MewithoutYou is one of my favorite new-ish bands (they released their first album in 2002) because they seem to kindle the energy of heavier indie rock of the '90s, what with the distortion and yelling, but at the same time add delicate, well-devised lyrics and inventive sound-structures. I tried to speak with guitarist Michael Weiss over the phone last week as the band drove through Oregon, but the ill-fated conversation got cut off three times before my tape recorder ran out of batteries. What was left out involved a high school production of Fame, Danzig and me watching the "January 1979" video 100 times over the summer. Here's what we salvaged:
Are you guys totally pumped to play Albuquerque?
Yeeaah, why not? We get to do a show on this tour with us headlining.
Who are you opening up for right now?
Dredge, The Blood Brothers and Coheed and Cambria.
So, first there were these bands that, from my research, you guys were influenced by, like Jawbox and Burning Airlines and The Dismemberment Plan, etc. Now you guys exist and it's, to me, like some kind of revival of that sound. Do you agree with me or am I completely off?
Those bands were sort of like our inspiration for choosing Peter Robbins [who was in Jawbox and Burning Airlines] as our producer for our first record. As far as being influenced, we loved the way those recordings sounded, and we all really respected his work with The Promise Ring, Texas is the Reason and other bands. But our influences were probably more Fugazi and Radiohead at that time, and Smashing Pumpkins. I'd like to think that we're influenced by a lot more than the underground punk scene.
Well, my idea was that it's kind of like those bands from the '90s, but you guys definitely have your own spin on it, and it was just reminiscent of that.
On the last album there was a lot of influence from an '80s kind of sound. Then you have other parts that were more like power chord choruses--simple rock, four chord--but then we use a lot of effects like bands like Interpol that use delay and reverb, that try to create a vast scape of sound, a very polyphonic sound instead of two-chord driving rock. So we have a lot of those mixtures, but ultimately what makes us unique would be Aaron's (Michael's brother's) vocals and his lyrics.
Yeah, it's a lot more poetic than what you typically hear in rock. I like it.
Yeah, me too, I like him.
(Here we got disconnected/the recorder died and came back to life.)
Are you guys a Christian band?
We definitely want to be marketed in the secular world, I mean, as we speak right now I bet ya there's a mewithoutYou CD at a Christian bookstore for sale. It's something we want to phase out for the next record, where it's just Christian people looking for good, clean Christian music.
But don't you think that you guys being in a store like that could affect some kid who's just been exposed to middle-of-the-road, white America kind of stuff?
It's the moral question of whether or not it's all right to sell CDs just to Christian people. Or you see a lot of these Christian bands that are horrible; they're just Christian versions of secular bands, and these kids don't even know what good music is. I don't think we really feel the need to go in and try to revive the very, in my opinion, bland Christian subculture. I don't think we're going to save the day.