mewithoutYou is a band that is constantly changing. Evolving from a decidely post-hardcore outfit into a folk-rocking collective of musicians, friends and family, the band refuses to do the same thing twice. The band toured once last year behind the loquaciously titled It’s All Crazy, It’s All False, It’s All a Dream, It’s Alright, the album which actually saw frontman Aaron Weiss taking a break from the continuous shredding of his vocal cords that had come to define the band’s previous releases. The dude actually sings sometimes. And it’s weird. And it’s good.
The heavy religious imagery was still present in the lyrics (“the horse’s hay beneath his head, our Lord was born to a manger bed, that all whose wells run dry, could drink of his supply”) but Weiss is clearly more at peace with the world around him than one might have assumed based on previous releases (“Let us die! Let us die! and dying we reply ‘don’t you tell us about your suffering'”).
The band also brought in strings and a bevy of new instruments for the It’s All Crazy sessions and although those were mostly absent from the band’s recent Austin performance, the songs still felt meaty and full.
This is the first time in 2010 the band is doing a full national tour and they are once again tinkering and experimenting with the unwritten band code. The changes are coming not so much in their songs, although they did rework some classics. The band officially has a baby on board with guitarist Michael Weiss’ four-month old, Harry, joining the band on their veggie-fuel tour bus for the two-month trek. The proud father sat down to talk about the changes the band is undergoing, the future and his belief that the Phillies will win the World Series. Maybe.
So what has the band been up to since It’s All Crazy?
Michael: We’ve been sort of slowing down. Everybody has been doing there own thing finishing up their degrees. Aaron was getting his Master’s and he just got accepted into a PhD program at Temple. Things have kind of been slowing down in the band. The people in the band have kind of been exploring things that they kind of put down a long time ago to focus on the band. But now they’re kind of getting back to that. So this is only the second tour we’ve done on this record.
Right on. So is the tour kind of a sign that the band is gearing up to start recording new material? Are you beginning to put more in the band or is it just kind of a “Well, it’s been a year since the last tour so we better do this” kind of thing?
Michael: Yeah, it’s more like we have time. Everybody has time, so now’s the time to do it. It’s sort of a necessity that we tour now or we don’t do any major stuff for a little while. I don’t know what everybody’s plans are for the following seasons. I know that some of the guys are going back to school and we might be writing some more music and talking about making another record or maybe doing some college shows here and there, but yeah, no more major touring plans have been made for 2010.
So this shouldn’t necessarily be looked at as the band gearing up to record new material and try out some new stuff on the road?
Michael: No. I mean not really. We’re just trying to focus on the songs we have now and putting on a good show. Getting back our here, showing up in your city again even though it’s been a while. Keep things going. Keep the ship rollin’.
A couple months ago you guys opened for Weezer. What was that like?
Michael: It was cool. Opening up for Weezer. They’ve been a band that, uh, you know, I really enjoyed. I was really a big fan of their first two records growing up. In high school, the Blue Album was special to me. It was one of those records that all my friends and I, we just noticed that music could be made in a way that wasn’t out of our reach. It just seemed like this band, Weezer, put together really fun songs that weren’t too punk rock; it was just sort of their own thing. Long story short, we’re just really big fans of their music and opening up for them was a great honor.
Yeah, it seems like it would be kind of surreal. Did you get to talk to Rivers or anyone in the band?
Michael: No. Those guys were kind of in and out. They weren’t really too interested in hanging out that much. But I can kind of see their side of things. Being as widely loved as they are they probably get the same kind of spiel all the time and they just don’t really care to partake in it.
Yeah, right. “Your first two albums were great!”
Michael: Yeah. I don’t know if I would really go there. I wouldn’t even start praising those guys to their face. I don’t think they need that. But yeah, I would have just loved to say thank you and just to say “Yeah, thanks for having us.”
So was it last year you and Aaron did the Weiss family tour? How did that all come about?
