Philadelphia rock band mewithoutYou's latest album, "Ten Stories," begins on Feb. 8, 1878, as a train transporting a traveling circus plows through the mountains of Montana. Snow falls hard as the conductor increases the speed; when the train makes a sharp turn, an elephant slams itself against its cage, hoping to wreck the train and set itself free.
The plan works, and each song on the ambitious "Ten Stories," which mewithoutYou will perform at the TLA on Saturday, focuses on the animals as they either escape to freedom or remain in captivity.
Vocalist and guitarist Aaron Weiss, a doctoral student in Temple's Urban Education program, arrived at this idea after reading an essay by the American psychologist and philosopher William James. "It was a good starting point, and seemed like a colorful symbol of our own journey," Weiss says about the brief story James told of a circus tiger remaining in its cage despite the possibility of escaping after a train crash. "I don't think freedom and captivity are necessarily opposed to each other; it's much more complicated."
The tiger stays. So does the elephant, which nobly thinks it deserves punishment for crashing the train. The fox and the bear decide to run off into the cliffs. Meanwhile, the peacock is distracted by its own beauty.
"I identify with them all," says Weiss about the characters. "It was freeing to take a step back, rather than insert my own voice into the story. It was refreshing to think about it from the perspective of the animals; it allowed me to explore different aspects of my own personality. I'm more proud of some than others, but they're all a part of me."
If you go
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
$22, The TLA