddale, releases their third LP In Plain Sight May 24, and have released a lyric video for “Glimmer.”

Here’s a ripper from new Queens-based band WIVES, who drop a two-part seven inch on City Slang in May.

Wes Miles unironically sings “Got the crew back together/Feels like it’s been forever” on “Bad To Worse,” the first song from Ra Ra Riot since the 2016 release of the LP Need Your Light; it’s produced and co-written by Discovery cohort Rostam Batmanglij.

End Notes

  • Iconic surf guitarist Dick Dale, best known as the man behind “Miserlou,” passed away on Saturday at the age of 81.
  • Myspace deleted your shit.
  • Did you know that Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst hosts a jazz night at Los Angeles club The Black Rabbit Rose every Thursday? Lady Gaga does – she showed up last week to perform some Frank Sinatra covers.
  • San Francisco’s Outside Lands have announced the semi-retired Paul Simon as a headliner and reveal the rest of the lineup on Tuesday.
  • Woodstock 50 has official released their previously leaked lineup.
  • The Lollapalooza lineup has been announced; we’d save you a click thru and tell you who’s playing except that it’s literally the same bands playing every other festival, but in Chicago.
  • Justin Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner will bring a topsy-turvy version of Berlin event PEOPLE called 37d03d (get it? good, because it’s annoying to type) to Red Hook’s Pioneer Works; it’s a five-day residency featuring experimental-ish musicians like Vernon, Dessner, Sinkane, Boys Noize, Greg Fox, Shahzad Ismaily, and others, culminating in two performances on May 3 and 4.
  • The David Lynch Foundation, which brings transcendental meditation to sufferers of PTSD, have also announced a lineup for their benefit showcase on May 17 and 18 at Brooklyn Steel, featuring Wye Oak, Garbage, Phoebe Bridgers, Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem, and more.
  • Presumably riding high on Pepsi’s Super Bowl endorsement, Cardi B has filed paperwork to trademark “Okurrr.”
  • In other Cardi B news, she’s been announced as part of the ensemble cast for Hustlers, a movie about vengeful strippers based on this New York Times article.
  • The Wyld Stallyns have announced a most excellent reunion.
  • Madlib squashed some rumors that his collab EP with the late Mac Miller (dubbed “Maclib”) will see ever the light of day.
  • Questlove is teaming up with SF-based vegetarian “meat” purveyor Impossible Burger to created a Questlove Cheesteak sold at sports stadiums nationwide.
  • Democratic Hot but actually pretty centrist presidential candidate hopeful Beto O’Rourke has unveiled a unique platform: reuniting the Mars Volta.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Bikini Kill Reunion, Toto Forever, and MORE

photo by Tammy Rae Carland

Bikini Kill Sells Out Reunion Shows in Minutes

Girls to the front! Earlier this week, Bikini Kill’s original members – Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, and Kathi Wilcox – announced three reunion shows: 4/25 at the Hollywood Palladium; 5/31 at Brooklyn Steel; and 6/1 at Terminal 5. The band has been officially broken up since 1997 (they played “For Tammy Rae” at a book release party for Jenn Pelly’s 33 1/3 Raincoats tribute in 2017) though Wilcox and Hanna still play together as 2/4ths of The Julie Ruin. Bikini Kill have been steadily releasing vinyl reissues of their back catalog via their own eponymous imprint, as well as archiving materials – zines, flyers, demos, artwork, merch, personal photos – from the dawn of riot grrl, a movement they basically invented. But the “tour” announcement was definitely a pleasant surprise.

The punk band drew criticism, however, because tickets were only available through AES’s ticketing platform AXS, which of course left some fans out in the cold, even as scalpers began posting tickets via secondary markets in excess of $900 (face value was just under $50 with service fees). The band immediately announced a second L.A. show for April 26th; it sold out just as quickly. It’s certainly possible that more shows could be announced (particularly in New York, Hanna’s homebase) but it’s always a bummer to have to hit refresh dozens of times to no avail. At least there are plenty of YouTube clips from Bikini Kill’s heyday.

Toto Forever

When Toto penned their only number one hit, “Africa,” released in 1981, they probably didn’t think about the tune’s longevity. Sure, it’s catchy, but no one could’ve predicted its late-exploding popularity as the lyrics made their way into countless memes and TV shows like Stranger Things and South Park boosted recognition. Now, thanks to Namibian-German artist Max Siedentopf, “Africa” is never going to go away – because he’s erected an installation in the Namib desert, in which six solar-powered speakers play an MP3 of the song on a constant loop.