Michael: Originally, it was a tour that was offered to mewithoutYou. But a couple of the guys in the band couldn’t do it. They had family plans for that part of the summer. But Aaron and I and Sarah, my wife, really wanted to do it. We didn’t want to let that opportunity go to waste, but we didn’t want to go out as mewithoutYou because Ricky and Greg are half our band. So we asked for their blessing and we said, “Would you guys mind if we played mewithoutYou songs and did this tour and hired some musicians to come out and kind of do a different take on the songs and they were fine with it, so we got the opportunity to put a different spin on our stuff and we got to you know, do the tour. It was a great experience. It was a lot of fun.
So it ended up being kind of like a stripped down mewithoutYou show?
Michael: Yeah, it was stripped down in the rock show sense, but what we did was that we added horns, strings, some percussion. We added some more keyboards. It was an opportunity for us to write some new arrangements. We got back into the spirit of being in a new band. New people we haven’t played with before. And uh… [watching the Phillies game on his computer] gosh darnit! It looked like they were going to get a double play there. Phillies really got something cooking here. But anyway, it was fun being with new guys and, you know, the challenge was there to lock everything down. You get kind of spoiled playing with Ricky Mazzotta as your drummer.
Cool. Would you say you’re the biggest sports fan in the band?
Michael: Yeah, probably. Sorry, I keep looking at the game.
No, it’s cool. Baseball’s not really my thing, but I’m a big basketball fan so I know how it goes.
Michael: Right on, man. Man, the Phillies really need a big hit to get back into this. You can put me on record: I despise the Yankees. Almost as much as I despise the Mets.
So when the tour is done, what’s next for you?
Michael: For me? I’m going to try to take on some more guitar students. I’ve been teaching guitar lessons and really enjoying that. Other than that, I need to find some kind of work to do. I don’t know yet. Good question. I was substitute teaching for most of last school year. It’s good because it’s real flexible. Maybe I’ll do that too. Um, I sure would like to be writing more music for mewithoutYou. I have a few ideas I’d like to get down. But yeah, it’s kind of cool. We do pretty well touring. It’s a way to have a little bit of money when you get home. You get a little bit of breathing room. But not too much. I definitely need to find something for the fall.
So as far as being on the road, what’s harder: The sports thing or having the family with you?
Michael: Hmm. What’s harder? Well definitely the family thing. It’s the hardest thing in a man’s life, period. You want your son to be healthy, protected and safe. On tour, that can provide a challenge. But I wouldn’t put myself, my wife or my family in a situation where I didn’t think we could be smart and get through it. I feel like this tour, the heat has been a factor. We’ll be trying to keep him hydrated keep him cool.
Yeah, you should come back to Texas in November, December. That’s when it’s livable here.
Michael: Yeah. I would imagine it’s really nice down here. But I don’t judge Texas on the hot summers. Especially Austin. We just really love it here.
Last question: Who’s going to win the World Series?
Michael: You know, Sports Illustrated, if you asked them back in April they would have said it was going to be the Rays versus the Phillies, and the Phillies were going to win. But what I’m seeing now, it sucks because Sarah and I were at the game where they started this slump. They faced this knuckle baller, Tim Wakefield, and since then they’ve been in a slump. It’s been monumental the slump they’ve been in. It’s been downright depressing, as a fan. They solved Tim Wakefield, they faced him again and it kind of came full circle and won yesterday or two days ago. By superstitious standards, it should be behind them and they should be hitting. But as you can see, something is always wrong. It’s just wacky and weird and not something you would expect to see. I don’t know. I’ll say the Yankees.
Michael: Yeah, you know, everything that I’m saying right now is not really even what I think. I’m just sad about my team. In my heart of hearts I still believe the Phillies are going to win the World Series.
You’re confident in that?
Michael: I’m not confident right now. It’s hard to be confident right now. But in my heart of hearts I believe they can do it. I know the kind of team that they are. But when you watch this crap that has been going on for the last month, you start to wonder. Like maybe so many of these guys are having a bad year. Is that even possible?
You should be a baseball coach. That’s what you can do when you get back.
Michael: Yeah, I don’t know much. I play. I try to stay involved.
*The Phillies ended up losing the game, 8-3.