We Are Scientists return! The infamous duo, Keith Murray (guitar/vocals) and Chris Cain (bass) are back on the road with Megaplex, their hot off the press sixth album of colourful and utterly addictive fun-bomb pop. Set to dazzle the world with ten melodious molten nuggets — a welcome distraction to these bleak times in which we live — the band are currently on tour in the UK and stopped for a quick chat to clear up some fundamental questions about chickens, cocktails and Ed Sheeran.
So you are obviously keen on smoking cats, but what are your views on dressed up animals? I’m talking any clothes ranging from a stylish rain jacket to full-on regalia?
Look, we abide feline smoking because that’s a choice they’ve made. It’s a *bad* choice, yes, but at least they’ve been given agency. When you put a hat on a dog or a coat on a horse or high heels on a lizard or a belt with gun holsters on a chicken, you’re just being a jerk who can overpower that poor idiot animal. If a chicken wants to wear a gun belt, then let it put it on itself.
My last WAS gig was Cambridge Junction (clearly my life has not been the same after Keith jumped into the crowd to sing Textbook). Your crowds tend to love a party – how do UK/European audiences vary to those in the US?
Here’s something that may come as a surprise to amateur anthropologists – casual studies reveal that people, worldwide, love to party. They carouse in Colombia, they frolic in France, they revel in Romania, they make merry in Malaysia. So, yeah, everyone is pretty similar, when you reduce mankind down to its one universal trait: a love of partying to the music of We Are Scientists.
I’m Megaplexcited (see what I did there..?) for this new album and tour and eternally grateful for the band’s prolific outpourings. Can you tell us a little about the processes behind writing a new album, both lyrically and musically? Do the songs which don’t make the final cut (I understand you had over 90 possibles for Megaplex) ever see the light of day in subsequent albums?
We just made a point of writing our butts off, while creating contenders for this record, and all of them came about in different ways. Some, like Your Light Has Changed, started with a lyrical phrase and the music was crafted to fit it, whereas other simply had phonetic lyrics until the last minute. We almost never reuse songs that haven’t made an album. One or two bypassed songs might survive from the Mexaplex sessions, but we enjoy writing so much that we feel like we’d be depriving ourselves of the joy of creating, if we just used those for the next record.
WAS gigs are known for the band’s energy, enthusiasm and banter — but there must be times when you’re just not feeling it, so how do you psych yourselves up before going on stage and are there things which audiences do/don’t, which affect this? Equally, some bands can have a cult following in the most unlikely of places — where are WAS’s craziest crowds?
Having a nice Margarita or Negroni or Tom Collins or French 75 or Aperol spritz or Manhattan or Paloma or Old Fashioned usually gets us in the mood to play, regardless of our prior mood. Audiences really should be made to know that their attitude profoundly affects the quality of a show – if they come to the venue ready demonstrate their enthusiasm, then the whole gig is almost guaranteed to go well.
Who comes up with the set-lists and what’s your favourite track to play live?
I guess I write about 90% of the set lists – I tend to go with the guaranteed crowd-pleasing tunes, so if you see a set in which we play every single we’ve ever released, then I probably wrote it. I really love playing Your Light Has Changed, off of the new record.
Any pre/post gig rituals? I hear that The Bieber’s requests have included a Jacuzzi, PlayStation and massage table, whilst our very own Mr Edward Sheeran’s debauched demands are far more low-key: a bottle of squash and some posh honey will do him. What are your riders of choice?
I don’t want to disabuse you of any romantic notions about Ed Sheeran, but I will eat my hat if it’s true that he’s perfectly happy showing up to a show at, say, Wembley Stadium to find that the dressing room has been stocked with nothing more than squash and honey. Does he just mix the squash and honey? In what? The palm of his hand?
We once had a rider that asked for puppies – we just wanted people to bring cute baby dogs for us to play with. Nobody actually brought a legitimate puppy, but a few promoters brought some full-grown dogs to the venue, and it was absolutely great.
Which one of you is the diva and what do you do to avoid on-tour bickering?
We’re both divas in our own ways. The best way to avoid on-tour bickering is to make sure that your diva tendencies don’t overlap -– that way, the stupid things that we’re petty about don’t get compounded by mutually-infantile reactions.
Thinking back through the mists of time, what have been the biggest changes and challenges for you as a band, since you started out recording and touring?
We used to not bring our juicer on tour, and I’ll tell you what: making a margarita with fresh lime juice is a real nightmare if you try to squeeze every lime by hand. Even a basic, manual hand-juicer is a professional must-have.
What are your interests/hobbies outside of writing and performing, things which help you relax, refocus or simply tune out of this crazy world for a bit?
We like comedy, cinema, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2, and long walks on the beach.
Spielberg is making a WAS film — it may even be 3D if you’re lucky — who would play you guys?
Spielberg himself would play Chris, and Martin Scorcese would play Keith.
We Are Scientists new album Megaplex is available now and they are in Birmingham on Sunday 6th May at o2 Institute.
Interview: Sally Hamilton
Photographs: Courtesy of PR.