Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou on Academia, Band Conflict, and Paramore
mewithoutYou is not a band to be taken lightly, nor is it a band easily defined. And right now, it's a band that's happy to be back on the road. Characterized by vocalist Aaron Weiss' stream-of-consciousness early lyrics, the Philadelphia four-piece is ever an immersive act -- few bands can weave an Aesopian fable into a stylized folk single, as mewithoutYou did with "The Fox, the Crow and the Cookie." Over the course of 12 years together, the band has garnered endorsements from the likes of Paramore's Hayley Williams while touring alongside heavyweights like Underoath and Norma Jean.
When Weiss finally has a free moment to talk, it's just before a headlining "pre-tour tour" show that mewithoutYou booked on its way out to Denver to join up with post-hardcore upstarts Touché Amoré.
Weiss must place a "free moment" in a far different classification than most. He's in the middle of finishing his thesis on the intersection of faith and education as he pursues an urban-education doctorate, all while being a teacher at his alma mater, Temple University in Philadelphia. Downtime is spent grading papers and working on his independent study capstone, all combined with the rigors of being a frontman in a touring act. Through the craziness, however, he does find some solace.
"For a long time, I really didn't have a social life because it was all band and school and teaching, but I like it that way," he says. "I feel more productive and more content in general."
Academia overlaps with his work within mewithoutYou, presenting itself most notably from Weiss' personal turning point on 2009's It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright through 2012's Ten Stories, which culls the ideology of psychologist and philosopher William James' stance on habit formation. Such intellectually charged work hasn't always been Weiss' hallmark, however.
"I was basically going through the motions back then when I got my undergrad degree; I did the minimum amount of work to get by," Weiss says. "Around 2008 or so, I went back to grad school, and there was a subsequent couple of years I started to care more about my education. Accordingly, there's a little bit more diversity on our most recent album with characters where beliefs are priorities, letting [listeners] think for themselves, without me directly communicating what I believe."
The insanity continues for Weiss and his bandmates through the next month and a half, launching into their current tour, then onto a five-day event with Paramore on that band's Parahoy! cruise with Tegan and Sara, Bad Rabbits, and New Found Glory. It's one way that Paramore has shown its admiration for mewithoutYou over the the years, having turned a chance meeting at Bamboozle into a symbiosis that led to Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams contributing to vocals on Ten Stories. "It seems like they've been trying to throw us a bone wherever possible through the years, and it's helped us out in one way or another," Weiss says.
For all the positive interplay between the bands, Weiss says he feels that it's mewithoutYou's internal dynamic that has proved to be both the band's biggest challenge and strength. Even for an act with as much tenure as it has, it's proof that constant personal growth as a band can result in captivating work.
"My struggle with the band has always been finding some kind of unity of purpose where we see eye-to-eye about our ideology or morals," he says. "On the whole, we find a way to resolve it and still have a love for each other. It's all very normal stuff when anybody tries to maintain a relationship. For us, it's been 12 years -- the fact that we're even still going, to me, is something of a miracle and I'm grateful for it."
mewithoutYou is scheduled to perform Friday, February 15, at the Nile Theater in Mesa.
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