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We Are Scientists

By Ryan Zakin-- April 24, 2018

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to Keith Murray, the voice and guitar behind indie-rock juggernauts We Are Scientists, over the phone. A man who holds up to his reputation as a hilarious individual, we had discussed a series of topics in our half-hour conversation, ranging from the nostalgic to the future. Here’s a transcript of some of the highlights:

Ryan Zakin: So, do you guys still pre-game on Margaritas before the show?
Keith Murray: (Laughs) Do we ever! One huge problem with being successful in the UK is that, well, tequila there just really sucks. Because of that, we've very recently began implanting new rule; When we go to the UK, we bring our own tequila with us.

Zakin: Do you still consider We Are Scientists a pop band?
Murray: Yeah I do, in fact I think maybe more than ever. Back then (in reference to their early years) we were very much a pop rock band. Nowadays, we’ve veered into writing straight up pop songs.

Zakin: Tell me about the newest of your four singles, "Heart Is A Weapon"
Murray: So this is definitely the song that we consider our most “poppy” tune, and we saw it heading in that direction while recording. First, we wondered, “Do we want to full-on dive into that”? Especially because the demo was very guitar driven, but one day we were like “Let's mock it up”, and we (expletive) loved it.

Zakin: It seems as though “Heart Is A Weapon” follows a trend of New Wave pop that many bands of your age and stature are following. Were you aware of this going into the new album or was it just a coincidence?
Murray: I think it was more of just a coincidence, but it makes sense why that happened. Alot of it has to do with us being all roughly the same age. As kids in the 80s, we all heard people like Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, etc. So these were subconsciously cultural influences on us, and were part of our musical fabric, whether we liked it or not!

Zakin: Did any specific influences influence the sounds of this album?
Murray: I’m always listening to Hall and Oates, and I think on the songs you can hear a little bit of Peter Gabriel as well.

Zakin:  What should fans get out of this new album?
Murray: Well, we’re pretty well-practiced songwriters these day so  the core focus nowadays is to make the music gratifying for people. It’s about creating ultimate pleasure!

Zakin: So, the band formed in California, but moved to New York. Which do you prefer?
Murray: It’s always gonna be New York for me. I definitely go through phases, and as I get older and look at settling down, the ease of life in California starts to look pretty good. But then I think about it, and I can’t leave New York.

Zakin: What’s your favorite phase of Britney Spears’ career?
Murray: (Laughs) Wow, I don’t really know. To be honest, I’m very unfamiliar with the whole phenomenon. If I had to pick an era, it would be the Toxic-era! That’s probably my favorite song too. Oh, and the big snake phase, where she carried the big yellow snake around.

Zakin: So, you currently work with 100% Records (A UK-based label). Why work with a label across borders, instead of one a little more local?
Murray: So we’ve always been more popular in the UK, so it kinda made sense to work over there. It's essentially the market we need to work the most.

Zakin: Why do you think you sell better in the UK?
Murray: The style of our first record was pretty mainstream to their standards. Bands like The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand were big at the time that we came up. We got treated alot better because of it and were constantly on the radio and MTV. Here (in the US) we were just a cool indie rock band.

Zakin: What’s the best thing that has happened to you while you have been in the band?
Murray: To me, the more records we make, the weirder noises begin to make a huge deal. They become really important to us. We also had a short comedy series on MTV that had nothing to do with us as a band (laughs), but I think of that of a good sign that we were held in some esteem!

Zakin: Any advice for the young-ins looking to make it in music?
Murray: It’s funny, because not really. The landscape of music has changed a lot since we first started. I have ideas about it, about what a band should do, but labels don’t have the same functions or clout that they used to have. There’s a lot more noise to cut through. I don’t really know, unfortunately.

But, you can do so much of it (recording) at home! We couldn't record a good demo for our first record at home.

Zakin: Are you excited for your show at the Bowery Ballroom next month?
Murray: Always. New York is always super fun to play, but kinda stressful. All friends and family show up, so that’s an added pressure, but it also fun to play for your hometown.

Zakin: Any other exciting spots you’re playing this year?
Murray: I’m pretty excited about Italy! We don’t do well there, but the show will be fun (laughs). There’s one show in Milan, then Bologna, then some festival in the middle of nowhere towards the end.

Zakin: Any good words you’d like to leave the readers with?
Murray: When asked that question, I often cite the cinematic wonder of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure: “Be Excellent”

Ryan Zakin is a writer, musician, and songwriter from New York City. He has been with Musiqtone since early 2018, covering a variety of interviews, reviews, and concerts in the blossoming New York rock scene.
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