Lets start the interview by stating your name and what you do in mewithoutYou?
Aaron: Aaron Weiss, vocals, rhythm guitar
Rickie: Rickie Mazzotta Jr., I am not quite sure what I do in the band. I definitely play drums. There are a million side jobs that make this thing work and rarely do I have a hand in any of them. It’s my loss.
Any news on the future of the band?
Aaron: We have plans to play a show tomorrow in Delaware and this weekend in Philadelphia, then a tour in the June/July with the full band and a short trip in August with just a few of us playing quietly.
Rickie: What is a band anyways? Not knowing what any of my other friends are going to say, I won’t say anything to heady about the future of the band. We have a tour coming up, making a video, trying to be cool with one another and the world at large. We like making music together, enjoy paling around, playing shows, who knows. This life is a strange one to up keep as the pages of the calendar fly off.
How was working on the album with Daniel Smith? Did he influence the album to go in certain directions?
Aaron: He is a very sweet brother and helped us to feel less inhibited, more comfortable experimenting, mainly with the singing. His style is so unconventional, You know...also he took me into his home for food and to meet his family.
Rickie: That’s a pretty good question, I mean, we had most of the skeleton frames of the songs written before we went into the studio, had some lofty ideas on directions and he definitely was the outlet for trying things, no matter how weird they seemed. I think band influenced on the making of this record. Mike just made a huge life investment and bought a house, Chris went back to school to follow a goal of becoming a doctor, some of us were going through emotional turmoil with one another and other life situations. In the end, we banned together, built a practice space in the basement and tried to cut through all the crap, meeting every day for who knows how long. Some days we wouldn’t even play music, it would just be a full blown honesty session, dudes telling other dudes how they feel about one another, dudes trying to comfort and console, sharing food, scraping songs, rethinking why we are even a band. Life felt hard when we were going through the writing/recording process of this album, what you are hearing is the product of what we were going through at the time. I don’t think this record could sound any other way.
How much did the departure of Chris after 'Brother, Sister' lead to the change in sound reflected in the new album?
Aaron: It gave me a reason to play more guitar, which meant more acoustic based songs, which led to more straightforward chord progressions, typical verse/chorus structures. He is missed but we've made do and he plans to come out on our next tour.
Rickie: Chris leaving had nothing to do with the “changing” sound of this album, if anything, this is the record he had talked about making since we did A to B Life, probably even before that period. And I guess to some people, this album sounds like a departure or whatever words you could use to describe when a band tries to just make music not worrying about the past or the future of the records they put out. But to us, it was actually very natural. It always feels good to branch out musically, even if the songs don’t sound challenging or “rocking”, for us, they are, it was is new way of looking at our band. Being that we wrote as a four piece, there were newly assigned roles built into the parameters in which we were working. The spacey guitar thing is obviously gone, that was signature Chris. I know he is stoked on how it all turned out and will be playing with us this summer. I love that dude.
How do you feel when people openly criticize the lyrics on the new album for being too simplistic (in comparison to your older work)?
Aaron: It's for children.
Rickie: If you are saying that and haven’t really analyzed the lyrics, like giving the record a hefty amount of listens and dissecting the themes, maybe you aren’t really “listening” and are fixated on the fact that Aaron isn’t yelling. I helped write some of the music for this album, played the songs live, recorded the album, listened to the demos, the roughs, the mastered copies and I am just now having mini epiphanies, when I hear it now, thinking to myself, “that’s what he is saying!”. So, even being highly familiar with the album, I am constantly being blown away with Aaron’s lyrics. It could be that I have a skewed opinion being in the band but I am well pleased and was not disappointed with anything Aaron brought to the table.
Were there any guest vocals on this album?
Aaron: Yes, our friend Scotty from psalters sang, Eliza Hardy Jones, and Daniel Smith (maybe Brian McTear?) and a fellow named Mike
I'm sure that you all are aware of the album leak. What are your opinions on the album leaking so early?
Aaron: No opinion, really. I felt a little disappointed, like it deflated our excitement a little.
