Interview: Keith from We Are Scientists

Every once in a great while comes a band so spectacular that they can only be described as “really good.” We Are Scientists is one such band. Now living in Brooklyn, the Scientists have gained moderate fame for their new UK single – Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt. In addition to this, their new album out on Virgin Records is due in the UK in the fall. Oddly enough, miscommunication and lost emails have set this interview back about a month and a half – as evidenced by the fact that I asked them about their “new” video. But thankfully Keith got me straightened out and provided the funniest, most informative interview ever to grace the pages of YANP.

Recently you were “discovered” by BBC Radio DJ Steve Lamacq. How exactly did this happen?
Our discovery by Steve Lamacq was largely due to our performance at SXSW, which was kind of a big deal, on a level that we hadn’t really anticipated. It was a crazy, super-packed industry event, which was something of a shock to us, but it panned out in a couple of nice ways for a theretofore unsigned band such as ourselves, perhaps the nicest of which was the whole Lamacq thing. He’d gotten his hands on the Wolf’s Hour through our UK booking agent, the incomparable Steve Zapp at ITB, and apparently really enjoyed it, because, after the show, he became a vocal proponent of our cause, for which we are in total debt to him. He’s a sweet guy, and seems to enjoy music for its own sake, which is nice to see in a person with as much power and esteem as he wields. Has it had much of an impact on our career? I guess it’s really to early too say for sure what the long-term impact will be, although it’s rather telling that, when I tell people in the US that I’m in We Are Scientists, I’m generally met with a blank stare, whereas in the UK, people occasionally know what the f*ck I’m talking about. Which, when you think about it, is kind of mind-blowing. I owe Steve Lamacq a box of chocolates, for sure. There’s another big-shot DJ at the BBC named Zane Lowe who’s been super-kind to us, too. So, that’s two boxes of chocolates being sent to the UK. Plus, also, another, third box to Steve Zapp for having been the catalyst.

What made you guys decide to go with Virgin Records?
The Virgin thing was essentially the product of our having recorded a decent collection of demos and then having made good on that promise with a strong album. The demos we made last summer (which we subsequently released commercially as “The Wolf’s Hour”) were shopped around to labels, etc., and got us some attention, and Virgin were really the first people to show serious interest. The nature of the music industry, though, is that nobody really likes to make the first move on anything (I’ve been working in the film industry for a while and it’s the same thing – corporate politics sort of ensure that everything moves at a glacial pace), so, rather than sit on our asses and wait for something to happen, we decided to cut everyone off at the pass and go ahead with recording the album ourselves. It turned out that we made a pretty sweet album, I guess, because a bunch of labels sat up, their noses twitching like crazy, and we started getting a bunch of attention. You’ve got to keep in mind, though, that that’s just sort of the way it works – once one label shows a bit of interest, they’ve all got to, so that, on the off chance that the band in question blows up, they can’t be accused of having missed the boat. But so yeah, Virgin were really the first on board, and they were by far the most enthusiastic and receptive to our personal ideas – they didn’t want us to change a thing on the album and pretty much seem to be interested in letting us do whatever hare-brained things we desire. In our book, enthusiasm goes a long way – we will date even the most homely and dull-witted of girls, if only they demonstrate some interest. Which, I’m realizing now, is a poor metaphor, as Virgin records is nothing if not a doe-eyed beauty, a debutante with a mind and spirit and body as pure and limber and responsive to the touch as any man has a right to crave. And, crave we do. Is this getting off-track? I don’t want this interview to veer into erotica.

What with all the hints on your website, I’ve just got to ask – what’s the new video? Can we expect it to have the usual WAS humor?
We shot a video in LA this month, and it is grand. It is for the song “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt,” and it involves a break- away plate-glass window, if that gives you any indication of how dedicated we are to delivering only the finest, most violent videos available.
> “Can we expect it to have the usual WAS humor?” Depends on what you mean by that. If you mean to insinuate that there is ever anything of the “usual” in our humor, then I must take issue. To suggest that there is anything pedestrian or predictable or mundane in our comedy is to reveal yourself to be a slavering troglodyte – we dip our fingers into all manner of the comedic: sometimes we’re into cerebral, wordy stuff, sometimes a good prat-fall will do the trick. Sometimes we are all about puns, sometimes a fart joke is what is necessary to liven up an otherwise dour Congressional hearing. On a first date, Michael has been known to break the ice with his stellar Jack Nicholson impersonation (key facets: hand pushing hair back from brow, eyebrows arched, nasal delivery of “Wait’ll they get a load of me,”), but sometimes he finds it necessary to recite from the pages of the Full House pilot script, which he carries on his person at all times. Whatever it takes, is all I’m saying, Matt.

