MewithoutYou is an alternative-rock/post-hardcore band hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that is characterized by spoken-word vocals, free-ranging instrumentation, and lyrical themes emphasizing spirituality and generosity. The band is currently comprised of (from youngest to oldest) Rickie Mazzotta on drums; Aaron Weiss on lead vocals and an array of instrumentation, including acoustic guitar, accordion, trumpet, keyboards, and percussion; Brandon Beaver on guitar and vocals; Mike Weiss on vocals, guitar, and keyboard; and Greg Jehanian on vocals and bass guitar. Not to mention, their music has featured the additional sounds of harp and trombone. They have released six LPs and two EPs that showcase both their earlier, thrashier sound and their later, melodic sound. Their latest LP, Pale Horses (2015), is characteristic of both styles.
On any album, though, mewithoutYou features a penchant for storytelling, implementing themes from the three religions that pervaded Aaron’s childhood home: Christianity, Judaism, and Sufi Islam. Aaron’s mom was raised Episcopalian, his dad was raised Jewish, and both parents converted later to Sufi Islam. Although Aaron was not raised going to the mosque, his parents discussed prayer and God with him. It was only later in high school that Aaron found greater interest in Christianity on a forest-retreat with the Christian organization Young Light. Since then, he has identified as Christian, but he notes the importance of the humility and generosity of faith and spirituality — both abstractly and concretely. In an interview with Busted Halo Aaron explains,
When [Christianity] talks about “blessed are the hungry and the poor,” that’s spiritual. Spiritually hungry and spiritually poor — that’s in there. But so is the tangible stuff. People need food and they need shelter and they need freedom, both economically and politically.
One example of their combination of their lyrical themes of spirituality and unique sound is the song “In a Sweater Poorly Knit” from the LP Brother, Sister (2006). The song appropriates imagery from the story of Moses and additional Biblical stories to compare the finite possibilities of human relationships to the infinite possibilities of a relationship with God. Using these Biblical references, Aaron addresses both the girl from one of his human relationships as well as God, weaving a story of how he always ends up opposite his intended goals. The song also features the band’s distinctive spoken-word vocals and edgier sound while still unifying the track with a central lyrical and musical refrain.
For fans of bands like La Dispute, Listener, Brand New, and In Pieces, or current friends and fans of mewithoutYou looking to learn more about the band, it is an honor to say that Aaron was generous enough to answer eighteen short-interview questions about their influences, memorable experiences, and advice he would give to a young band:
1) When did you form mewithoutYou?
Either 2000 or 2001, I’m not sure.
2) Why did you name the band mewithoutYou?
It sounded like a soft and an unusual fit for our music, which, at the time, was pretty thrashy and aggressive.
3) Where were you expecting it to go when you formed it?
Down the basement stairs and back up to the living room.
4) What do you consider your influences?
In general, our parents. Musically, our influences are Fugazi, Smashing Pumpkins, Ink & Dagger, R.E.M., Velvet Underground. Lyrically, our influences are The Smiths, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Neutral Milk Hotel, and, again, R.E.M.
The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, George Orwell’s 1984, and almost anything by Kurt Vonnegut.
Recent surge in Marvel universe, esp. Avengers.
8) What is your favorite thing about touring?
9) What is your least favorite thing about touring?
10) What is one of the best experiences you’ve had playing a show? Explain.
Not too long ago we were in Murmansk Russia north of the Arctic Circle and certain people were really excited that we came there. The show was pretty rowdy and the immigration authorities showed up and shut it down a bit early and took the band members into administrative detention, which was exciting.
11) What was the primary inspiration behind the album Brother, Sister?
St. Francis of Assisi.
12) Are you optimistic for the future of music, especially with the influx of technology, the Internet, and file-sharing?
I don’t really think about the future of music in general, but I often have anxiety about the future of our music.
13) What are you working on now?
We’re doing a basement-recorded-quasi-cover of/sequel to a Say Anything song (the band, not the movie).
14) What is the inspiration behind this current project/album?
We have an upcoming tour with them, so we somehow the idea came up to each cover a song by the other. Not sure if they’re doing it, but we’re giving it a shot.
15) What is the album you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
Pale Horses (incidentally our latest release).
16) What seems to be fans’ favorite of your albums?
Our earlier albums, which I hope is more a product of nostalgia than evidence of decline.
17) Are there any contemporary artists that you really like?
If I name anyone I’ll be afraid of drawing attention to those I don’t name.
18) If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring artist today, what would it be?
Honor thy mother and father.
If you liked the article then hit the ❤ button, and, if you want to support and learn more about mewithoutYou, then check out the links below!
You can buy and listen to their music on Bandcamp here.
You can follow them on Twitter here.
You can like their page on Facebook here.
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