Rickie: It’s all good. Music is a bunch just a bunch of sounds anyways. It’s kind of a silly thing to get bent about it. When an album is made, the intention is for people to hear it. So in a way, I was secretly glad. I have had it for like a year now been dying to play it for new people. The album cycle process is kind of bogus. I think we would all love to record an album and be able to put it out the minute the final take is cut but when you are on a label financially backing you and distribution companies are involved and all the stuff that goes into the “industry “ side of things, that’s when it seems to get hairy. The day I saw that it got leaked, I was kind of apathetically eating cereal, loafing around my room and downloaded a copy, then I just went on with my business, had a good day, hung out with my family, not worried at all about people having it early.
Who did all the orchestral parts on the new album? and how will you guys pull this off live?
Aaron: Some friends (psalters, Timbre, Jeremy from Urban Sophisticates), and our composer Joshua Stamper brought in some folks (for strings, low brass, clarinet). Live most of that will be absent, but maybe show-goers will bring along a viola or a bass trombone to join us onstage? But beware, You've gotta pass Mikey's rigorous quality screening first!
Rickie: I will let someone else discuss the orchestral parts. I am not qualified. Live, hmmmm, that’s a good thing to be thinking about. We just played a show in New Jersey a few weeks back, mostly new songs, a good mix of old stuff and I thought it was one of the best shows we played in a while. The new songs meshed pretty well with the “Catch” and “Brother Sister” stuff, it still feels like the band I know and grew up with. There is no intensity lost when we are jamming on the new stuff, if anything we are more pumped, it’s been feeling good. There is definitely a happier element when we get together and make music.
Aaron has often acknowledged his concern with being a walking contradiction, which is very humble of him. Does this have anything to do with the future of the band and why this may be the last record?
Aaron: We're all getting older, have other priorities, and are at peace with our band taking a back seat to what's more meaningful in our lives. Not any one person's doing, just what's happening to us as a whole.
Rickie: No. He could be feeling that in his heart but the future of this band does not rest on any one man’s shoulders. We are pretty honest with one another, it might take a few stabs at trying to pry the door open but once the cards are on the table, we hash a lot of stuff out. I don’t know what the future of the band is. This seems like a trick question, like you didn’t think I would remember that you already asked the future of the band, hoping to catch me slipping. I will have to ask the guys about this one. Maybe a clear cut answer will be pending. Who knows what it will be.
Where do you seek inspiration for the lyrical content?
Aaron: What we read, feel or hear and the rhyming dictionary.
How many languages does Aaron speak?
Rickie: To my knowledge, he is not bilingual or should I say, fluently bilingual. He has only ever addressed me in English. Who knows though? A few years back, I heard he was Autistic. I also read once that I had down syndrome, not cool. Go figure.
Was Bawa Muhaiyaddeen an important influence in your life?
Rickie: Ummm, only in the sense that he and his teachings, deeply affects a close friend of mine.
Would you consider the new album to be more spiritual/theological than the past few records?
Aaron: The newer songs focus more on religious themes, but I'm not sure that makes them more spiritual (or True).
Rickie: No. I think it has always been there. I think even more in your face. We never were a band with a “mission”. At different points, individuals might have had certain agendas they tried to have carried out, be it our vehicle situations or lyrical content but there was never one unified, we all believe this, goal with the band. Now, having said this, there are innumerable spiritual themes on this record and throughout our whole career. I don’t know what that actually means to the music. If it sounds good, play it loud!
What exactly do you believe? Because I'm confused by the universalistic nature of some of the things I have read.
Aaron: We are also confused and so ask God, please if You are willing, take away what 'I' believe.
Rickie: Wow, you got it covered man, the question that I hoped wouldn’t get asked. You definitely won’t get a clear answer out of me. I am constantly thinking about belief. Belief in a god, belief in a country, belief in a family, sexuality, money, race, gender, whatever, I don’t know what anything in life is supposed to look like. I have a hard time dealing with anybody who speaks in absolutes. So, I can’t really say what I believe because I am not sure I believe in anything to be “real”. I am definitely in the “what does it all mean” phase of my life. Shit is hard sometimes, what do you do?
What was your inspiration behind the fox, the crow, and the cookie?