Siedentopf told NPR that the installation was “supposed to be a bit like a treasure that only the most loyal of Toto fans can find.” Indeed, it could be anywhere along the West Coast of Namibia, as the desert stretches some 1200 miles along the coast. Being a desert, the area is “nearly rainless,” and its name is derived from the Nama language, implying “an area where there is nothing.” And while it isn’t one of the two specific African landmarks mentioned in the song (Kilimanjaro/the Serengeti), maybe the installation will finally put Namibia on the map for Toto devotees.

That New New

Panda Bear teamed up with Dean Blunt to create the video for “Token,” from PB’s upcoming LP Buoys (out February 8 via Domino).

James Blake dropped a new album with very little fanfare; stream Assume Form below.

Weyes Blood hasn’t officially given any details on her forthcoming record, but she’s shared its first single, “Andromeda,” which was produced by Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado.

HEALTH is slated to release VOL. 4: SLAVES OF FEAR via Loma Vista Recordings on February 8 and have shared its blistering second single.


Dawn Richard (aka D∆WN) shared “sauce” from her forthcoming LP new breed, which is currently streaming over at NPR ahead of its January 25th release.

Experimental found-sounds duo Matmos celebrate the upcoming release of Plastic Anniversary (and 25 years as a band) with first single “Silicone Gel Implant;” they debuted some of their latest compositions at a Yo La Tengo Hannukah show this past December.

Swedish punks Makthaverskan are putting out a new 7″ and have shared its A-side, “Demands.”

SPELLLING shared “Under the Sun,” from forthcoming Sacred Bones LP Mazy Fly (out February 22).

Following a few sold-out reunion shows, San Jose art rockers Duster are back in the studio and have released their first single since 2000 album Contemporary Movement.

Xiu Xiu shared a disturbing video sequel to the equally disturbing “Scisssssssors;” both singles appear on Girl With Basket of Fruit, out February 8th.

Cardi B teams up with City Girls in a video for “Twerk,” which seeks to reclaim the booty-shaking dance move for black women everywhere.

Along with additional details about their upcoming collaborative album Lux Prima, Karen O and Danger Mouse shared the LP’s next single, “Woman.”

Lastly, we can’t get enough of this Leggy track from their upcoming LP and are super pumped about their January 23rd show at Baby’s All Right with Daddy Issues and Desert Sharks.

End Notes

  • Lana Del Rey, Jared Leto, and Courtney Love starred in a Gucci commercial released this week, soundtracked by Link Wray.
  • Cardi B posted an expletive-laden political rant via Instagram on Wednesday, criticizing the government shutdown. It’s already been remixed by the Autotune the News dudes. Belcalis Almanzar 4 Prez in 2o20!
  • Panorama Music Festival is going on hiatus as parent company AEG looks to secure a new location.
  • Sony has finally dropped R. Kelly in light of the disturbing allegations of his behavior toward women. Scrutiny has intensified for the artist since Lifetime aired their much-discussed Surviving R. Kelly documentary earlier this month.
  • Matt Daniels has updated his chart mapping the largest vocabulary in hip-hop, with Aesop Rock topping the list. You can toggle it so that it shows only members of Wu-Tang Clan, who clocks in at #5 (the GZA’s solo work is ranked one spot above, at #4).
  • Speaking of the Wu, there’s a documentary coming to Showtime in the spring that features the iconic NYC rap crew.
  • Bandcamp is opening a brick-and-mortar outpost in Oakland in February.
  • Gladys Knight has agreed to perform the National Anthem at Super Bowl LIII on February 3rd. The soul singer made some controversial statements about Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback whose police brutality kneeling protests left him a free agent. The halftime show will be headlined by Maroon 5, with special guests Big Boi and Travis Scott.

LIVE REVIEW: Hudson RiverRocks


It would seem that Pier 84 is the place to be this summer. With 4Knots boasting an impressive lineup of bands a few weeks ago, Hudson RiverRocks is upholding the more independent side of things, considering the bands and the cost, which is zero dollars. The lineup consisted of Santa Monica’s Weyes Blood, Speedy Ortiz out of Massachusetts, and Alabama’s own Waxahatchee. The shows start around six, and they’re a great way to spend the hours between work and bed. Weyes Blood is a sleepy start to the evening, and for a moment I wonder if the weather is bending to meet their mood. Violet grey clouds hang overhead, and everyone is wondering at the possibility of a downpour.

