mewithoutYou | Credit: Brad Barket/Getty Images

Career Essentials: Five Things That Defined mewithoutYou

Music Feeds’ Essentials series shines a spotlight on an artist’s defining works. Here, we take a look at the career of Philadelphia post-hardcore rockers mewithoutYou, and what they brought to the scene that no one else did.

Philadelphia-based rockers mewithoutYou have called time on their career after 21 years. The group explained in March 2022 that their outgoing wish was to “reiterate our love and appreciation to all those who continued to support our band over the past two years of uncertainty.”

A previously planned, wide-ranging farewell tour announced in 2019 was torpedoed by COVID and a smaller US-only tour was all that could be organised to close things out. With no more chances to see the band live and their discography settled, here are five reasons why mewithoutYou will be missed.

mewithoutYou – ‘January 1979’

1. Lyricist Aaron Weiss Was One of a Kind

The core of the band was brothers Aaron (vocals) and Michael (lead guitar) Weiss. Raised by a Muslim mother and Jewish father, Aaron himself later converted to Christianity. Religious themes pervade the band’s catalogue, but not in a way approaching anything straightforward.

Less spiritual and more deeply immersed in those different faiths at different times in his life, Aaron’s lyrics were full of questions, often sounding as confused about which god is the right one as a joke that starts, “A priest, an imam, and a rabbi walk into a bar…”

Give any one of their songs a listen through and you’ll sympathise with the singer from a band who followed mwY on their last Australian tour, who said, “That guy writes more lyrics in one song than I’ve written my entire life.”

2. That Song Was About… What Now?

Given the Weiss brothers’ upbringing, listing out the varied inspirations for mewithoutYou songs is a bit of a task. There are Talmudic references, memories of being arrested with Iraq War-protesting Catholic nuns on the White House lawn, thoughts on the pending climate apocalypse and a concept album about an 1878 circus train crash.

There are references to Sufi mystic Bawa Muhaiyaddeen’s book My Love You My Children (a sort of Aesop’s Fables for Muslim kids), Leonard Cohen, Aaron’s time as a dumpster diving freegan living in a Philadelphia commune, the recent death of a parent, and a parable about racist fruits and vegetables. Safe to say that the band has covered some ground.

mewithoutYou in 2005 | Credit: Scott Gries/Getty Images

3. No Two Live Shows Were The Same

Flowers were typically thrown around as an extra sensory element for concertgoers, and set lists were up for debate as late as the last song played. Even after that – pending permission from the venue managers – the band would refill their modified touring bus engine with runoff vegetable oil from the venue kitchen to soften their environmental impact. Anything and everything was on the table for a mewithoutYou show.

4. mewithoutYou Was a Collective

mewithoutYou may have had a relationship with one of your favourite bands. Their community-minded approach to shows saw them link up long-term with Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine, and Thrice. They also welcomed guest vocals from Paramore’s Hayley Williams, and offered a leg-up to a range of local Philly groups for repeat tours.

Collaboration was always key, but doesn’t it just feel good knowing that a band you like likes a band you like? Or at least shares vegetable oil with them?

5. A Band Based on a Relationship with Fans

mewithoutYou tours featured pot-luck dinners with anyone up for it, a chance to connect from closer than behind the barrier at a festival. The last time that the group visited Australia, drummer Rickie Mazzotta posted a casual request on their Facebook page for anyone with some knowledge and enthusiasm to find time for a tour of Melbourne’s laneway graffiti scene.

As far back as a 2005 interview with MTV, the band summed up that inclusive attitude as a desire to make it “so it’s not just that ‘we’re the band and you’re the audience’.” Gig attendees were often “more than welcome” to join the band on stage for a dance, or even to organise an impromptu acoustic set in their basement if there was a spare night on tour.

Further Reading

mewithoutYou Will Quit Being An “Active Band” Next Year

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