mewithoutYou

As you exercise the luxury of your digital interface, I will light a fire and gather beside you. While the smoke wisps ahead of us, take a look inside it.

Back upon a time there was once a method of computer speaking that you might find as crude as these burning ashes. It was called AOL Instant Messenger. Friendships were sparked there, crushes swelled, and it was a troll’s paradise. Kids from across the continent exclaimed things like:

“Eureka, another person who likes the same things that I do! How can it be?”

“Oh man, thank goodness there’s people out there who don’t suck like here in my home town.”

“There’s that jerk from the show… Now to really let him have it.”

We didn’t have social media, people. It was in such a place that I would spend hours typing back-and-forth with a young colleague by way of Philadelphia. He was a delight to me, full of similar wisecracks and a keen interest in the same sort of records. Not to mention we shared a common faith, and had mutual friends scattered around all manner of sunny fields and dark corners.

In 2002, I ran a publication called Dusty Magazine. It included all sorts of rarities, part of which was an interview that I did with this fellow, Aaron Weiss. I stumbled across an old copy of this zine and was so entertained by our conversation that I thought I would share it with you today. Aaron, if you see this, I thought it would greatly humor you.

Hi, and you are?

My name is Aaron. I try to do the vocals.

So you are from Pennsylvania. How are things there?

Yeah, Philadelphia. Things here are lousy. Same as anywhere, I’d imagine. I dunno, really. It’s hard to make friends with people.

So what’s the deal with mewithoutYou?

We are very close friends, who try to love God, and sometimes like music. We make movies.

You make movies?

Well, crummy ones. We’ve a bunch, between us. Probably around twenty of them. They’re usually short. Anywhere from five to forty-five minutes. We start out with a dumb idea, that we rip off of someone else. Then we improvise through the plot. No scripts, no substance, no talent. It usually works out alright, though. The camera work is awful. We use a piece of junk camera, and good help is so hard to find.

Any in particular movies that stand out?

There’s one, that’s especially good. It’s called The Rawest Deal Ever. It started out with me taping a cockroach in my house, that was stuck in a spider web. Then, the spider started eating it alive, and some other insects came up to watch. So I did some voice overs. You know, making characters out of all the bugs. It’s pretty good. And then there’s this one where I had eat out of a toilet… Nevermind that one.

Any other creative endeavors?

Creative endeavors? I was into theater. I love acting. Dancing, too. I’m a much better dancer than vocalist!

Did you dance in school?

In school, yeah, for musicals I was in. But that was nothing spectacular.

Does this effect mewithoutYou in any way?

I don’t think so. When we play, I try my best to pretend no one’s around. Like, I’m just singing and dancing, alone in my room. That works best for me.

So you and Michael (guitar) are brothers. How does that effect things?

Yeah. My brother Mike’s the other guitarist. We’re also in another band called The Operation together. So between all that and living together, I guess we can get to fighting sometimes. I think it relieves tension. We can vent our aggression on each other without having to be afraid of offending.

What’s this about The Operation?

It’s awesome. We’ve changed a lot recently. We used to be emo/indie, but I didn’t used to like us so much. Nowadays, we sound like The Cure, New Order, U2 (or at least try to). So I’m much more happy with our music.

What came first, The Operation or mewithoutYou?

The Operation.

How did that all come about?

We went through quite a few name changes. About three to four years ago, we used to be called Fighting For Heather. Then Sans Culottes. It was sorta pop punk-ish. It started with some other guys, Marty Lunn, Danny Papa. They went on to do other things. I joined the band, and we changed the name to The Operation (it’s a Morrissey song title). We were always friends, and playing together in this band or that. We just got lucky enough to get picked up by Burnt Toast Vinyl, then Takehold Records.

And mewithoutYou?

Well, I dunno, really. Started as a joke, I think, playing metal/hardcore. We decided to do a side thing called Firstborn Of The Dead. That fizzled out, but I liked writing words, and then hollering them (I played drums in The Operation). So we figured to try to do a heavier band that wasn’t metal or hardcore, or anything like that.

And then you released your I Never Said I was Brave EP?

Yeah, I still don’t know why, but a fellow named Colin put out an EP on his label, Kickstart Audio. I never thought anything would come of it.

And then – You played Cornerstone?

We had a generator show on the Let’s Jet stage. No one knew who we were, so we begged so many people to come out to watch us. Some of them did. We were all dressed up in our suits, and we’re all strikingly handsome. So, of course, the girls went crazy! I’m only joking, really.

So you have a “get up” then?

Well, we like to get dressed up. Either in full British type suits, or other things. I guess that’s our gimmick. That and unbridled affection. I like flowers, too, and use them whenever I can get a hold of ’em.

I see. So it’s all about the fashion then.

Fashion, 100%. Again, I’m only kidding. But mostly, I guess. I’d much rather someone find me handsome than a good writer, or a good person, or some other nonsense. But I’m very serious about the words that I write. I spend an awful long time on every song. Writing, and rewriting, and rewriting again. It doesn’t come naturally, so it takes a great deal of work.