Natalie Mering, who essentially is Weyes Blood, is wearing a red polka-dot dress under a white trench. Her long black hair is in a low, slack ponytail that lends her a Joan Baez quality. At first she plays solo, singing over her keyboard, but shortly after the first couple of tracks her band mates trickle onstage. Mering’s music is cinematic, almost score-like. Her voice is stunning, sweeping and angelic, but admittedly, depressing. It’s a winter sound, and though I enjoy it very much, I’m not sure it’s fitting for a Pier 84 summer stage. The crowd is mixed, half of them swaying calmly while the rest chuckle. It’s not for everyone I guess.

Speedy Ortiz on the other hand, sound like the headliners at a house party after a long day at the beach. They could be the band playing your prom in an eighties movie, or in a dark club in a nineties movie. In a word, they’re fun. Sadie Dupuis is a powerhouse front-woman who looks a bit riot grrrrl in her pleated skirt and knee socks. You can hear a lot of Sonic Youth and Pavement in their set, but Dupuis’ girlish vocals matched with stern delivery make for a fresh sound. And I can’t take my eyes of drummer Mike Falcone, who’s bang-on and provides quite the punch. Having just made a riotous appearance at South by Southwest (Hannibal Buress sat in on drums) and released their sophomore record Foil Deer, the band is turning out to be much loved by fans as well as fellow musicians. At Happyness’s Cake Shop gig in April, drummer Ash Cooper sported one of their t-shirts. “They’re great!” he beamed. Rightly so.

Towards the end of their set, we all feel a sprinkle. Just like that it’s lights out and go home. There’s fear of a massive thunder and lightning storm, and given the very electric nature of all the equipment on stage, the good people of Hudson River Park decide it’s not worth the risk. The show mustn’t go on after all. It’s sad and unfair news for Waxahatchee.

Be sure to check out the final installment of Hudson RiverRocks featuring Yuck and U.S. Girls this Thursday, August 6th at Pier 84. And don’t forget to bring an umbrella. Just in case.



weyes blood

Twice a month, AudioFemme profiles artists both emerging and established, who, in this industry, must rebel against misogynist cultural mores. Through their music  they express the attendant hurdles and adversities (vis-a-vis the entertainment industry and beyond) propagated by those mores. For our sixth installment, Amber Robbin profiles Weyes Blood, a one-woman psych folk powerhouse that challenges notions of waif-like femininity with hauntingly dynamic vocals, darkly emotional lyrics, and unexpectedly melodic sound effects.

Artist Profile: Weyes Blood

Weyes Blood is the otherworldly musical persona of folk-suffused, musique concrète-inspired artist Natalie Mering. Based in New York City with prior roots in Philly and Baltimore, Mering has previously collaborated with experimentally driven acts such as Ariel Pink and Jackie-O Motherfucker. Her second full release, The Innocents,  came out on Mexican Summer October 21st, following The Outside Room, her 2011 album on Not Not Fun which was recorded, mixed, and produced by Mering herself.

Music is in Mering’s wise blood (which, by the way, is the play on words intended by the literary-inspired pseudonym, “Weyes Blood”). Her father was a rocker in 1970s LA turned Christian parish leader, yet Mering has cultivated an aesthetic undeniably her own. Her mellifluous vocal sound is pure and ancient, driving forth compositions that are rich with artfully-chosen sound effects she seamlessly strews over traditional instrumentation. The result ranges from whimsical to profoundly heart-wrenching, with darkly psychedelic passages and hopeful glimmers of choral brilliance throughout. From the warped piano arpeggios of “Some Winters” to the acoustic simplicity of “Bad Magic,” Mering’s bereft, hovering bay unhinges the listener’s soul and carries it between intimately familiar portraits of a past life, conjuring memories that still breathe with tangible emotion.

The album is, indeed, an imprint of the past for the deep-timbred songstress. The Innocents chronicles the lost, wandering soul of an early twenties Mering and captures the distress and abandon felt by many in that age of angst and aching. Although written in the thick of her experience, Mering’s work echoes with the mature understanding of an old soul painfully aware in the midst of its own torment. She ponders her loss in “Some Winters,” the second single off the album, and faces what’s left in the aftermath of a jilted love affair…

You won’t hold me in your arms anymore

We paid our price

Lead from the soul

I’m already gone

The house of stone we built has turned into sand

and you know I’d still hold your hand

A hope I can’t conceal

A memory how we used to feel

A potential third single, “Bad Magic,” was recorded in Mering’s apartment. One of the most beloved and bare tracks, the ballad unfolds as if Mering is slowly, solemnly rallying herself yet again to face the day, despite her enduring anguish. Harboring a bursting chest and eyes forever wetted, she pushes on, for she knows instinctively that there is nowhere to go but forward. The minor melody tugs and lilts from verse to chorus without pause, like the perpetual pep talk of her heart that refuses to come up for air. It is her salvation, this inner monologue…

