Ahead of their appearance at Nozstock: The Hidden Valley’s 2oth anniversary edition, we caught up with We Are Scientists’ Keith Murray…
It’s 8.30am (UK time) when I phone Keith Murray of We Are Scientists. Despite my time-changes, Keith’s incredibly friendly and immediately snaps me out of my early morning slump.
Their new album, Megaplex – their sixth (seventh “if you include Crap Attack, and technically it is a record”) – came out in April, and they’re as strong as ever. “It’s the most songs from a new album we’ve ever had on a setlist. We usually have to introduce them slowly, but people have been really enjoying them.”
It’s still nerve-wracking though, says Keith, putting out an album and saying “’we hope you like it as much as we do.’” If anything, he says, it’s more so. “People already like us, and we don’t want them to turn around and say, ‘Oh I did like We Are Scientists.’” Or, I suggest, they pretend they may support them regardless. “That’s even sadder!”
Luckily, it doesn’t seem to be an issue. Megaplex has been extremely well received, and is the mark of a band who’s sound has carried perfectly from the noughties until now. Have We Are Scientists had to change the way they make/release music?
It seems that it’s the releasing of music that’s changed, as is expected with the rise in streaming platforms. “Before, we didn’t really sell that many albums at the beginning, it sort of crept up. Whereas now, must sales happen in a week, and from then it’s just streaming. There’s also more long releases. They’ll do four singles, and then after that, the album’s out there. The act of putting out a record is definitely different.”
Something that’s also remained consistent throughout We Are Scientists’ career is the element of comedy. It’s something, I assume, that is tricky to make work for various audiences. The band, of course, play all around the world; do they have to work to make it transpire or does it just come naturally?
“I mean, it’s definitely not for everyone,” Keith muses, “but it helps that that’s who we are as people anyway. It’s not as if we’re putting on an act, that’s just the nature of my relationship with Chris.”
It does, perhaps, annoy people when they devote too much time to chatting, laughing, he admits, but it’s what’s expected from their shows. And, isn’t it nicer to have “two band members demonstrating their friendships rather than a frontman ranting about a stupid cause he thinks people want to hear about?” He’s right, and it’s this casual, intimate behaviour that seems to define We Are Scientists.
“We assume that people are talking to one and another, anyway, so why can’t we do the same?” Keith asks; a refreshing take on people chatting at gigs. If other people can have a beer together, they deserve to, as well, I add. “Yes! That’s exactly how we think of our shows. For better or worse we don’t regard our shows as a chance for us to be regarded by people who think we’re geniuses. Even though we think they should… It’s just like a party to have fun.” Indeed, if We Are Scientists turned up being super serious, if they suddenly put on some sort of pageantry, people definitely wouldn’t be happy. Or, they’d think it was part of the act.
And what about festivals? We Are Scientists play Nozstock: The Hidden Valley (with Chase & Status, Grandmaster Flash and loads more), amid various UK festivals this summer, but how do the muddy fields compare to US festivals?
“The culture of festivals is so much more established in the UK; the vibe is so much more immediate. It’s far more new for us, Coachella sort of kicked it off in 2000 but before then they were really rare.” As Keith says, Americans just “don’t really know how to do it. It feels like a big corporate event.”
There’s a community-feel to UK festivals, Keith says, big or small, that American festivals still haven’t figured out. Does he think it’s something they could ever work out?
“I mean, maybe. There are smaller festivals – there’s one in a beach in Alabama, which is sort of tailored to the American south indie scene. But generally everything has a model of being very big and shiny…”
There’s definitely something special about festivals here in the UK. Who would be on We Are Scientists’ ideal line-up?
“REM, definitely. They’re the only band we’ve ever been on tour with that I watched every minute of every show for 3 weeks. Weezer, probably. And The Big Moon. I feel like that’s a solid start to a festival. And us of course, playing after REM.”
“I would say wellies but I think you just have to decide that your clothes are going to be thrown away. Dress like an animal. And bring an anti-fungal spray/cream. Do they exist?”
And do they stick around?
“We like to when we can. Though our schedule often dictates that we can’t. It’s a rare chance for us to actually see other bands. We see ourselves every single night but no one plays after us. But usually we play and then get yelled at by our tour manager to get in a vehicle.”
Finally, who should we be listening to?
“Do you know Mitski? Her album came out, it must’ve been a couple of years ago now. I really got into it but then I forgot about it. Then the last three days I’ve had it on repeat. And The Big Moon, of course.”
We say our goodbyes after what has been an incredibly chirpy chat for half 8 in the morning. Keith represents a band that remains modest, dedicated and, most of all, funny. And with a slew of UK festival dates this summer, you’d be silly to miss them.
We Are Scientists play Nozstock: The Hidden Valley, alongside Chase & Status, Goldfrapp, The Selector, Grandmaster Flash and more, which takes place between Friday 20 & Sunday 22 July. For more dates visit – http://wearescientists.com/
Full Nozstock line-up – http://nozstock.com/line-up/