There came a time when indie rock music meant much more than its basic definition. A time when it was all about an uprising on the dance floor that wasn't lead by a DJ, but by a group of young twenty-somethings with fitted clothes and enough rhythm in their bones to keep up with Prince on-stage. During that time bands like the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Interpol, The Killers, The Rapture and White Stripes flourished. At the tail end of this era came some of the genre's biggest highlights, especially when a trio of musicians decided to release a kick-ass album in 2005 titled With Love and Squalor. Ten years later, and they're still releasing some of the most infectious pop-rock
tracks and performing live at some of the most hyped up festivals in the country.
Their latest release, Barbara, stays true to their dance-rock roots, while delivering endless catchy melodies. They're currently working on their next release, but prior to that there are a slew of dates they're working on, and it all starts this weekend at the Music To Know festival in the Hamptons.
We recently sat down with We Are Scientists
' lead singer, Keith Murray, to talk about the band, the sound, and the future.
Clubplanet: So, going into recording your latest album, Barbara, what kind of feel were you going for? One of your previous albums, With Love and Squalor, was written more so to be performed. What direction were you heading for this particular album?
I do feel like the desire we have going in every time we record has been definitely a response to the record before it. We definitely want to be more expansive. In response to Brain Thrust Mastery, we wanted Barbara to be really basic and as live sounding as possible. And I think now our next record we will try to make not as a live sounding record. [laughs] There is part of me that at least wants the basics of it to be the three of us in a room playing. But I think we’ll be more excited about doing extra instrumentation this time then we were.
Clubplanet: You and the band seem to be gelling really well. Andy Burrows, your current drummer, came on in 2009. What do you think he adds, obviously other than drums, to the band?
I do feel like, sort of for the first time in a really long time, the three of us feel like a gang when we are hanging out. We have been really good friends with everybody we have ever played with. We definitely have always had a good relationship with everyone on the road. But I think definitely because Andy has been more invested in recording Barbara, it makes it feel more like a band again.
Clubplanet: So you guys, obviously, have had great success in the U.S. But it seems as though the U.K is all over. Why do you think that is? Can you tell us a little about the transition?
I think the reason we do better there is, especially when With Love and Squalor came out, that kind of music, that indie/rock was definitely a mainstay of Radio. Every single from that record got played heavily on national radio. In the U.S, I feel like the closest have been “The Killers” and “Franz Ferdinand.” So I think it was just, literally the radio markets, which are pretty different.
Clubplanet: When it comes to Steve Wants His Money, your seven episode series of television shorts, how did that start up?
It definitely was pretty round about. It kind of started because we did a promo video thing for Brain Thrust Mastery. Even before Brain Thrust Mastery came out we did a tour of British student unions at universities. We did a stage show that was a fake self help show. Then, EMI wanted us to do a promo video that was us, essentially, doing the self help thing. We kind of wrote it to be a sitcom, rather than a self help video. Its sort of a thing about us trying to become self help dudes. That concept morphed into a sitcom. It’s us trying to scam people out of money at every turn.
Clubplanet: So, if there is one artist that you could blame for getting you into music, who would that be?
I mean, I was really into hair metal when I was in middle school I guess. But then I think the band that made me want to play was Marilyn Manson. I used to see them all the time. Mainly at the Plus Five, which doesn’t exist anymore. I think just the fact that they were a really popular band that was playing all the time. I probably saw them ten times a year for three years. I think that really got me into the idea of, you know, being in a band and playing crappy local venues. Then the fact that they got massive didn’t hurt the inspiration.
Clubplanet: What is your least favorite aspect of the music business?
I mean, obviously there is a very beurocratic aspect to putting out a record on a label, which is part of why we kind of put out the last record ourselves. We had the help of distributers but we just made the record ourselves. Brain Thrust Mastery was a really hard record to make. We had made With Love and Squalor ourselves and had licensed it to EMI. It was a really tricky scenario. We were signed to Virgin U.S, but we obviously did much better in the U.K. I think Virgin U.S sort of respected the fact that we did well in the U.K, but it didn’t really benefit them at all. All the money we made for EMI essentially went to EMI U.K. There’s a lot of push and pull with Brain Thrust Mastery. To be fair to them, there are people whose job it is to turn a profit and keep the company alive, that don’t really have that much interest in music.
Clubplanet: So you have a degree in English. Would you say that it’s helped you along the way in writing at all?
I feel like the main way it has been beneficial is by influencing the way I read, and the way I digest cultural stimuli. I think I’m more thoughtful about things that I consume culturally than I would otherwise. It’s fortunate for that I am in a band, because I don’t know what I’d be doing with my English Lit degree right now.
Clubplanet: Your albums deep now. What song would you say sums up who you guys are; if you had to pick one?
I guess I feel like the song that sums up the past eight years of We are Scientists is probably “After Hours.” I feel like there are songs on Barbara that will lead to things that we will probably do more of in the future. I feel that the next record will be pretty different. “Foreign Kicks” is one off Barbara that we really like also because it’s really different. “Nice Guys” as well, where it’s less fussy rock, and kind of more just rock. The songs we have for the next record are already pretty different from anything we’ve done before. Its slightly scary. Its nice to have a sound and try to explore writing within the limitation of the sound you’ve forged. But I don’t think that’s what we are doing. [laughs]
Clubplanet: What is your all time favorite read?
Probably Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It’s amazing. It’s a very very dense book. But it’s real. It’s really long so it seems more intimidating than it is. David Foster Wallace had published a lot of nonfiction as well but he’s probably most celebrated for this. A lot of people stop reading it a quarter of the way through only because it’s so long; which I don’t understand because I’ve read it three times. It speaks to me because his writing style is very conversational. And his vocabulary is absurd. He’s got a very extensive vocabulary. It seems like his word choice is pretentious, but he uses it accurately. I highly recommend it.
Clubplanet: What can we look forward to from you guys in the future?
We are hopefully going to record in the fall, tentatively in October. So we’ll probably not be doing very much after this Asian trip. Hopefully we’ll have a new record out early in the New Year. Touring all depends on when the records done. We’ll probably just start touring in the beginning of the year.