Make the best of death

and love what’s left

You’re not just a time bomb

Just cause you went off don’t mean you’re scattered everywhere

It’s still there

in the palms of your hand

Just give it one more chance

Don’t wait to understand

Just find a new way

Every melody is “a new way” to move forward, each chunk of poetry a new pearl to bolster her resilience. Every track of The Innocents introduces yet another approach to coping with life as we know it, cracking open our chests for the sake of remembering how we ourselves coped in the face of those most formative, and innocent, years.

Femme Unfiltered: On Natalie Mering

When I was a Broadway hopeful going to musical theatre/circus school, it became abundantly clear to me that only a few select roles were available to women. Just as in most artistic industries (see also “the world”), the options were: virgin or whore. Ok, there might have been slightly more variation, but seriously…ingénue = virgin, sassy sidekick = whore. (If you were lucky enough to have the breadth, you could also play women over 40 – the hag.) However, there was one other, lesser known category which I incessantly fit into – the dead girl. The dead girl was sometimes a ghost, sometimes an angelic symbol of love, innocence, or some other idyllic value. More a spin-off on the standard virgin with a dash of saucy see-through-ness, she served all celestial purposes of the play. She was imposing, she had sway, but she was meant to be known of, more so than seen or heard.

It was intriguing to me, therefore, when I came upon Weyes Blood and its continuously-dubbed “ethereal” front woman Natalie Mering. Mering demands to be seen and heard, and is by no means a waif beyond her waif-like appearance. Her instrument is deep and resounding, and her otherworldly musical concoctions are far too all-encompassing to garner any sort of comparison to a gaseous existence.

It hit me that Mering’s persona challenges all familiar notions of what it means to be “ethereal,” for her art is feminine, celestial, and powerful, all at the same time. Mering spoke in our interview of how all humans have an animal side, so I began to wonder if, perhaps, we all had a self-reflective, otherworldly side to us as well – one that normally lies undetected by our fumbling, animal radar. Mering extracts this element of our being and magnifies it, keeping intact all of the inherent characteristics of a flesh and blood human being: the strength, the raw emotion, the jagged edges. She uses her spiritual presence to embody the essence of her suffering, her perseverance, her enlightenment, every discovery along her epic journey, forging an otherworldly image in solidarity with the human experience. She demonstrates just how ethereal we all are when consumed by our emotions, and especially when we manage to beat the odds and, miraculously, transcend hardship.

INTERVIEW 10/17/14

I had the chance to chat with Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood. Here is what she had to say.

AF: So Ms. Mering, how did you come to create the very specific sound of Weyes Blood? And how has your past work with Jackie-O Motherfucker and Ariel Pink informed your style?

Mering: Well, I was already making more improvisatory music when I met Jackie-O Motherfucker, and they’re more improvisatory. I don’t know how much they influenced my sound. I feel like Ariel inspired me to be more personal about my songwriting and write more from a conversational perspective. But mostly my sound is cultivated through my love of sound effects and early music, which is old church music, and trying to combine something super futuristic and also ancient.  

AF: What about a musician’s personality, both as an artist and a person, makes them better suited to solo work? Why are you a solo artist?

Mering: I think it was because I couldn’t find anybody who had the same standards as I did to be in a band with. In high school and college, I always wanted to make music, but it was the ultimate, most important thing to me, and it was kind of impossible to meet anybody like that.

AF: In terms of work ethic?

Mering: Yeah, in terms of work ethic. In terms of wanting to pursue it as their career. In terms of where I was coming from artistically. It just wasn’t in the cards for me, so I just played solo.

AF: How do you feel about the word “ethereal”? Does it describe you, or just you in relation to your art?

Mering: Probably just my music. I think ethereal is a fantasy element. That, as human beings, we have ethereal elements – all of us. But we’re pretty much animals, so ethereal is kind of the escape word that we wish we could transcend to. I take it as a compliment.

AF: How did you get into music? Especially, what’s your vocal training background?

Mering: My whole family are musicians, but I was in choirs a lot in middle school and high school.

AF: Where do you get your song ideas?

Mering: Just life experiences and how insane life is.

AF: How does the creative process usually begin for you?

