Mewithoutyou Confront Rock’s Limitations: ‘You Can’t Give People Hugs In A CD’

New LP Brother, Sister might not appeal to Christians or punk kids, but frontman has bigger concerns.

“You have permission to take everything I say and twist it,” Mewithoutyou frontman Aaron Weiss laughed. “Feel free to make me sound like a right-winger nut-job, or some bigot or a rock star with a huge ego. Go ahead — I don’t care.”

He’s not kidding. Weiss really couldn’t care less about the ins-and-outs of the music industry — interviews, press photos, videos, tours — and not in an aloof, above-it-all artiste kind of way, either. He doesn’t bother with what he describes as “really trivial stuff” because his day-to-day existence is devoted to a higher purpose.

“I want to encourage and give hope, whether it’s to people who were born Christian or people who never considered God,” he said. “I’m not trying to convert anyone, but I want to tell people how great I feel. That’s why my songs aren’t just, ‘Oh, my girlfriend broke up with me and I’m jealous of her new boyfriend.’ I want to tell people God is love. That’s my eternal, unchanging reality.”

How many lead singers would break out a quote like that? Or casually mention that they won’t be making music in a few years because they’d like to sell off all their possessions and give the money to the poor? Not many. In fact, as far as rock frontmen go, Aaron Weiss is pretty much an island unto himself.

“There’s only one true motivation behind what I do, and that’s love for everybody,” he said. “And it’s difficult to communicate love through songs — you can’t give people hugs in a CD — so there’s a tension there. And I feel like that’s part of why I do what I do. I want to express things that transcend the music.”

Still, he’s taking time out of his mission to speak with MTV News on his manager’s cell phone (Weiss doesn’t own one of his own, or a computer), about his band’s new album, Brother, Sister, the follow-up to the group’s 2004 breakthrough, Catch for Us the Foxes (see “Mewithoutyou: Not Your Average Christian, Vegetable-Oil-Fueled, Flower-Flinging Rockers” ).

The new LP, due September 26, is a complex, loud/soft banger that finds MWY partially burying Foxes‘ discordant racket beneath pianos, accordions, horns and songs about spiders. Produced by Foxes‘ Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins) and featuring former Sunny Day Real Estate wailer Jeremy Enigk on a pair of tracks, it’s a mature disc that pushes the boundaries of what both “progressive hardcore” and “Christian rock” are supposed to be. Which may or may not be a good thing, according to Weiss.

“We’re not getting any younger, and I don’t want to be 40, jumping around onstage,” he said. “We’re kind of all into softer music now, and this new album reflects that. There’s a tendency to stick with what worked in the past, but honestly, we wanted to avoid that at all costs.

“Of course, if I don’t sing about God in a way that Christian bookstores want to hear, then I don’t expect to be embraced by that side of the market. And if we don’t ‘rock’ enough, we may not be embraced by kids who liked the last record,” he continued. “Either way, I’m just trying to find the things that will bring me contentment in my life.”

Still, regardless of subject matter or sonic weirdness, chances are Brother, Sister will continue to build on the momentum Mewithoutyou created with Foxes — especially given the great success of labelmates and fellow Christian rockers Underoath, who scored a #2 debut on the Billboard albums chart last month with Define the Great Line (see “Nelly Furtado’s Loose Claims #1; Busta Rhymes’ Bang Takes A Big Hit” ).

“I’m a complete hypocrite. Because of course I want [Brother, Sister] to do well. We all do. We’re always trying to feel justified in our parents’ eyes, because we’re in our late 20s playing in a rock band,” Weiss laughed.

“There’s talk that we might be on [Conan O'Brien's] radar, and it would be nice to meet Conan. I have these silly ambitions of being on television. But the funny thing is, even if you’ve just appeared on a show or won an award, the next day you’ve still got the same problems. All of this is pretty empty. What I’m searching for is some peace.”

Track list for Mewithoutyou’s Brother, Sister, according to Tooth & Nail Records:

  • “Messes of Men”

  • “The Dryness and the Rain”
  • “Wolf Am I! (and Shadow)”
  • “Yellow Spider”
  • “A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains”
  • “Nice and Blue (Part Two)”
  • “The Sun and the Moon”
  • “Orange Spider”
  • “C-Minor”
  • “In a Market Dimly Lit”
  • “O, Porcupine”
  • “Brownish Spider”
  • “In a Sweater Poorly Knit”