You all have said that you kept the rights to all of your older material. Are there any plans to re-release your old albums and EPs?
The are currently no plans to re-release our previous albums. We are nothing if not a forward thinking band, a band dedicated to forging ahead, peering endlessly into the future, while other bands might wallow in the present, where they know for a fact that Full House is still on in syndication. We essentially play only our most recent cache of songs. Why? Because that’s all we’re really interested in. Do you wallow in your past, dear Matt, poring over your elementary-level spelling lessons, framing your kindergarten finger-paintings, forcing your friends to read aloud from middle school school book reports? I suspect you don’t. i hope you don’t. The point is, we think we keep getting better at this, and, hopefully, we’ve got even stronger songs in our future.

We Are Scientists has a remarkably strong fan base; why do you think that is?
As far as the loyalty of our fan base goes, we love our listenership, but I’m not sure that we’ve really tested their devotion at this point. Have we? Wait until we put out our jazzy a cappella album, friend, and then we will see which of these splitters is still hanging around Casa de We Are Scientists.

A vile question, I know…but what bands influenced you as you were forming We Are Scientists?
I think all of us listen to too disparate a selection of music to really give a nice, pat answer to the question of our overarching influences. I will say that living in NYC and listening to and befriending many of the bands who’ve been out here since 2001 has affected us profoundly. If you’re in a band, you should move to New York, ASAFP.

More than in other bands, though, we find our musical inspiration in the minutiae of daily life: the coo of a baby, wet grass against bare skin, foaming blood on the muzzle of a guard dog.

What have been some of your favorite albums of the past five years?
Good albums of the past five years, eh?

Bishop Allen put out a pretty sweet record called CHARM SCHOOL a few years back. I have to admit that I’m a far bigger fan of their live show than of the album itself – the incarnation of the group that’s existed for the past year or two (since we’ve known them) is truly tremendous, and Christian Owens and Jack Delamitraux are an invaluable addition – they give the whole thing a hell of a lot of intensity. She plays bass with fantastic attitude, and he is a drummer of incomparable ferocity – no crap, he is my favorite performer in music to watch at work. But, in any case, the songwriting on the album itself is superb – Rudder and Rice are a formidable pair, no doubt. The melodies are catchy as hell, and the lyrics are some of the best that I’ve yet been unfortunate enough to have to compare to my own. Smart, talented kids, that crew. Live, though, these four are on fire, and I have no doubt that our own growth as a live band is due to our having played alongside them so frequently – you can’t afford to suck when people have an act like BA to immediately compare you to. People are going to be listening to Bishop Allen thirty years from now, for sure.

Also, a British band called Editors have a new album called THE BACKROOM coming out in the UK, although I think that they don’t yet have distribution in the US, which is absurd. We played a string of shows with them the last time we were in the UK, and they blew our minds anew every night. Ask any touring band what they do when the other bands on any given bill are playing, and, if they’re honest, they’ll admit that they usually go out for a bite, make a phone call, or, like, lurk in the bathroom – anything to avoid watching another shitty, anonymous band. Suffice it to say that for nine nights in a row, all three members of We Are Scientists stood shamelessly in the front row, singing along to every Editors song. These guys NEED to be huge, or else there is no justice in the world. Think Interpol, if Interpol were totally awesome – better melodies, better players, WAY better lyrics. If their guitarist weren’t perfect, I’d honestly try to unseat him and take his place in the band.

We Are Scientists Official Site
We Are Scientists Official Message Board
Photos by Sarah Thompson

We Are Scientists MP3s:
Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt (Wolf’s Hour version)
Great Escape (Wolf’s Hour version)

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8 thoughts on “Interview: Keith from We Are Scientists”

  1. Wow…can such an interview disappoint? I mean, an interview with WAS(or well 1/3 of it)? Hazaa!

  2. ah, damn. i’m in the middle of doing an interview with these boys…i wish i had seen this first! nicely done. tWAS is about to EXPLODE.

  3. i fucking LOVE keith! he is the hottest guy EVER! shame he’s american though… oh well he’s still worth a shag x x x

  4. have to love keith and WAS. good interview. i cant wait until they finally come to my state(hopefully if ever).

  5. Great interview. I’ve been watching these guys develop their sound and build their fan base for several years. It’s great to see them now on the brink of stardom.

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