mewithoutYou plays Le Poisson Rouge in New York Feb. 26, The Sinclair in Boston Feb. 27, and Union Transfer in Philadelphia March 1.
Listening to the sprawling, almost haphazard indie rock of mewithoutYou’s “Ten Stories,” one might not expect the man behind those volumes of lyrics to be so mindful and understated. That is exactly what we encounter with the gentle-toned Aaron Weiss though, as he reflects on the Philadelphia quintet’s latest record and the life that could have been if he had never entered into professional music.
“I don’t know what my life would have been like if I had never done this,” Weiss muses, taking a moment to explore life beyond 13 years of rock ‘n’ roll. “In some ways, being in a band has probably done me more harm than good. For a long time, it filled me with an intoxicating sense of self-importance. In a sense, the more pride you have the less you are aware of it.”
Set to a sprawling array of guitar-heavy epics sprinkled with folk instrumentation, “Ten Stories” tells the tale of a circus train that crashed in Montana in the 1880s and the animals and circus performers caught in the aftermath. Weiss uses the backdrop of the crash to explore the choices that we make in life and our own abilities to exercise our own free will. Of particular interest is a tiger freed from a cage that chooses not to leave.
On one level, the synopsis sounds hifalutin, but in the hands of Weiss, the metaphors tackled here usher in a timeless depth.
“We are always talking about how we are chained to a job, or chained to a marriage or chained to an ideology,” he says, contemplating the deeper meaning of what it means to be free. “I wonder if actually having a set of rules to abide to, whether it is within a religious context or some other philosophical context, actually gives us the ability to find a deeper freedom within; an inner freedom.”
Now working towards a PhD in Urban Education/Philosophy from Temple University, Weiss’ potential transition to a life after rock may well be underway. But the potency of his performances has not yet waned. Now with the dual-pressures of a life in music and academia to exorcise, the singer finds himself letting his manic talk-singing verses fly on stage more than ever.
“The nights when we have people up on stage, hugging each other, singing into the microphone, knocking things over, those are some of my favorite shows,” says Weiss, before giving it a little more consideration. “Some of the other guys might not like that though because they technically mess up our performances.” It’s almost as if rock ‘n’ roll is the key to let his inner tiger loose.