Aaron: The story and even the title are taken from a children's story told by M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen that my mom used to read to me and Mikey.
Rickie: I think this song is pretty self explanatory. Pride maybe? There was a bit cut out of this song, when all the music is getting whacky during the bridge, Aaron was talking like he was at the scene of the crime, being a hot shot, boasting of all the details of the cookie snatch. We have inside jokes and I think this was one of them. Ever watch one of your friends get into a fight and then have it be resolved quickly? Pay attention to the five minutes after, all your boys or ladies, saying what they would have done. “Yo man, if that were me, I would have (insert all the crazy things you would have done during the scrap)”. That’s what I get out of it. That we are pretty wrapped up in ourselves but are also easily manipulated into how we view ourselves. Blah.
What was behind the stylistic choice to move from the previously spoken-word influenced vocal delivery to a more melodic one?
Rickie: It seems more intended. Not like, we are going to change how we sound but that Aaron is a pretty good singer who can write some pretty good songs. Let’s use em! There used to be frantic spoken word and yelling and I think that’s because Aaron was afraid to sing. It’s a very revealing act. I don’t envy his position. What else could we have done with the styles we have dabbled in? For us, it was like, let’s just play some music and see what happens. It’s a tough thing writing music and battling the past and what people are going to think about us. There was a feeling of this should be heavier or that part should be faster but we left them as feelings and went with the gut of what we were experiencing. I will play drums to anything, I don’t care what kind of music it is, I just really like playing drums with these guys.
What can we expect from the upcoming summer tour?
Aaron: The guys in the band to be getting along better than we ever have.
Rickie: This summer is going to be a fun experience for us. Chris is back, Almy Q is doing merch, our original tour manager is coming out with us, wives, dogs, friends, you name it! We plan on playing an array of our catalogue. We have plenty to pool from. We always try to switch it up a little bit on our tours. We aren’t a band that has a printed, practiced set list that is supposed to go a certain way…that would be too boring. A lot of it depends on the city, what the crowds have been like in the past, what we think they “need” to hear. So there will be a fair amount of new songs with a decent mix of old ones. I am hoping that it is just really musical. I love when we play well, that’s what makes the live experience enjoyable. And that’s what we plan on doing.
Do you struggle with staying relevant to the ever-changing scene or are you more concerned with expressing yourself while keeping material open for interpretation? And what impact/message, if any, do you hope to have contributed to the independent music world?
Aaron: Increasingly content with irrelevancy, and less and less concerned with 'expressing myself.' Also, less wanting to impact anyone in the world with a message, rather preach to the hypocrisy in my own heart.
Rickie: When we were writing this record, it kind of was like a middle finger in our minds to the outside world. Not in an agitated way but more like we don’t care what any bands are doing. We don’t really care about being in magazines or getting famous or making millions of dollars, that isn’t why we pushed ahead to record “It’s All Crazy”. We didn’t even know if it was ever going to get made. Everything was just Greg, Mike, Aaron and I, hanging out, sharing food, trying to connect on a musical level in whatever form that looked like.
Everything to the latter half of that question feels clichéd. I would say that I hope people feel comfortable being themselves and doing whatever they feel like they need to do. Who am I to keep you down? In that thought, I also hope that people accept one another for who they are, no matter, what they are into and how bad they “mess up”. Life is strange and hard, we need one another. Who cares what anybody else thinks?
Anything else you want to add?
Aaron: No, but thank You very very very much.
I'm loving this new album right now. Honestly I think this is the band at top-form.
Also, I love the idea that the band doesn't need to have a unified agenda or purpose in order to function. There's no need to focus on shouting a sweeping message with every expelling breath; one might more successfully approach those goals lyrically if one addresses the tumultuous issues within - which often are the issues people really need to hear.
I appreciate mewithoutYou's sincerity in this regard.
"Increasingly content with irrelevancy, and less and less concerned with 'expressing myself.' Also, less wanting to impact anyone in the world with a message, rather preach to the hypocrisy in my own heart." - Aaron
That's a quoter.
MWY is like a failing relationship that instead of ending it, finds a way to push on and learn to love each other again. I love it.