PropertyOfZack Interview : : mewithoutYou

by Zack Zarrillo - Aug 31, 2011

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PropertyOfZack had the chance to speak to Rick from mewithoutYou just last week for one of our best interviews in a long time. Rick and I discussed how the band’s new album is coming along, how important it is to make the right decisions, leaving Tooth & Nail Records, potentially self-releasing their new record, and so much more. Read up and enjoy!

For the record, could you state your name and role in mewithoutYou?
My name is Rick, and my role in the band is drums, primarily.

The band literally just finished up a string of tour dates with Alkaline Trio throughout the east coast. How were the shows and getting back into the swing of things?
I was just watching a bunch of YouTube videos actually to see how we did. Getting back into the swing of touring usually takes a couple days. This trip was only a few weeks long, but it was a good road test for us because we haven’t been out in a year. We opened up for a bigger band with a totally different fan base in Alkaline Trio. It was a little strange; their fans are totally dedicated to their music, and that’s a wonderful thing, but it sometimes was a little frustrating to play for the audiences because you’re trying to give it your all and you’re being met with a lot of blank stares. That’s just devotion on their fan’s part though. It was a great time overall.

You guys played a new song live called “The Fiji Mermaid.” Were fans receptive to the track overall?
This tour we played two new live songs, that one and “January 1878,” which got a lot more play on this tour. “Fiji” was a little too rugged it play. We just finished writing it over the past month and recorded it, so there were still guitar tracks to lay down. It got good reception and the other one got fantastic reception. It’s a rocker, as we would call it. It fit the tour better to play a heavier song. You don’t want to go up there playing songs your fans would want to see. You’re trying to play songs that are going to win over people. We tried to keep that in mind.

That song will be one of many featured on your new release, which was just recorded. How was your time in the studio with Daniel Smith this go around?
We came to Daniel about three months ago. We told him we were interested in making an album and he was immediately on board. He encouraged us to let it all fly out. We took about a month and a half and worked every day from 10 to 5. Basically we came together and had a good time. Everybody brought songs this time and everybody had a place on the record. Right now we’re in the middle of tracking guitars and vocals. We got the basic tracks done for the album in the first two weeks. Right now the guys are in the studio as we speak laying down some more stuff and it’s coming along pretty good.
POZ: When do you guys hope to be completely done recording?
Rick: I would like to be down in the next two to three weeks. When you’re working on a project you don’t really want to let it go on too too long. Aaron starts school in two weeks for the semester and I know he wants to get his parts done. We’re looking at having it mastered sometime in October. We’re not sure about a release date or even how it’s going to be released at this point. We know we’ll have a full record in the middle of October though.

What made you guys want to work with Daniel again?
He’s got good vibes and he’s a friend of ours. It’s not so much like you’re working with a producer with him where they’re calling the shots. It’s really a bouncing back and forth of ideas. He’s got a lot of great ideas and comes from a different approach than I would. He built a pretty rad studio on his own property too. We like to work with the same people we use.

In terms of what went on in the studio, did much change this time from the recording of It’s All Crazy!?
When we recorded It’s All Crazy! we didn’t even really road test the songs. It was written in a totally different way too. It’s hard to explain. This time the way we wrote it and went on the road and played some stuff live. Mike’s in there right now redoing some guitar tracks to fit more what we were doing live.
POZ: So would you say this is going to be a more live-oriented record?
Rick: I think so. As far as the drums are concerned, I was trying different things every take. I tried different things every time we ran through takes. I don’t even remember some of the stuff I did because I was just going off of the top of my head. It really felt like a live experience because live music is obviously way different. A lot of bands come out and just play their music, but we like to take a different approach. That’s been a big part of the record.

It’s All Crazy! was released in the first half of 2009. Has the band been happy with the overall reception to the release since it was put out?
The reception of the record varies all across the board. There are people that like our first record to no end. There are people that love that record to all end too. It’s opposite ends of the spectrum. Some people love it and some people hate it. I think if another band put that album out then people would’ve received it better. I don’t think what we do best got captured on that record. I think that record’s a moment in time where we changed character.
POZ: Is this new album a return to form, if you would call it that?
Rick: You don’t ever want to return to something you did years ago, but it’s more of a guitar driven record. There are two, three, four electric guitar parts going at once where last time that was non-existent.

