New York based band, We Are Scientists, are about to release their sixth album, Megaplex next month. Keith Murray (guitar/vocals) and Chris Cain (bass), are once again set to dazzle with ten new addictive indie rock tracks. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch up with lead singer Keith to find out what fans can expect from the new album, how their approach to touring has changed over the years and how a University of Portsmouth student came to make the video for their track ‘Headlights.’
Could you tell me about how you initially got involved with music and who influenced you most?
When I was about 14, my sister had a boyfriend who was in a band. They were the sort of hair metal concern that still existed in the early 90s, before grunge unseated that whole scene. Anyway, my love for bands like Poison at that time made me susceptible to his musical output, and I happily played guitar with him every chance I got. We performed together a couple of times, at some coffee shops and a high school event, but never anything very serious at all, so it was a good, low-pressure education for me. He taught me how to harmonize vocally and got me comfortable performing live.
I was also in a garage band in high school. We mainly just got together at Jeff Hendrickson’s house and drank soda and played Rage Against the Machine songs. Good times.
Could you tell me about how the pair of you met and the origins of the We Are Scientists?
Chris and I met in college, outside of Los Angeles. I first met him while he was hosting a Dawson’s Creek viewing party — I didn’t know much about the show, but I had just transferred to the university and I needed to make some friends, so I was going to take them wherever I found them. Our friendship was largely based on Television, film and comedy for about two years, until we graduated from college and realized that the real world was a dark and horrible place to live and that we might be able to avoid it for a little while longer if we formed a band. We were right. Who knew?
For those who are new to your music which three tracks would you encourage them to check out first and why?
I guess I’d tell them to start with After Hours, as that song is sort of the template for our particular brand of up-tempo melodic hook-based jams, emphasizing melancholic optimism. Then, maybe, I’d point them towards Buckle – it’s the sort of sludgy, heavy rock that I like to think that we traffic in, even if it is just fundamentally another melodic pop tune under some distorted guitar and thumping drums. Then maybe I’d finish by pointing them toward One In, One Out — I think it’s the truest reveal yet of our undying love for Top 40 pop radio, which is the fundament of everything we do, really.
Could you tell me about how you became aware of University of Portsmouth student, Oliver Moore’s fan-made video for ‘Headlights,’ and how it became the official video of the track?
He actually reached out and contacted us about the video, which he had made of his own accord. We loved it, and since we didn’t have any plans for an alternative video for that song, anyway, we adopted his as the official video. We admired his gumption!
Our friendship was largely based on Television, film and comedy for about two years, until we graduated from college and realized that the real world was a dark and horrible place to live and that we might be able to avoid it for a little while longer if we formed a band. We were right. Who knew?
I really hate the initial sharing of my music. It’s pretty silly that, six albums in, I still make all of this music for myself, as if nobody else will ever hear it.
How do you feel that ‘Megaplex’ compares and contrasts to your previous releases?
I think it’s got some of our biggest hooks, and I think it’s my favourite production approach. It has some of the smoothest electronic sounds of any WAS record, but it’s also got some disgusting, raw, crunchy sounds, as well. We did way more pre-production ourselves, on this record — we did some of the actual tracking and arrangements on our own, between sessions with Max (the producer), so we really feel that the sound of this record represents our particular vision for the songs, more than usual.
How do you feel when you share your music for the first time? Do you prefer to share new music live where you can see the crowd’s reaction first hand or online perhaps?
I really hate the initial sharing of my music. It’s pretty silly that, six albums in, I still make all of this music for myself, as if nobody else will ever hear it. It’s always jarring to finally have to share it, in every stage of creation – even showing demos to Chris causes me to break into a cold sweat. So, yeah, the actual revelation always gives me the creeps. I love the songs that we make, but I’m not narcissistic enough to believe that that automatically guarantees that anybody else will. As such, I always prefer to share music remotely – I love it when people find the albums on their own and then come to the shows already loving every note.
I was first introduced to you when I became aware of We Are Scientists with the release of ‘With Love and Squalor’ and since then you have consistently produced good music. What is your secret?
I mainly think that it’s because we still make music out of actual love of writing songs that get us personally excited. If we were doing this only because it’s our chosen profession and source of personal income, I’m sure we’d be writing really cynical, tepid tunes. But, yeah, writing songs is still my favourite hobby in the world, so there’s always a lot of enthusiasm behind it. It also helps that loving the process means that we write dozens and dozens of songs for each album, and then we choose the ten album tracks based on which ones with think other people will like. We have a huge stockpile of songs that we personally like, but if we think that the bulk of our audience isn’t going to love them, as well, then they don’t belong on a record.
What bands and artists are you currently listening to and how are they inspiring you to explore and implement new ideas with your music?
I’m pretty into Top 40 pop at the moment. Weird crap like Shawn Mendez and Maroon 5, which are so cheesy and pointedly aimed at pleasing the music-buying crowd that there’s something confusing and compelling to me, about them. They make me try to figure out what aspects of our songs can be pushed into the super-hook category. It seems like all of those songs are written by committee with eight different producers on deck, so I’m never worried that our songs, written on our own in our little studios, will ever feel quite as anonymous as any of those corporate pop tracks.
I’m also really into Dream Wife from London and Simon Doom from New York City. Both of them are raw rock bands with great hooks, which is how I fundamentally always think of We Are Scientists.
Over the years has your approach to performing live and touring changed and if so how?
Not really. We’ve always wanted our shows to be as much fun as possible. To me, as an audience member, a show that is purely enjoyable on a base level is always more memorable than one that was super-professional or just demonstrated a performer’s skill. To me, our shows are just parties that we’ve thrown, and the audience is made up of our personal guests. A good host should always make sure that his guests have a great time.
What does the rest of 2018 have in store for you?
Touring, touring, touring, and then hopefully some more songwriting, in between.
This Wednesday the band begin their UK tour at The Joiners in Southampton. If you haven’t already got tickets then the show is already sold out. Not to brag but Chris will be there and will be reviewing the show, so you’ll be able to find out what you missed. In the meantime, check out the links below to find out how you can get your hands on a copy of Megaplex.