We Talk Rainbow 6, Rebecca Black and
Throwing Pies With American Alt-Rockers
We Are Scientists
As funny as the duo are, the brilliance of their music should not be overshadowed. We Are Scientists are one of most prolific bands originating from the mid noughties indie rock wave. This year, they released their 6th LP, Helter Seltzer and, like all of their previous albums, it's filled with catchy, exciting and lyrically honest alt-rock anthems.
We spoke to lead singer and guitarist Keith Murray ahead of their UK tour and asked whether it was hard whittling such a strong back catalogue into an hour and a half long setlist.
“When it comes to making a setlist, I'm a real slave to the single. When it's left up to me, I just go through our albums and say “Well, these are the three singles from this one, these are the three singles from this one and then that's a 15 song setlist right there. Then, I just toss in a couple of other album favourites. Now, there are some who would argue that that doesn't make for the most dynamic setlist. Chris, for example likes when we do B sides and stuff on our EPs that people don't hear all the time. I think it makes life more difficult for Chris who has a more nuanced setlist creation. I just want to go in there like a blunt hammer and just play all the hits so, for me, it makes life very easy.”
We enquire whether there were any of their most popular songs he would be quite happy to never play again. Whether We Are Scientists had a 'Creep' or 'Stairway To Heaven' taking the place of songs that the band would rather play.
“We switch out the singles sometimes. Even if I don't really care for a song, audience enthusiasm goes a long way towards making me enjoy playing it so even the crappiest song: if the audience likes it, I'll be excited for it.”
Since third LP, Brain Thrust Mastery, We Are Scientists have added a much richer production to their songs. We asked Keith how difficult it is relearning the songs given the band's minimal live set up (a guitar, a bass and a drum kit.)
“Yeah, it is pretty difficult when there are three guitar parts on the recording to try to distil it down to one guitar. Even on the albums where the production is a little more extravagant, they were all written just on a bass guitar with vocals recorded over it as a demo so they can all be translated. Sometimes the audience has to be willing for the version of the song to be slightly different. We tend to play our songs live with a little more frenetic energy than on the album anyway so I think once you've established that the live version of the song is a little different in its tone and vibe, you can sort of get away with treating it as if you're playing kind of a cover of your own song.
“I do admit that quite often the coupling of our video and our song is a matter of timing and coincidence unless there's a very specific connection like It's A Hit has the spawn of a boxing video involved.”
We ask Keith in more detail about the video for Buckle, Helter Seltzer's lead single. It features Keith throwing pies, sauce, feathers and glass jars at Chris Cain's face, only for Chris to answer Keith's “We good, brah?” with a nod and a handshake. I asked Murray if the two of them were, in fact, good after the shoot considering that Chris definitely got short end of the stick when it came to divvying up the roles.
We then bring up We Are Scientists' MTV series, Steve Wants His Money where the duo would try to con celebrities including Edith Bowman, Kano and Alphabeat in order to pay back an American loan shark. It's such a bizarre affair that we was curious about how involved MTV were with the making of it and whether there'd be another series.
“I think the investment on MTV's part for that was low enough financially and time-wise that they really let us do whatever we wanted. I think they had to curb some of our inclination for profanity, which we think is very funny but doesn't really play out well on family TV. I think the only real problem had was that we were really obsessed with Varsity Blues, the James Van Der Beek movie, and they didn't want to pay to license the cover of Varsity Blues so we had to blur it out in all the scenes we shot. We've talked about doing a second series of Steve Wants His Money. I think part of the problem with Steve Wants His Money is that part of the means by which we go about getting Steve his money is by fleecing and conning celebrities. The most annoying part of filming the Steve Wants His Money series is having to get on other people's schedule and go to where they need to shoot. I'd really like to cut that part of Steve Wants His Money but that is also an essential part of our characters, that we are thieving assholes who only want to exploit celebrities so we can't really cut that out of the concept.”
There was one celebrity in particular we wanted to ask Keith about. In 2014, 'Friday' songstress Rebecca Black expressed her admiration for We Are Scientists. We Are Scientist responded with enthusiasm, inviting her to perform with them on-stage. That was the last heard about it and we wanted to know if there was any hope for arguably the weirdest collaboration since Jack White teamed up with the Insane Clown Posse to cover Mozart (I'm not making that up. Jack White actually recorded a version of Leck mich im Arsch with the Insane Clown Posse.)
“She lived in Orange County, California, and we were playing a show there one time so we tried to arrange a hang out but didn't actually work out. I think she must've seen an episode of Steve Wants His Money.”
We ask Keith which We Are Scientists song would be best suited for a Rebecca Black cover.
“I think Rules Don't Stop would actually fit into her catalogue pretty well. It (Friday) has sort of got that freewheelin', end of the work week vibe that Rules tries to invoke as well.”
We suggest TV En Francais's slower number Don't Blow It. Lest we forget My Moment. The girl can power ballad.
“She should consider playing both of them and she's welcome to. I'm officially giving her clearance to engage both of our songs.”
We'd heard that the band were keen Rainbow 6 players so we finish by asking about their post-gig antics. Would they go out on the town or systematically break down terrorist cells from their bus instead?
“I think after-show is the only time (they're not playing Rainbow 6). Our adrenaline is already up from the concert that I think, if we started fighting terrorists, our hearts would simply explode. We're very committed to going out on the town and drinking after a show, then coming back with new found courage, from having been at a bar, and dealing out some terrible punishment for those terrorists.”