Ten Years On: mewithoutYou - [A→B] Life
With that said, Alter The Press caught up with frontman Aaron Weiss to take a retrospective look back since the release of "[A→B] Life", for our latest "Ten Years On" feature.
Alter The Press: It's been just over ten years since the release of "A→B Life". What comes to mind when you look back in retrospect?
Aaron Weiss: I suppose the cliche of what happened. How did it happen? Ten years have passed since I was singing those songs. It seemed like five minutes.
ATP: If you could go back and change something about the album, what would it be and why?
Aaron: It's tough. On a certain level, I wouldn't want to change anything because it was expressive of a certain time. I could say I wish I wasn't so hung up on this girl, or I wish I wasn't so self-absorbed where I would be so overly dramatic about my problems, or I wish I wasn't so vein and arrogant about trying to come across in a certain way to impress someone, but at the same time, I was 22/23... I wish I wasn't so hung up on spiritual beliefs and on my ideas. I wish I wasn't so trusting in my own conceptions, but it seems valuable to experience that mode of thinking and being.
ATP: When was the last time you listened to the album in its entirety?
Aaron: I'd have to say maybe 2003/4. I don't really remember. My memory is pretty bad. We have gone back and listened to a few songs because we regularly hear requests at shows for different songs from that record, so I get a sense that some folks who come to the show want to hear a song or two from it and we don't play any. The question was raised not that long ago of why we don't play any and maybe we could bring one or two back in rotation, so I started thinking which songs could translate and fit with the newer ones that I could still sing with any sincerity, or if it would just feel silly, or if I could physically perform because some are so energetic. I'm getting older, so it's not easy to jump around for an hour anymore. All those considerations brought me back to listen to those songs.
ATP: Why did you decide to cut off any ties to playing any songs from the album in your live set?
Aaron: It might be plainly aesthetic differences. It was a fairly crude time of song writing in terms of drop D power chords which, musically, is something we are not terribly proud of, and it's in a different tuning, which would mean stopping a set and tuning the guitars in a slightly different way. I think mainly the level of energy and aggression isn't there. I don't feel that way anymore. I don't have this sort of pent up rage and angst towards this broken up relationship with a girl who has since gotten married to a buddy of mine, and to be still singing about her in this way, which is really passionate, about breaking my heart over ten years ago… get over it, man! Partially for my sake and hers, to not dredge up these old memories - which still have the potential to be painful if I relive them - maybe has something to do with it. It's not something I came up with or vetoed this decision to not play them.
ATP: Can you ever see yourself reintroducing a song or two back into your live set?
Aaron: Oh yes. That's the reason why I listened to some of those songs again and was like, "this could be fun" or "this is pretty cool, I'm still proud of this one".
ATP: Any songs in particular?
Aaron: I still like the first song on that record - "Bullet To Binary". It's a really good punk song from start to stop is a little roller coaster. I'm still proud of that song.
ATP: Is it safe to say people won't expect to hear songs like "Gentleman" reintroduced into the live show again?
Aaron: We played "Gentleman" last summer. It was one of those shows where the crowd was so energetic and having so much fun. We had played the whole set list, people were still shouting and it felt appropriate because its one of those more rowdy and energetic songs. It was kind of fun, a little tongue-in-cheek when I wrote it and that line "you better be alone"? I've never been a creepy, threatening, stalker kind of guy where what if she's not alone, what am I going to do? When I wrote that line, I wrote it with laughter, it was never a serious like I'm carving this girls name in my arm! It's a song with a bit of humor, but now even more so because she is married. Literally all of the songs on the album have a reference to her or address her, so I have to sing them not with some degree of attachment.
ATP: Do you have any plans to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the album?
Aaron: No, I've never thought about it.
ATP: Could you ever see yourself doing a full album show?
Aaron: I wouldn't rule much out at this point. If the other three guys wanted to do an "A→B Life" set beginning to end, I would do it, easily. What I wouldn't do is convince them to do it, because I don't particularly want to, but I'm willing.
ATP: Has the idea ever been thrown around at all?
Aaron: Not that I've heard, but we know Built To Spill did a tour with "Perfect From Now On" where they did that whole record. I've heard mention of doing a thematic show, not necessarily "A→B Life", maybe the record after that.
ATP: Back then you were touring and associated with the post-hardcore scene. Was there a reason why you decided to change your musical direction?
Aaron: Our record label paid for me to have vocal lesson as we were recording our third record. As we were writing, the songs were more melodic and our old ones were just shouting and weren't in any key. It was just spoken word because I couldn't sing, and I liked singing, so by our third record it was something I wanted to try. After my first lesson, I noticed a difference and it helped me so much. I only had 5 lessons at about 45 minutes each. We are talking about a total of four hours, but it really changed my way of being in this band because I realized I could actually sing. I'm not a good singer. I can't sing on key very accurately and I don't have a very pretty voice, but I am physically capable of singing and I prefer it more than shouting.
We also did a few records that were just explicitly shouting, and we did it to our satisfaction and we wanted to see what would happen when we threw in some new elements. I guess the idea was that we wanted to keep experimenting - adjust our sound and implement different instruments and types of chord progressions. It kept things more exciting for us, I admit, being a better shouter than a singer, but I enjoy singing more.
ATP: What is your favorite mewithoutYou record and why?
Aaron: My favorite at the moment has to be the new one ("Ten Stories") because it's so exciting. The new songs are so fresh but the one before "It's All Crazy..." has most of my favorite songs that I can play by myself. The one before that is my favorite in terms of sonic production because the clarity of the sound and the drums and the clarity and the richness of the guitars sounds the best. I have a soft spot for the older ones too like "Catch Us For The Foxes" where I can look at a darker time of my life where I was completely depressed and hopeless, and another half of the songs were written with incredible hope. I had was pretty much close to a mental breakdown during it where I called my mom crying saying, "I can't do this, mom, this is horrible". The first one, I can only look back and say it took ten days and we did it. It's raw and got us on the road and to where we are now. I don't begrudge it, regret it, or listen to it either.
ATP: If you weren't in mewithoutYou, what would you be doing why?
Aaron: The most obvious answer to that is I have no idea. I have all these ideas of traveling and hitch hiking around but I don't think that would be very sustainable for me. I maybe married by now or further along with my studies.