mewithoutYou – Tickets – The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA – November 25th, 2017
[A—> B] Life 15 Year Tour
Pianos Become the Teeth, Slow Mass
Sat, November 25, 2017
Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 7:30 pmThe Sinclair
This event is 18 and over
The Sinclair is general admission standing room only. Tickets available at AXS.COM, or by phone at 855-482-2090. No service charge on tickets purchased in person at The Sinclair Box office Wednesdays-Saturdays 12-7PM.https://www.sinclaircambridge.com/event/1541455/
In short, due largely to their singer's creative wanderlust, the band had entirely forsaken whatever they'd become; in an effort to spurn the familiar, they had grown unrecognizable, alienating no shortage of fans in the process. Those fans, and whoever has come to miss what was most distinct about mewithoutYou, will welcome Ten Stories as the rightful follow-up to their 2006 release, Brother/Sister, and 2004's Catch for Us the Foxes. To be sure, the band hasn't altogether renounced the psychedelic-rustic-pop elements of It's All Crazy!; rather, they have renounced the scrupulous control inherent to its renunciation. Simply put, they seem to have let go of the steering wheel, and are back to writing music, well, 'naturally.'
"They're not quite children's songs," vocalist Aaron Weiss explains, "with not quite coherent storylines, but there is an overarching and kind of child-like narrative: a circus train crashes in 19th century Montana. Some animals escape, others stay in their cages. The traveling menagerie re-rails, stays its course, and struggles to fill in the missing attractions. Meanwhile, freed from institutionalized life, the rice-cake rabbit takes to a peripatetic fortune teller, the monastic walrus is tempted by a hedonistic owl, a fish falls for an eggplant. Other songs describe a contemplative Fox's prophetic dream, a starving Bear's vision of a martyred saint, and an indecisive Peacock & gnostic Tiger learning the virtues of megalomania from an ego-annihilated Potter Wasp."
This bizarre, character-heavy lyrical approach let the band revisit their perennial leitmotifs of romantic disaster & quasi-mystical speculation, without the self-pity/indulgence of direct autobiography. Reflecting recent, devastating personal losses, practically every song addresses our inevitable dying, apparently easier to face when projected onto anthropomorphic animals. This zoological ventriloquist act allows them to explore abstract philosophical themes and draw on finespun literary sources with a profound goofiness that deflates whatever danger of pretentiousness. The story-teller elements are obscure enough to avoid the short-lived rock opera aesthetic, leaving most plot details and potential moralizing to the imagination; and this without succumbing to insincerity/irony, overt relativism, or outright nonsense.
The ever-odd Daniel Smith's production and veteran Brad Wood's mixing combine to improve upon the best sonic elements of the band's past releases. Musically, Ten Stories is a mix of the brazen noisiness, hypnotic soundscapes, and derelict shouting of their old songs, the dead-level melody and extravagant orchestration of recent years, and a newfound reliance on ethereal harmonies, courtesy en masse of female guest vocalists (most notably, Paramore's Hayley Williams). Whimsically morbid as an Edward Gorey alphabet, simultaneously self-abnegating and -aggrandizing, defying simplistic musical or intellectual categorization, mewithoutYou's new collection of songs is the fabulously vivid outgrowth of an ongoing religious and irreverent eclecticism, a 'decade-plus narcissistic scramble for artistic affirmation' (their words), and the even longer-running and peculiar friendship of four not-so-younggentlemen from nowhere in particular, apparently at the height of their mutual affection.
mewithoutYou's 17-ton grease-powered bus — the ornately-chipped, floral-painted, "mental hospital on wheels" — will once again, according to the band, "hem and haw its way across the country this summer, punctuated no doubt by near-daily breakdowns, makeshift repairs, newborn babies, manic depressive episodes, and desperate attempts by all parties involved to separate [them]selves from separation itself."
Obviously the biggest difference between Keep You and Pianos Become The Teeth’s previous albums is Durfey's approach, which sees him trading the throat-gutting screams of the band's early releases with cleaner, more intelligible vocals. However anyone who has followed the band's trajectory—specifically the song "Hiding" from their 2013 split with Touché Amoré—can trace the way the band's sound has evolved from a melodic hardcore act to a group who create heaviness and weight via raw emotion instead of distortion "I took a less unbridled approach to the songs this time around,” Durfey explains. “That’s what I felt the songs called for and in my heart it matched the tone of the record.”
Pianos Become The Teeth—which also features guitarists Mike York and Chad McDonald, bassist Zac Sewell and drummer David Haik— began writing Keep You in 2012 while during a tour with Title Fight. When they got home the group took a writing expedition to a cabin owned by Sewell's family in Taylors Island, Maryland, where they came up with the songs "Say Nothing" and "Lesions." "We knew Kyle was planning on singing on this album so we wanted to be able to create something musically that would be beneficial for him to do that," York says. "We paid attention to detail a lot with these songs but not in the same way that we had done in the past in the sense that instead of putting a bunch of cool parts together, we really tried to focus on the songs as a whole,” he adds.
In order to capture the band's creative vision this time around they decided to work with producer Will Yip (Circa Survive, Braid) during a month long recording session in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. "Will was just such a positive force to be around and he really helped us embrace what we were trying to do," Durfey explains. "I definitely learned a lot about my own voice and gained a ton of confidence in the process." York concurs adding, "Will knew what we were going for atmosphere wise; I realized we were making something that we loved but Will took that vision and made it more than we ever could have expected."
Musically Keep You is an expansive statement that is defined almost as much by what the listener hears as it is the dramatic space that hangs between each note. For example, when Durfey sings “you can’t be everything you want to be before your time” on the cathartic, slow build “Late Lives” the same can be said of the fact that the band had to spend eight years playing together in order to get to the point where they could write music this layered and deliberate. "I love a song like 'Late Lives' because instead of a lead riff there's intertwined riffs and David doesn't even hit a snare drum until two-and-a-half minutes in," York explains. "Alternately 'April' and 'Old Jaw' are more straightforward that anything we've ever done structure-wise but if you let yourself fall into the groove of the song you'll appreciate it in ways that I don't think have ever been possible with this band.”
That's not to say that these songs don't feature the virtuosic musicianship the band have built their name on, it’s just recontextualized into more moody and haunting compositions such as “Repine” which features atmospheric strings, an instantly contagious chorus and a tribal rhythm that solidly roots it. Lyrically Keep You deals with familiar concepts like mortality and communication in an intensely personal way that's also remarkably relatable in its honesty. "If I had to boil down the overall theme of the album it's about things you want to say to people but you can't for some reason whether it's because they're not in your life anymore or they've passed away," Durfey explains. "It still ties into our other records but it's where I'm at now, which is still morose but not being completely destroyed by anything anymore.”
That inkling of hope is expressed when Durfey sings, "your wick won't burn away" (“Repine”) or muses, "I say it all when I say nothing at all” (“Say Nothing”), conveying that memories live on after the physical bodies that embodied them have faded away. "I think it's a musical growth not a departure," Durfey summarizes when asked how he views the album. “We’re more proud of this album than anything we’ve ever done in the past,” adds York. “I’m just so excited to be able to share it with the people who have supported us for so long because I think it’s a really exciting next step for the band in every possible way.”
52 Church St
Cambridge, MA, 02138