This is obviously mewithoutYou’s fifth album. That being said, has it even been difficult to keep things fresh while writing or recording?
Aaron doesn’t listen to new music. He doesn’t even know what fresh is. It’s hard to say that there are all these great new bands. It’s like a whole new world and seeing the sun for the first time. It felt really fresh when we were writing it and when I’m listening back to it. It’s definitely not sounding like a past album. It’s a step forward from our records. Aaron’s coming along as a singer and a shouter and he’s doing a good job.

Regardless of the material being great or not, fans can get tired of a similar sound four, five, or six albums deep from the same band. Is it almost somewhat more stressful as the band grows older to make fans happy?
I feel you. It’s not fun for musicians to keep putting out those same records. I think a lot of bands that put out five or six albums feel like they have to give the fans what they want in order to keep their fan base because that’s a long time and a lot of music. We definitely had the discussion of not referencing our past music and not referencing other bands. We just played, and it’s really cool and we like it. I don’t think the new stuff sounds like anything we’ve ever done. It’s not totally different, but it’s not the same.

How many songs were recorded and are going to be on the album?
Right now we have fourteen songs. I don’t think they’ll all make it onto the record. That’s not because some are better or some are worse. Some just might not fit into how the lyrical content shapes up. We’ll definitely add some b-sides to this album, and we’re talking about 7”s just to get everything out there. We’ve never really done that before. Usually we just go into the studio and release everything we record.I’m happy with every single song.

We just discussed how it’s important for bands not to do the same things over again because there’s a whole new world of music out there. Is the band trying to do different things as well in terms of touring and marketing?
I can’t say too much about how it’ll be released because I’m not entirely certain, but it’s definitely going to be more organic. We’ll be in control. Tooth & Nail is a great label, but at the end of the day there were a ton of things because of lawyers and organizations that we weren’t in control of; like being able to release 7”s. There have always been some road blocks in terms of everything. Right now we’re out of our contract and we feel really free. It feels like a weird rebirth as a band. Everyone has their own things right now, but coming together and touring and having the possibility of doing some pretty heavy touring when the album comes out is pretty awesome. We’ve already gotten offers from friend’s bands that want to go out at the end of the year and next. We’ll be touring more. We’re the masters of our destiny at this point.

Are you shopping the record around or are you considering self-releasing?
I feel like it’s corny for me to say that I can’t say anything, but I don’t know who feels comfortable with what. We’ve talked to some labels that are big and tiny just to see what’s what. Not for an offer, but for advice. We’ve also talked to distributors and vinyl presses and people that have started their own labels. We’re in a fortunate position having so many awesome fans that always come back and support us that I don’t think a self-release would be that out of control.

Is it also important more than ever in the band’s career to make the “right” move, whereas it wasn’t necessarily that important in the beginning?
Exactly. You’re right on. We had lawyers look at the contract for our first album and all four of the lawyers said to not sign it. At the time we could make the wrong move though because we were a band playing in my dad’s basement under his barbershop. We said screw it, and got in the van and toured and they hooked us up with a producer. Right now everything is a risk of sorts, whether that’s signing or self-releasing. It feels risky, but there’s so much heavy thought going into the process from all different angels. We kind of have to make the right move. Whatever we decide to do will be the right move. Everybody’s older and we’re not suckers. We’ll figure it out.

When are you actually looking to release the album?
I don’t know. There needs to be press for X amount of months, which I think is bogus. You have to be able to tour soon after too, which I think is bogus. I think that’s commodifying what music is. Say we mastered it and wanted to put it out the day after, we could do that. Nobody could stop us. You don’t have to play the game. There are people in our organization though like our manager, tour manager, and friends that we’re taking input from because it’s an investment for our whole crew. We’re taking care of other people while taking care of ourselves. I’d say it’ll be early in the New Year, if I had to guess.

And you are planning to tour heavily?
We have already gotten offers for next year. We just need to really think about what we’re trying to do. Do we want to release a record and slip into obscurity? Or do we want to say what’s up to everybody? No one’s shying away from it. A few years ago there was a rough patch where people were going through breakups and trying to get into med-school, but now everyone realizes how much they love it. It’s better than anything else.

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