Interview with We Are Scientists’ Keith Murray

scientistNew York indie rockers by way of Berkley, Calif., We Are Scientists are one of those acts that aren’t afraid to push boundaries and try out different things. One song will be a Fugazi-tinged alt-punk scorcher while another can sound like a mainstream pop hit. They’re currently in the midst of “The Splatter Analysis Tour” with Floridian indie rockers Surfer Blood and Roanake, Va., psych-shoegaze act Eternal Summers. I had a chance to chat with guitarist and vocalist Keith Murray about working with Ash’s Tim Wheeler, America vs. The UK and a special little 7″ vinyl available at their shows.

Rob Duguay: On October 1, We Are Scientists will perform at The Sinclair in Cambridge, Mass., as part of “The Splatter Analysis Tour” with Surfer Blood and Eternal Summers. There will be a special joint vinyl that’ll be sold at the show as well. Can you tell us a little about what to expect from the 7″?

Keith Murray: “Distillery” was a song we wrote and recorded in the very early stages of writing TV En Français. We spent a day in a studio in London and recorded three or four songs as potential demos. As we kept writing for the album, though, the tone of the record as a whole started to shift, and we didn’t quite feel that the songs we’d already tracked quite fit with the new batch of tunes we were working on. We really loved those songs though, and “Distillery” was our favorite of that batch, so we leapt at the chance to use it for something as cool as a split 7″ with the Surfer Blood gang.

RD: This past March We Are Scientists put out their fourth album, TV en Francais, which featured Ash’s Tim Wheeler on backing vocals as well as assisting in engineering the record with acclaimed producer Chris Coady. What was the experience like having Tim being part of the record?

KM: Tim’s pretty much the nicest guy in the world. Nobody who knows him would ever dispute this fact. I kind of always forget that Ash are such a massive deal everywhere in the world; that’s how nice he is. He and I are the only two members of the Zodiac Killers, a club we invented to celebrate our love of Selmer Zodiacs, probably the finest amplifiers ever made. Tim lent me his Zodiac to record TV En Français because mine, which he helped me acquire, was in storage in London. He’s a damn good man.

RD: As an alternative rock band from America, We Are Scientists have had a very unique response to their music. In the United Kingdom, their past four albums have each made the charts and have gotten successful, where in America they’ve always had a keen underground following. From your experiences in both markets, what’s your impression of America vs. The United Kingdom when it comes to popular music?

KM: I think that, especially at the time we released our first album, British radio was playing a lot more of the sort of music that we slotted into genre-wise. On US radio, we kinda had the Killers and Franz Ferdinand, but that was really all I could stomach. Radio in the UK was chock full of angular guitars and disco beats, and so we were able to get our collective foot in the door a little more easily. I think it’s telling that “After Hours,” the lead single from our second album, did a lot better in the States. It’s more of a straight ahead pop song than anything on With Love And Squalor. It feels like DJs in the UK are more comfortable getting weird and playing more-left field stuff than in the US, where, frankly, commercial radio pretty much just stinks.

RD: Has We Are Scientists ever considered moving to London to intertwine themselves with what’s happening in the UK?

KM: We thought about it for a while, and it does seem like it would make a lot of sense and be professionally helpful, but the fact of the matter is that we just love New York too much to ever really leave for good. We lived in London for a few months around the time that Brain Thrust Mastery came out, and we had a great time, but you know what it really boils down to? The Mexican food in the UK is just not very good. At all. I’m not claiming that NYC’s Mexican restaurants are all that great, mind you, but man, England’s Mexican food situation is pretty shocking. I guess, in the UK, they got so busy perfecting their Indian offerings that they forgot to work on their tacos, and more importantly, their margaritas. Until they sort that situation out, we’ll be staying on Mexico’s continent.

RD: After this tour with Surfer Blood, what’s next?

KM: We’ve got a final European tour happening at the end of October, and then it’s back to work on our next record, which we hope to start recording at the beginning of next year. It looks like we’ve got a great producer on board, a guy we’ve wanted to work with for years, and we’ll probably record this one in New York City again, which will be nice. So yeah, it looks like after this tour wrap we’re home for the foreseeable future, writing tomorrow’s greatest hits.

Any fan of weird and cool rock music should try to catch one of their shows on the tour.

We Are Scientists’ website: wearescientists.com

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