Rocky Votolato, Auctioneer
330 E. Washington St.
Iowa City, IA, 52240
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM (event ends at 2:00 AM)
This event is 19 and over
mewithoutYou returns with their 5th studio album Ten Stories, set for release May 15, 2012. A deluxe vinyl edition will be available as well. Helmed by producer and friend of the band Daniel Smith (Sufjan Stevens) and mixed by Brad Wood, Ten Stories is an allegorical collection of songs that, at first listen, follows a winding narrative about a circus train crash in 19th century Montana. But long-time fans of this band know that although we are immediately introduced to a talking elephant, fox and tiger, there is always more than meets the eye.
mewithoutYou – frontman Aaron Weiss, guitarist Michael Weiss, bassist Greg Jehanian and drummer Rickie Mazzotta – will be previewing the new songs during a run of select live shows in early March, beginning March 3rd in Baltimore at Metro Gallery. A U.S. Spring tour will be announced in the coming weeks.
Ten years into their life together as a band, mewithoutYou are still searching, and they still compel us to join them in their search. Well-loved for their introspective and eccentric ruminations on life, love, loss, spirituality and temptation, Ten Stories is the result of a lot of living and a lot of death. After experiencing the joy of a newborn baby in the Weiss family in early 2010, it wasn't too long before several deaths of relatives and friends shook the band to its core. They spent some time apart to live their lives, but it is their deep friendships that always bring them back together again.
Reflecting on their history together, drummer Rickie Mazzotta says, "Think about everything that happens in the course of a decade – death, taxes, scholastics, break-ups, birth, illness, World Series Championships, foggy memories, whack decisions, the loss of innocence, the highest highs and the lowest lows. We've been through a lot together. When we came together to make Ten Stories, it was spawned out of being apart for a while, home with friends and lovers, pursuing other interests and naturally gravitating back towards one another in space and sound."
This natural reunion led to the band beginning work on Ten Stories with a relaxed approach, leisurely enjoying the summer sun and leaving behind any pre-conceived ideas of what kind of songs they wanted to make. The result is an incredibly expansive album, encompassing where the band has been and where they are going. mewithoutYou's last album, 2009's It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright!, was a marked departure into the world of folk and written around an acoustic guitar, Ten Stories adds the band's raucous vocals and hard-hitting instrumentation back into the mix. Still present are their melodic overtones and lush orchestration of more recent years, making for a riveting musical journey at the album's every turn.
Through the fable-like interactions of fictitious animals, Ten Stories offers up deep ponderings and keen observations about human character flaws and the circle of life. As the band further explores their signature themes of romantic disaster and quasi-mystical speculation, a naive rabbit falls for a footloose fortune teller and a monastic walrus for a hedonistic owl. A pretentious Fox has a prophetic dream, a starving Bear has a vision of a martyred saint and an indecisive Peacock and gnostic Tiger learn the virtues of megalomania from an ego-annihilated Potter Wasp. From the urgent suspense of album opener "February 1878," to the sweeping drum patterns and gritty vocals of "Grist for the Malady Mill," to the psychedelic gem "Aubergine" to the special guest artist on "Fox's Dream of the Log Flume," it's clear that Ten Stories is one of mewithoutYou's most dynamic albums to date.
Seattle musician Rocky Votolato is a soft-spoken, very kind, very hard-working father of two, born in rural Texas and raised in the Pacific Northwest indie scene (where he fronted the acclaimed rock band Waxwing). In his decade-plus life as a songwriter and musician he has sought to articulate something essential about life, writing songs that seem to have been scratched into a boxcar wall by a worn-out and lonesome ghost. His gravelly, sandpaper smooth voice and introspective lyrics mark him as that most rare of punk-rocker-turned-acoustic-troubadours: Votolato writes graceful, understated, human, unpretentious songs, demonstrating that simplicity is still a viable option for accomplished songwriters.
His last two releases, Makers (2006, Barsuk) and The Brag & Cuss (2007, Barsuk), found him exploring and paying homage to the folk and country music that shaped his early life in Texas (Alternative Press described the former as "the disc Ryan Adams keeps threatening to make but never quite delivers," and Harp praised his "harmonies that would make Gram and Emmylou proud" on the latter). True Devotion, his new album, is a passionate, stripped down, and mostly acoustic reflection on moments from his current life; showing us where he is, where he has just come from, and where he's going.
Where he's going has to be better than where he's coming from: In the years following the release of The Brag & Cuss, Votolato's private lifelong battle with depression and anxiety started showing up in ways he could no longer hide from or disguise. Unable to write music or keep up the busy touring schedule that he's been known for, he cut himself off from almost all outside contact (at one point barely leaving his apartment for over a year). Spending his time reading, studying existential philosophy, history, physics, and theology, he gradually overcame his demons. He began writing again, and through the making of the new album (recorded almost entirely on his own, and then mixed with the help of longtime production collaborator Casey Foubert [Sufjan Stevens, David Bazan] and old friend John Goodmanson [The Blood Brothers, Sleater-Kinney]) found some long sought-after understanding and peace of mind.
Walking the line between autobiographical fact and fiction, True Devotion is deceptively simple, peppering impressionistic narratives with moments of lyrical wisdom that can knock the wind out of you. The first half of the album is full of dark psychology and social-critique themes that feel similar in approach to Votolato's 2003 release "Suicide Medicine".
"Sparklers" caps side A of the album by shifting away from darker themes as what seems like another bleak song of death reveals itself as a song of appreciation and acceptance of the transient nature of this existence; "Letting go is the best way to hold on / So watch the light dance in the dark until it's gone / Sparklers only burn / For so long."
The rest of the record shifts toward new ground, exploring a sense of enlightenment and a hopeful search for innocence and eternal truths, unexpectedly reminiscent of early Cat Stevens. On "Sun Devil," Votolato sings, "True devotion and true virtue / Will hold you at the center / As the waves crash over," lines that point to a turning point for him and a recognition of new priorities and a focus on what matters most in his life. The Gandhi-referential album-closer "Where We Started" drives this point home again with a philosophical upshot echoed by the sonic space that ends the track and also opens the album.
And if the future, creating its own echoes, waits with more bouts of inner torment for him or for his listeners, then Rocky Votolato has delivered on True Devotion a batch of intensely honest songs that may also act as a reminder and shadowy roadmap back toward peace.
Auctioneer's Craig Hendrix wears many hats on Philadelphia's music scene, as producer & keyboardist for Birdie Busch, multi-instrumentalist for Aderbat/Mammal of Paradise, founder & composer for The Agave Opera Company, and musical director of north Philly performance group Puppetyranny. For Auctioneer, his latest and most personal project, he draws on the venerable talents of drummer/producer Todd Schied, bassist Todd Erk (Hoots & Hellmouth), and vocalist/keyboardist Jesse Moore (Ladies Auxiliary). The band lives in a former insulation factory, neighbored by filmmakers and custom furniture designers, mummers, welders, DJs, karaoke enthusiasts, puppeteers and sports fans.
The debut EP from the group, due out digitally August 19 and physically October 6, is both contemplative and absolute, drawing on the freedom afforded through living and creating in crumbling, post-industrial North Philadelphia. Musically, the lilting gravity of the songs speak to Aucioneer's wide embrace of genre, from art-punk to chamber & choral music, from minimalism to afrobeat, samba & bossa nova.