Is there any particular purpose/thought behind the lyrics/sound?

Each song deals with a different aspect of the same thing. God, a girl named Amanda, and the pain of being separated from the two of them, in one way or another. There was a lot of hurt, I’m afraid. But I’m counting on hope being the overwhelming message from the record (even if it’s just one line in a hundred, I expect it to overpower the rest).

Who is Amanda?

A girlfriend of over two years. The love of my life and bane of my existence. Well, five years, if you count… Ah, nevermind. It’s a long and strange story. My friend Lee says he’s going to write a book about it, and it’s going to be a bestseller. I always liked her. She went to my high school. Prettiest girl you’d ever see. But not like prom queen pretty, you know. Just shy, and awkward, and gorgeous.

And then?

I had a falling out with my church, figured “screw God”, and courted her. She wasn’t too interested in God at the time, or what I had to say about him. She wasn’t a Christian, but I didn’t care. There is the nutshell version, of course. Nothing too interesting, I guess, but it sure did a number on me.

How did things end?

I was in Prague, in the Czech Republic. I think God sent an angel to me. But not though. Either way, I knew that my timing was all off, that I needed to leave her alone. That I was only hurting her, myself, and God. That was over three years ago. I’m still trying. Oh dear.

So your new album is pretty personal. Is it kind of a story?

Yeah, pretty clear too. I didn’t try to mask what I was saying in the least. It’s written for Amanda and Jesus, really. I hope they like it.

Speaking of the new album, what’s it called?

It’s called [A->B] LIFE. A To B, Life, is how it’s read, I guess.

Where’d you record at?

We recorded at Inner Ear in DC, with J. Robbins. It was splendid. We were blessed far beyond our greatest expectations. It was a pleasure indeed. He is very kind, extremely gracious. A wonderful work ethic, and full of excellent ideas. I have nothing but good to say about him. I hope to see him again soon. I rather miss him.

So you’ve been touring this past summer?

Heck yeah. Three of our guys dropped out of school to do this full time, so we’d better keep busy! We toured in May with Norma Jan (formerly Luti-Kriss, Solid State Records). They’re an amazing band and very good friends, so I’m super excited about that.

So how did Tooth & Nail find you?

By chance. The power went out at Cornerstone, but since we were playing a generator, we were just about the only show in town. A fellow named Adam McKinnon from Tooth & Nail walked by. We started talking to him and another fellow, Greg Patterson. Greg flew out to Furnace Fest to hang out and talk about maybe signing with them. Over the next few months we worked everything out. It was very exciting… Still is!

Was there much of a battler over you, before Tooth & Nail won?

Well, you know, the usuals were beating down our door. Island, Epic, Atlantic, Capitol.

Had their A&R reps taking you out to movies.

Yeah, got a new Lamborghini out of the deal. But it sucked. I asked for cherry red. The one they gave me’s more like… Apple red.

So what now?

I dunno, it’s all happening so fast. We’re just gonna tour as much as possible. Between the both bands, I hope to be perpetually on the road. We’re really hoping to tour Europe. It’s much prettier there. I’d like very much to become less and less of a band, and more and more of a group of Christians, who ride around in a van, praying and studying the Bible, and trying to encourage each other, and other people in our/their faith. The fact that we play music would become secondary.

Do you think – Within the music becoming secondary – Your art will develop to be even more original/quality?

I think so. A lot of people, myself included, are really wrapped up in music and the silly scene that surrounds it. If one could escape that, there’d likely be something much more pure to come from it, I’d expect. It’s a good thought, though. Thank you for asking that question.

Anything else?

We’re doing a split 7″ with Norma Jean. Tooth & Nail/Solid State. Hopefully we’ll find someone to put the full-length out on vinyl. The 7″ came about, I think, because mewithoutYou and Norma Jean desperately wanted to work together on a release. I couldn’t possibly express my affection for those guys. Daniel (their drummer) mentioned Ghost Riding And Train Hopping as a possible title. Or something to that effect.

You guys train hop ever?

Nah, planning on it. I was just talking to Stephen from Tantrum Of The Muse about this tonight. We were talking about the danger, why with all the winos and junkies. We concluded that we looked enough like junkies ourselves, to be safe. I’m planning a hitchhiking trip out to Seattle next month. Is that as bad an idea as my brother says?

You can do it. The question is: If you were deserted on an island, and you had to pick ten albums to survive on for the rest of your life… No, I hate that question.

I like it already! I’d take ten copies of our album, and put ’em all on shuffle.

Honestly though, what inspires you?

Musically, I like The Smiths.

You sort of explained earlier that your past is a big influence…

Well, there’s Jesus, you know… I guess I kinda like him. Though, I think I turn to someone else as an example more often.

Oh yes?

Yeah, Satan. Eh, you either laugh or cry.

Do you think the good will win over evil, eventually?

It sure doesn’t look likely, but the Bible says it will.