‘Pale Horses’ is a pretty complex listen, but with it being as great an album as it is (we won’t be handing out 5* ratings willy nilly), that complexity is certainly worth delving into. That’s why we spoke to mewithoutYou vocalist, Aaron Weiss to get an insider’s view on it all.
On the record’s lyrical themes…
“I had a few different themes for the album and it alternated back and forth between those, until I ended up deciding to try and incorporate all of them.
One of those was about my recent marriage and my honeymoon – I got married about a year ago – and my experiences and changes since being married. There’s also some in there about my dad and grandmother dying. My dad died five years ago and my grandmother died less than a year prior to writing the new album, so I definitely had that on my mind and was still processing it.
Then some other less personal themes like technology and dystopia, nuclear energy and nuclear war. ‘Progress Gone Wrong’ sort of themes. Mental illness and extreme mental states were big ones, too. I initially thought they would be encompassed on the whole album. They got on there in pieces, but not in their entirety. There’s also a lot that I wrote in the wake of reading James Joyce and other authors I enjoy.
What strikes me as the most salient theme, though, is that of Armageddon; The Judgment Day, End Times, Book of Revelations imagery. Hence the name of the album, the pale horse image that signifies the end of the world.”
On the symbolism behind the ‘Red Cow’ that appears as a song title…
“The red cow is seen as a biblical pre-cursor to the end of the world. There’d be this perfectly red cow that would appear on Earth and that would be a sign of imminent destruction. I read that there was a farmer somewhere in the United States that was trying to breed a perfectly red cow to bring about the end of the world faster. That was a very curious image that just stuck with me.”
On the album’s self-referential tendencies…
“I wanted there to be something coherent about the album so that it was all tied together in some way, but I also didn’t want it to come across as too deliberately thematic, which might have ended up feeling like a rehash of the previous album [‘Ten Stories’] which had a very distinct narrative.
I really like a collection of songs to have a distinct identity, so that when you picture it, you can picture an overall landscape or a set of ideas that binds it all together.”
On building on what they’ve learned in the past…
“Listening to some of our previous albums, they strike me as being out of balance and that they rely too heavily on just one approach of loud aggression and distorted guitars, or they totally abandon that and try to rely too heavily on melody and acoustic instruments and folk structures, which I don’t think is our strong point necessarily.
I think we tried to encompass a bit of everything we’ve done before while still introducing something new. I can think of at least two songs on the new album that have a different feel where we tried to incorporate a new genre or new instruments that we’ve not explored in the past. That helps tie everything we’ve done in the past together and add in some ‘new’ to keep it interesting, but ensures that it stays recognisable to someone who already likes our music.
Taken from the August issue of Upset – order a copy now.