Interview | mewithoutYou

For the last decade mewithoutYou have been one of the biggest names in the post-hardcore scene. The band’s highly anticipated  sixth studio album is  due for release later this year and we had a chat with frontman Aaron Weiss before the band returned to Australia for their first national tour in six years. 

So I’ve heard you guys will be playing new material from your forthcoming album. Have you guys been testing that material much lately? Or is it going to be pretty fresh?
We’ve only played two shows since we have finished writing the album and we tried one new song- the same song- at each of those two shows and sometimes when you try new material, it goes a little rough, because nobody in the crowd knows the song and you know- we’re not too comfortable playing it, and I sometimes forget the parts that we’ve written. You know, it doesn’t feel effortless and comfortable the way playing old songs does. You have to more concetrate on it. So I think we’ll do a little bit of that, but I think we’re going to try to mix it up and play something off of all of our albums, so the new material will probably be the minority of our set.

It’s been a couple of years since you last released. How have you found the process of this album coming together compared to your last?
That’s a good question. I think this time it was more difficult for me. In our last album, there’s different animals and a lot of the story kind of unfolds in this kind of ficional world and different viewpoints are expressed by the different characters in a way that I felt like I could say just about anything and not feel too attached to any of the ideas or I didn’t mind contradicting myself throughout the album because it could be different characters that are saying different things. Whereas with this album I did away with that- with a lot of the story-telling aspect of our songs in the recent years, and kind of returned to a more first- person approach. And kind of as per some of the guys’ requests- the other guys in the band seem to want me to speak a little more personally and intimately and so it was a little bit harder because I didn’t feel like I could hide behind a character any more. I just felt like anything I was saying was going to reflect on me in one way or another and that can be a little bit embarrassing.

Ten Stories was also a bit of a departure from your signature post-hardcore sound and more folk / pop. What can people expect from your newest album?
With every album of ours I’d like to think that we tried something new and bring something to the table, but you know, it’s not just a regurgitation of something we’ve already done. That being said, I’d say that some of our songs- when we tried to go into the folk direction- really diverted so far from our original sound that for one thing a lot of people that seemed to like our sound, they liked the direction we were going. And perhaps more importantly to me, I don’t think that we wrote folk songs as well as we wrote the heavier songs. So in other words, I don’t think that we were really playing to our strengths when we were making softer sorts of music. So this time around I think that- for whatever reason- I’ve noticed that we’ve returned to some of our original approaches to song-writing, which is more guitar- the electric guitar and bass and really heavy drums and rhythm section being really driving and you know, a lot of distortion, a lot of shouting and kind of a little bit more of an aggressive approach and raw and
stripped down. And you know, the odder things we’ve done for the past three records we’ve cut out and this time we’ve kind of just pieced (?) it down to what our original approach was to songwriting. Maybe that was our first album and our second and third albums- we kind of went back to that era of the style we were writing then with some exceptions- as I said, we did bring some new approaches to the table, but by large I’d say we went back to an older approach that I think worked for us in the past.

What is that creative dynamic like between you guys, how does your music come together?
That also has changed from one album to another. I think when we are at our folkiest- you know, we have a lot of songs off of our fourth album for example that came together by me introducing a song on acoustic guitar with the lyrics already finished and then the other guys just kind of adding their parts to it. That was probably- more than half of the songs on that album came together roughly that way and it kind of shows, you know the songs are acoustic-based and they’re softer and I think some of the other guys aren’t as happy with what they contributed to that album because they didn’t feel like they were a central part to its composition- they more felt like they were just adding on to something that was already completed. You know, the skeleton of which was already completed. So I think with our first couple albums- I’d say especially our second and third album- it was more collaborative in that, you know, the song started with a guitar riff and the guys, you know, wrote their instruments around that or maybe it starts with a bass line and then the guitars come on top of that- which is more variety and collaborative as far as that process of the structuring of a song and the instrumentation and how they work together. It came together in a more collaborative way. And this time I think it’s a bit more that way, the main exception being the vocals, which were pretty detached. In this case all the vocals were written after the music was completed, so it wasn’t written in tandem and contrary to old songs- so much of our songs, where the music was written around the vocals- this time the vocals are completely written around music. Which made my job as a lyricist a little bit more difficult. But I think on the whole, it turned out really well, in fact I think it’s our favourite thing that we’ve done, but it was also the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on.

