When I first arrive to the Echoplex, Aaron Weiss, frontman of mewithoutYou comes outside looking flustered. Adorning a fraying bandana and a pilly, striped sweater, his demeanor – which will be upheld throughout our interview to come – is of a gentle, kind aloofness. Glancing between me and his manager, he explains that he is waiting for a text back from Jeremy to see if he’ll come on stage with them tonight. Then he rushes off. Later, said exchange will come to fruition when Jeremy Bolm of Touche Amour appears with mewithoutYou near the end of their set to put on a blistering performance of “Gentleman”, a searing track from their first album, A–>B Life.
Founded in 2000, mewithoutYou is a band formed out of Philadelphia. A longtime favorite of mine, I was extremely pleased to have the opportunity to sit down with lead singer Aaron Weiss and talk about their newest release, Pale Horses, and finally nail my creeping suspicion that he might know the secrets of the universe. The Echoplex, a beloved staple of live music in LA, was able to flourish the mood with white strung Christmas lights and wooden benches. The air was a muted fifty-ish degrees, and to the lulling thump of the headliners Menzinger’s soundcheck, he tolerated my excessive stammering and baited nerves.
Hi, this is Jessica Stein of LIKEYOUSAID, and I’m here with…
Aaron Weiss: Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou.
The last time I saw you was on your Catch Us For the Foxes ten year tour. Was that tour something the label wanted you to do, or is it something you wanted to do?
Aaron: Total cash grab.
It wasn’t a way to signify, “These songs are from a different time, and we’re done playing them…”
Aaron: No it was just trying to make money… [Laughs]. Okay, okay, I’m being somewhat facetious. We’ve put out a lot of records, but that was our most successful one, and one that seems to be our fanbase’s favorite, so it just made sense; we were coming up on the end of ten years since that record came out and we wanted to give something back to the people who would want to hear it.
Right on. Well, my favorite record is Brother Sister and that is gonna hit its ten year anniversary in less than a year.
Aaron: That’s true.
So, something to think about.
Aaron: Well I’m picking up the not so subtle hint. Yeah we thought about that, I think it’s certainly my or one of my favorites that we’ve done, but I don’t know if it would seem campy or just kind of over…
Aaron: Or over-the-top, or if there’s any smoke in it.
So I’m wondering, what is the meaning behind the album title, Pale Horses? It’s a really beautiful album.
Aaron: Thank you. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s kind of a simple and stripped-down kind of image that is open to more interpretations than some of our more lengthy and explicit titles. It’s taken from the Book of Revelations in the Bible and from what I understand of that, it’s used as a kind of harbinger of the end times… a bleak kind of symbol of Armageddon and judgment.
I really appreciate literary references and always read the lyrics when I’m listening to albums for the first time. You make references to people like T.S. Elliot and Charles Bukowski. Did those references come from this specific time period or were they just in your repertoire of influences that you draw from?
Aaron: That’s a good question, and actually most of them come from a long time ago. I haven’t read or done much reading for pleasure in recent years because I’m a student, so I have a lot of assignments and things I have to read for my school program, and it’s not the most creative style of writing most of the time. So when it comes time to write a new batch of songs, I’m usually drawing on things I’ve read a decade ago. Or I kind of go in search of new things I can find, to kind of get my creative juices flowing. In the case of T.S. Elliot and Charles Bukowski, I’d read only a little bit by both of them, it was a long time ago.
I find it so interesting that your songs often draw from a religious background, be it Muslim, Jewish, Christian. Do you think your music draws more upon personal experience, or when you talk about this album having a bleak, harbinger influence to the name, do you think that reflects the times in general?