mewithoutYou is a rock band from Philadelphia known for their spoken lyrics and variety of style. The group is made up of brothers Aaron and Michael Weiss, Brandon Beaver, Ricky Mazzotta, and Greg Jehanian. The band started as a side project in 1999. The Weiss brothers and Jehanian were playing with another band at the time but Aaron wanted to start something else to experiment with new sounds. The three guys teamed up with Mazzotta to form mewithoutYou.
Starting out as a foursome, they released their first EP, I Never Said That I Was Brave, in 2001. Their first full-length album was released the following year. The group gained significant attention with their 2004 release of their second full-length, Catch For Us The Foxes.
The now five-piece have been with a few different labels throughout the years, but for their most recent release, Pale Horses, they teamed up with Boston-based Run For Cover Records. In addition to pairing up with this new label, the guys are also celebrating their 15th anniversary. I had the pleasure of speaking with the drummer, Ricky Mazzotta, and he told me a little bit about what’s going on with the band.
For your 15th anniversary as a band, you guys decided to rerelease I Never Said That I Was Brave, your first EP. What made you guys decide to do that?
I think that there was kind of a reluctance to it because it was recorded 15 years ago and we aren’t really that proud of the songs. I think in an effort to control what we do we’re trying to get the rights to all of our vinyl and it’s just kinda to complete the collection. All of the records that we’ve made over the years, people can get all seven of them on LP format. That’s the short and skinny of it!
You released a 3D lyric video to go along with the reissue of your EP for the song “Dying Is Strange And Hard.” What has been the feedback on that?
You know, I haven’t really paid too much attention to that video. I think it was a positive reception. The record came with 3D glasses and I don’t even know if it works, but it’s supposed to work. The video’s a lot of footage of our first and second show that we ever played as a band so I think it’s cool for people to see what we look like when we were kids, like 19-year-old kids getting started and doing it. I think people are excited about it for the most part.
I’ve noticed that you guys don’t commit yourself to one set genre of music. Why is that?
I believe, if I had to speak for everybody, because we all have our own musical personalities. Everybody doesn’t really listen to heavy music and everybody also doesn’t really listen to folk music. It’s like the combination of everybody bringing their influences and us working democratically. When we write, we try to get everybody’s ideas involved in the writing and recording process. So it’s more just a commitment to making sure everybody feels satisfied. There’s no conscious effort of we’re gonna make a song that sounds like this or a record that sounds like that. It’s just what kinda fits with what we’re recording at the time and is everybody happy with it.
What is your favorite genre to experiment with and perform?
My favorite genre to perform is heavier, angular, kinda indie rock. Because I’m the drummer it’s fun to play that stuff! The folky stuff, it’s cool to have like a breather during the show and it’s cool to experiment, but I really like a lot of the bands that I grew up listening to, and the reason that I started the band with the rest of the guys was to kinda play more heavier music, whatever that sounds like. Not really like metal or anything like that but just rock music. That’s probably my favorite thing that we do, I think we do it the best out of all of them.
You guys are known for performing your songs with spoken words rather than singing them in the traditional sense. How did you guys discover that you preferred your songs’ lyrics to be spoken rather than sung?
I think that is Aaron not being able to sing. Back in the day he didn’t think he could sing, and there were a couple of bands, like this band Crud, where they kinda had this like aggressive, fast-talking shouting, and Aaron kind of gravitated toward that. Now, he prefers to sing, but on a lot of the older stuff, he has like this really wordy, kinda poetic, frantic thing that’s going on. I think it was just a function of Aaron, his capabilities at the time when we started the band. That’s how we fell into that.
Over the last 15 years, what is a memory that you share with your bandmates that sticks out the most?
That’s a tough one! We got detained in Russia on a European trip. We were pretty close to the Arctic Circle in a place called Murmansk. It was the last show of a four-week tour and the show got shut down by some kind of state officials that turned on the lights and then they separated all of us and took us in cars and questioned us for a couple of hours and we almost missed our flight back home after a really long trip. It was a totally surreal thing like kind of getting arrested in a very foreign country and that happened last year. That, to me, is the most potent memory yet. It’s crazy that I went through that with this group of guys.
Where is your favorite place to perform and why?
Honestly, the hometown. I think everybody would say their hometown but I really love performing in Philadelphia, any venue, it doesn’t really matter. A lot of friends and family come out. But other cities that I really love, I love playing at this place in Seattle, there’s a good vibe and they have a good crew and a lot of people always come and it’s in a really bumpin’ kind of neighborhood. Yeah, aside from the hometown, I really like playing Seattle and the West Coast.
What are the band’s plans for 2017?
We have a tour with Circa Survive. Then after that we’re just working on music and seeing what comes naturally with the hopes to record it and have it out sometime in late 2017 maybe.
Don’t miss mewithoutYou at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on Jan. 28. For more information, check out their website: mewithoutyou.com.