In a music scene littered with bands that sound and dress alike, Philadelphia experimental rockers mewithoutYou have made a name for themselves, straying from the norms of today's doomed "emo" culture.
Whether it involves going to college, living in submission to God or Dumpster diving, mewithoutYou isn't your typicalindie band.
The guys in mewithoutYou have mastered the craft of multi-tasking. Rather than spend their days rubbing elbows with label reps and spamming MySpace pages, they balance being in a Billboard Top 200 band while pursuing a variety of ventures outside of music.
While his band mates are enrolled at Villanova University and teaching at inner-city schools in Philadelphia, frontman Aaron Weiss is busy attending classes at the University of Pennsylvania.
Weiss' mother works at UPenn, and this connection allowed him to enroll as a student during the 2008-2009 school year.
"I was just taking a few classes this past year. I'm not in any program. I'm not sure if I'll ever get a degree out of it, but it has been really nice to take classes," he said.
Going back to school wasn't a dream or an aspiration for Weiss.
He began to attend classes after a friend advised him that he spoke to God in a prayer.
In his prayers, Weiss' friend found that it might be good for the band's front man to go to school and have something other than music to spend his time on, while opening up another career option, Weiss said.
"It was done in submission to God, not something I wanted to do," he said.
Weiss' spirituality makes him a natural fit as the front man of a band whose lyrics and messages are heavily influenced by the religious teachings found in scripture.
"During my clearer moments I realize that I don't really have anything else except for God," he said."I have a family and a band and friends and ideas and beliefs and religious groups and all these things, but all of those things are going to be gone very, very soon. Even my own body, it's all passing away."
With lyrics taken from Scripture and a new album title taken directly from a holy man -"It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright" is a quote from a holy man named Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, who came to Philadelphia in the early 1970s - mewithoutYouhave carved a niche for themselves delivering God's messages.
MewithoutYou's message speaks to many young adults who constantly struggle to balance classes, exams, job searches and the list goes on.
"There is a lot of loneliness andconfusion and fear so if you want to get drunk, I can relate. But pay attention, "Weiss said. "Watch closely to what happens to your own heart when you do those things."
But Weiss does not want to push religion down the throats of the band's fans. Weiss wants people to live their lives in a way that brings contentment.
"If there are other things to do and you want to do them, then do them," he said. "But pay attention. Learn from it and move forward. Don't cling to it just because that's what everyone around you is doing."
With their fourth release, the band uses an acoustic guitar to present a newfound maturity.
Fans of the quartet's first three records may be shocked when they first listen to the band's latest album.
Weiss' signature raucous vocal style has been replaced by a mellowed-out, melodic one.
The biting guitar riffs that mewithoutYou's fans are accustomed to have been replaced by simple chord progressions and acoustic rhythms.
After guitarist Christopher Kleinberg left the band to pursue a career as a doctor, Weiss began to rethink the band's musical style.
The result is a Dylan-esque, folk-influenced musical backdrop that presents an ideal medium for Weiss to showcase his softer, grown-up side.
"We like the new songs better," he said. "Why not make music that you like, rather than music that you liked when you were 22? We've all changed."
And changed they have. Weiss has put his life into perspective this past year, straying from the holistic lifestyle he once led to get more in touch with those around him.
"I used to make a big deal of what I do and don't do," he said.
Weiss points out that he used to be more judgmental, thinking that everyone who didn't eat out of trash cans, had a cell phone, drove instead of biking and didn't shop exclusively at thrift stores was wrong.
"It was just so crazy for me to obsess over myself in that way. It didn't bring me peace, and I was tired of feeling so separated from everybody because of all these things I did and didn't do."
MewithoutYou's front man has found that it's much sweeter to leave judgments to God.
"Nothing I ever do or don't do will make me better than anyone else," he said.
While on tour, rationing food and money is essential.
Through the years, the band has learned to "Dumpster dive" as a means of snagging a free meal.
"You would be amazed that you can find enough food that others have thrown away if you know where to look," Weiss said.