Your last record was self-released. Do you think you’ll do the same again for this album? 
You know, that’s a good question, it’s still up in the air. And it’s something that I largelystay out of. I’m not very business-minded, and we do have a manager, and I’d say some of the other guys are a little more savvy with these kind of decisions, so I kind of leave it up to them. So I don’t know. The last I heard, the plan is to finish mixing and master the record, and once we have a completed version of it, then we can bring it to a few labels that we’ve talked to to see if any of them are interested, you know, how interested they are, what kind of a deal they would offer us, if they are interested. And then if it looks like something that everyone can benefit from, then I’d be personally very happy to work with an established label. But if that doesn’t work out- at this point the worst case scenario is that we release it ourselves again- we have the money to do that. We’re paying for all the mixing and mastering ourselves so even if nobody wants to put it out, we can still it ourselves, in fact it would probably be easier as we’ve set up a lot of infrastucture for our little label. But that being said, I still kind of hope we do end up working with a label, just because it could introduce us to a new audience or it could help to provide some avenues to some folks who have been at it longer than we have. Does that make sense?

You have a huge back catalogue to draw from on this tour. Is there a particular album that you enjoy playing most?
Yeah, I think honestly, it might sound silly, but I tend to like our albums more and more as time- you know, I tend to like the more recent albums. When I listen to an album we put out 12 years ago, I’m not too crazy about it. You know, there are a lot of ideas I’m saying and a lot of the sounds and the composition and the lyrics- you know, I just feel like it’s from an era that I don’t connest with as much any more. Whereas the most recent album we’ve done- the most recent album we’ve released- was you know, about two or three years ago. A lot of that content I still do feel really connected to. So it all goes in chronological order. You know, I think I almost without exception like the newer stuff better to be performed. Partially because I don’t feel as far removed from the person I was when I wrote the lyrics. And also partially because some of those older songs, we’ve been playing them for 12 years. It just starts to get stale, you know. Like after playing them hundreds of times, there’s only so many variations you can do to put in there and keep it fresh, then it just starts to feel like you’re feeding a dead horse, you know. But that being the case, having now six albums to draw from, we can switch it up from one night to another, so much that we never have to play the same set twice. And that’s a way that we can keep it from being stale. And in a set we can go back and do a song from our first album, we can do a couple songs from our second album, and it feels really fresh because it’s been a while since we’ve done them so it’s a little more exciting, you know what I mean?

Do you have a stand-out favourite show that you’ve performed?
Honestly, the last show we played in Philadelphia at the end of our last tour in October. We were doing a 10 year anniversary tour for our second album, which is called Catch for Us the Foxes. We played that album in it’s entirety then played a bunch of other songs. But that tour had a west-coast leg of the tour and an east-coast leg which ended around mid to late October. And you know, coming home, we had already been playing a while, so we were playing tight, and a lot of our friends and family came to the show and it was kind of just a magical evening, everything went well and we played well, and it’s recent enough that I remember how good it felt. It just felt good to get home and be finished with the tour. So I think for a lot of reasons, that last show we played in Philadelphia- it was also one of my favourite venues in Philly. So you know, shows are always pretty special, but I think that one had to be the best one that I can remember.

What does 2015 have in store for you guys? What are you most excited about?
Well, right now I’m definitely most excited about coming to Australia. Partially because we’ve never been there as a band. You know, a few of us have played some of our songs there, but never as a full group. And uh, the fact that we’re going to be able to go to so many cities there and we’re touring with a whole band. You know, it seems like everybody’s really excited. We had a lot of people on our social media pages kind of requesting that we come to Australia for a while now and it just never seemed to be possible and I never entirely sure that we were able to make it to Australia as a full band. You know, it costs a lot of money to fly over there and rent all the equipment and it’s hard because we don’t have our roots- we’re not really established there so, I think whatever else we have in store- we do plan on doing a lot of touring. We have a support tour with a band called Dr Dog which is one of our favourite bands. And we’ve got a headlining tour we’re playing for the Summer when our album comes out. We’re kind of planning on going to Europe in the fall. So there’s a lot of stuff on the calendar but without a doubt, the Australia tour is the thing I’m most excited about.