In the liner notes for their album It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright, mewithoutYou writes this dedication: “All poor and silly words for Bawa and Jesus & all the prophets and saints and angels, Qutbs, lights, and anyone who has lost their faith in God.” You probably know who the second guy is, but Bawa? Maybe not so much. Bawa is the Sufi mystic Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, who was born in Sri Lanka and came to Philadelphia in 1971 where he established a Fellowship for his teachings. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen is also a significant inspiration for Aaron Weiss, the lead singer and songwriter of mewithoutYou. This inspiration is particularly evident on their 2009 release, which takes its title from one of the Sufi teacher’s parables, where he writes: “It’s all false. It’s all a dream. It’s all crazy. It’s all over. It’s alright. Let’s see what’s next.”
And seeing what’s next is what mewithoutYou has consistently been doing on their musical journey, which began back in 2001. Their sound on earlier albums was like a ship prevailing on rough seas, with Aaron Weiss as the captain barking commands from the helm while a post-hardcore storm of guitars and drums whipped around his rants of soul-searching and angst. But It’s All Crazy! finds the band in a calmer, more acoustic atmosphere, with accordions and warm keys smoothing the waters so Weiss can survey the world and reflect on the God who has breathed it. The album is rife with spiritual themes that range from Sufi-inspired reflections on God to stories straight out of the Bible. There are songs like “The Fox, the Crow and the Cookie,” which is directly inspired by a Bawa Muhaiyaddeen story. And then there are songs like “A Stick, a Carrot & String,” which tells the nativity story through the perspectives of the farm animals present and then jumps forward to Gethsemene, where another animal, slithering low in the grass, perks up when he hears Jesus pleading with the Father, only to have his head crushed beneath Christ’s foot.
So it is fitting that mewithoutYou dedicates their music to Bawa Muhaiyaddeen and Jesus, because they are both ever-present in the band’s spiritual surveying. But mewithoutYou’s music also does not fail to live up to the latter part of their dedication: “[for] anyone who has lost their faith in God.” Far from dogmatic or didactic, mewithoutYou seems to be on the same search that most of their listeners likely are: searching for God in the face of doubt and losing faith. It is no wonder then, why Bawa Muhaiyaddeen is such an inspiration for the band—and for anyone searching spiritually, really; he was a man who constantly pursued God. Mike Weiss, the band’s guitarist and Aaron’s brother, described Bawa as, “a wise person who loved God and believed in God more than anything else. He devoted his life to trying to bring people to experience that.”
The search for God that runs through mewithoutYou’s music comes out most evidently in the last song on It’s All Crazy!. The title of the song is “Allah, Allah, Allah” and on the album booklet the title is written in Arabic. The song is about finding God in everywhere you look: “In everywhere we look / Allah, Allah, Allah! / In everyone we meet / Allah, Allah, Allah!” It is a joyful, sing-along song where the band literally invites you to join them and sing along. And this invitation is open to everyone, especially, it seems, to those who may have lost their faith in God:
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done...
so what does it matter what you think you’ve done?
now, lay your faithless head down
in necessity’s Cotton Hand
there’s a Love that never changes
no matter what you’ve done
… so if you’d care to sing Forgiveness songs
come down and join our band
we’ll cut you like a Sword
and sing Forgiveness songs
- Ben Dixon