Mering: It’s either music or lyrics, and it’s usually kind of like a lightning flash, but it’s also very half-baked. I get little imprints of songs and melodies, and then I flesh them out by playing them over and over again. And listening. Really listening is a huge part of it. I think I have really good ears.

AF: When and how do you decide upon the unconventional sound effects you use on each track?

Mering: I guess in any atonal sound there’s usually a melody, even though it is atonal, that will kind of sync up and match with the melody of the song. So, it’s almost like pairing…it’s kind of like a wine pairing. (Laughs.) Like some things go better with other things. It’s not all totally random. And once again, listening is the biggest thing. Listening to its relationship to the song and deciding if it adds to the song and brings it more life, or if it’s distracting to the song and takes away from it. Because with sound effects it’s pretty black and white.

AF: Do you find that you face discrimination and adversity within the music industry as a female?

Mering: Yeah.

AF: Do you consider yourself a feminist? What is your definition of feminism?

Mering: I am a feminist. The definition of feminist is to want equal opportunities and rights for women, paying women the same amount, etc. etc. But really what happens in music, is music is really just a big cult of the personality anyway. So, like a male personality is usually more appealing to everybody on a marketing level or an excitement/popularity level. I feel like women have to get in there and make incredible music to get the same amount of attention while a man could make music that’s more based on having a crazy personality, being a kooky guy, and everybody loves it. I think that that is what attracts a lot of people.

I don’t know, it’s also more difficult for men because it’s a little easier to be more singular as a female. So I wouldn’t say it’s totally this terrible thing being a woman in music. It can work to your benefit also. I just find that in terms of the people that I have worked with, it’s easier to get pigeon-holed as “mellow chick music” even though I think I can bring a lot of intensity and excitement. I think that’s happening less and less as more women are doing solo music than ever before, but some people just hear a female voice and that’s the first thing they think.

AF: What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your work?

Mering: Probably hearing something in my head and then trying to make it a reality, in real life, only to find that it always comes a little short of the fantasy.

AF: What’s the most rewarding aspect?

Mering: Getting to connect with people and make people feel that living is worthwhile via creation and art. I think that’s a very elating experience.

AF: In multiple interviews, you talk about The Innocents being about disillusionment and innocence ending in a person’s early 20s, and how once this album was recorded, you realized you’d already grown past that theme. What themes are you exploring now?

Mering: I don’t know, probably ones that are just more existential. Things beside heartbreak.

AF: What’s beyond heartbreak?

Mering: I don’t know. Like not having a heart anymore and trying to figure that out. (Laughs.)

AF: That’s dark! Alright!

Mering: I mean, it’s existential, it’s dark, but there’s also a lot of lightness – I’ve been writing some happy songs too.

AF: So what’s next for Natalie Mering and Weyes Blood?

Mering: The album comes out next week and then I’m gonna do some heavy touring. I put together a backup band, so still kind of solo, but also with a full band. I’m gonna record my next album next year and just get cookin’ because time is flying and things are changing, and the new set of songs that I wrote are already getting old. Which is one problem with the music world. Creativity kind of comes so fast and albums are these laborious, long events. I look forward to recording the next album. That’s what’s next for me.


ALBUM REVIEW: Weyes Blood “The Innocents”


Just now, I googled “1960s witchy psychedelic folk,” grasping, I guess, for a manageable term that encapsulates both Nico’s glamourous theatrics and Brigitte Fontaine’s quirky darkness. I’m sitting at a table in the pool-house out back of a big and beautiful summer home on the coast of Maine, where I’ve been hired as a kind of temporary live-in servant. I shit you not. I’ve got a view of the Atlantic from nearly point blank range, and the moon is new, and all things witchy seem more than possible tonight.

Natural beauty this acute makes any little thing that sticks out of the landscape seem intentionally sinister, like the pale pink dismembered crab torso I saw ripped open and splayed out on a rock while I was on the beach this evening waiting for the moon to rise. The music of Weyes Blood, whose earth name is Natalie Mering, is sort of like that–so beautiful that its oddness makes that beauty spooky, and so strange that its classical loveliness gleams even brighter.

Mering has been under the radar for a couple of years, but that doesn’t mean she’s stayed quiet. After a stint with experimental psych folk outfit Jackie-O Motherfucker, she sang backup vocals for Ariel Pink, and has since performed prodigiously as a solo artist – touring, appearing at festivals, and playing shows of her own with friends like Quilt and The Entrance Band‘s Guy Blakeslee.

In 2011, Mering released The Outside Room, her debut under the Weyes Blood name, on Not Not Fun. Already then, her basic toolkit (haunting vocals, ancient-sounding folk music) was essentially intact, although The Innocents reveals some significant updates. Less funereal but more complicated, Weyes Blood substitutes her first album’s foundation of abject misery for one of classical–even courtly–dignity. Harmonizing against herself, Mering’s vocals take on an entirely new, much richer quality on The Innocents, almost like putting on 3D glasses. But that isn’t to say that melancholy has no place on the album: when Weyes Blood tells you, in the middle of the strange, sad, choral “Some Winters” that “I’m as broken as woman can be,” you believe her. That’s the kind of voice she’s got, low and regal and primed for heartbreak. The finery of that song has a cracked-china feel to it, stemming from its psychedelic tendencies. Static and interference marr dreamy piano arpeggios. The angelic chorus of ahhs hovering around Mering’s tortured alto like a halo slowly melts into a mechanized humming that sounds like the low buzz of an airplane engine. When the song has sentimental moments, something cold and sterile always follows.

If, like me, you’re listening to Weyes Blood someplace wild and desolate, The Innocents intensifies things. It is sparse and spooky. It makes it easy to suspend your disbelief and get swept along with Mering’s moonlit, forlorn reality.

The Innocents won’t be out in the U.S. until Oct 21st, but you can pre-order your physical or digital copy by heading on over to Mexican Summer. In the meantime, check out “Hang On,” the album’s power-driven first single. “I will hang on when the rains come and wash away all I’ve come from,” Mering sings, holding the melody steady as the rest of the song careens through chord progressions and time signatures.   The song is sturdy at its core, her voice a pillar of strength in the center of an embellished, rhythmically complex track. She plays Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn on Friday, August 22nd.

LIVE REVIEW: Quilt @ Mercury Lounge


Quilt’s show on Feb. 28 was supposed to take place at Rough Trade, so obviously it took place at Mercury Lounge instead. It was an early show, with Quilt mounting the stage promptly at 9pm, but that seemed to suit the night’s comfortable vibe.

Natalie Mering, otherwise known as Weyes Blood, opened the show, joining Quilt for the remaining duration of their North American tour. She sings with her eyes closed, swaying gently as she grasps the microphone or strums her guitar, alone on stage but completely captivating the audience nonetheless. Her deep, ‘60s vocals bear a strong resemblance to Nico’s, but her loose-fitting, all white pantsuit somehow made her seem like a female John Lennon that night. Mering closed her set with a spellbinding cover of “Everybody’s Talkin,” originally by Fred Neil but made famous by Harry Nilsson. She infused the frequently covered track with her own soulfully haunting style, spinning it into some kind of trippy gospel song.

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Weyes Blood

Then came one of my favorite moments of every show: the moment when the venue’s lights are dimmed and the audience hushes its tones, turning away from its conversations to look towards the stage in anticipation of the main act. Quilt are a band that know how to milk that moment, and they appeared on stage with quietly reverberating guitars, framing their entrance with an ambient sound that whooshed all around the room, building up tension slowly but surely. The four-some took their time syncing up to each other, leisurely allowing themselves the right moment to start playing. And then, they started.

Opening with recently released Held In Splendor’s last song, “I Sleep in Nature,” Quilt used the hazy, lazy song to settle into their groove. Their live performances make it clear that their tunes hardly follow a pattern, which means their shows are equally as schizophrenic: you may be flailing to try and keep up with their guitar freak-outs one second, and the next, you may be gently swaying with arms floating listlessly by your side. “Saturday Bride” was a particularly memorable display of this ability, as Quilt flipped from one pace to another in virtuosic fashion, coaxing some dancing out of the laid back crowd. At a live show, you start to wonder how the band are able to keep up with their own compositions.

Many of their songs bled seamlessly into one another, with Quilt hardly saying a word other than “Thanks.” In fact, it was only about halfway through the show that the band greeted the crowd, adding a complaint about the bitter cold. But the room was warm and aglow with Quilt’s vintage folk sounds and Anna Fox Rochinski’s hypnotizing, honeyed vocals. Her gorgeous voice shone with songs like the popular “Arctic Shark.”

The brick walls and intimate size of the Lounge made for a great setting, but with music like this, you can’t help wishing you were outside in the sunshine, your bare toes dancing on fresh grass and the sun melting through your eyelids. Quilt’s songs truly come to life when played live. You get the feeling that the band are just having a great time jamming with one another, and they warmly invite the audience to have a great time with them.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]