INTERVIEW: We Are Scientists – 16/03/2014 – Norwich Waterfront

After bumping into Superfood, briefly discussing the finer points of New Balance trainers with new drummer Keith Carne, we were kindly escorted upstairs in the We Are Scientists tour bus.

we-are-scientists-norwich-waterfront-16-marHaving settled in, we were obviously curious as to what X-Box games keep indie music royalty captivated whilst on the road, so we took it upon ourselves to investigate. The results, quite frankly, needed explanation. How coincidental then that Keith Murray should burst through the curtains (complete with what appeared to be a pint of margarita) exclaiming “REBECCA EXCELL!” at the top of his lungs. We were given fifteen minutes and we ended up taking forty-five and here’s why…

Mark Wood: Have you had a chance to play anything?

Keith Murray: Not really, we’re really into… as you might have noted by the number of iterations of it, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2(Keith goes on to show us) Here’s one, here’s number two, here’s number three. We’ve bought it numerous times.

Becky Excell: Why?

KM: Well we don’t usually bring games on tour, but then when you show up and the bus doesn’t have that one game… it’s the only multiple player game we’re invested in.

MW: I actually read an interview you did, quite recently, involving that game and Seabreezes.

KM: Oh you’re referring to the Hamburg show! Yeah I was young and inexperienced at that point. I didn’t know the power of a Seabreeze  or of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.

MW: It’s a shame they haven’t released a number 3…

KM: They were threatening to! Are we filming right now?!

BE: Yep.

KM: Ok, so this is totally undermining any cool factor we might have.

So… Ubisoft the company who produce Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 seem to have retracted Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Patriots. So if any of you are listening and can help get this game out… PLEASE! They released a trailer and everything for it!

MW: How long ago was that?

KM: It was supposed to come out over a year ago.

BE: This has become a very serious conversation… I don’t really know what you are talking about!

MW: Sorry! … (but continues) it’s quite an old game right?

KM: Yeah,  well that’s the thing, none of us are really into video games before we started touring; but when you live on a tour bus, games definitely pass the time, although there has been relatively little gaming recently. I actually experienced Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 at a gaming convention. A Microsoft based convention in London at the O2.

MW: And you were hooked ever since?

KM: Well yeah, I can never remember what the circumstances were… but I remember flying in separately from everyone else, and I got into London like 5 or 6 hours before anybody else that I knew. So I just got in the car at the airport and was just taken there and they had like a VIP lounge where they had consoles. I had several hours to kill so I thought I might as well play several things. Everybody loves Rock Band… pathetic wretch of a game! Not the slight bit interested in that, but I tell you what… hunting terrorists… Tom Clancy style, it did something to my mind; so we begged them to give us an Xbox and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 and they did… it ruined a lot of my life!

MW: Well I’m glad you’ve got three copies then, some would say that’s excessive…

KM: Well, the problem is, it doesn’t occur to me, well, until this tour to bring a clutch of games! We keep showing up for tour and being like, “you know what I could really use right now… Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2.”

MW: I’m going to buy it just based on this conversation.

KM: It’s honestly amazing. But what’s funny about it is that now that I carry it around with me, these days if you go to any video game store it costs about £3. So I might as well just buy it. It’s so old that nobody wants it anymore!

MW: Your tour manager said you were filming something… you were filming it yourselves? We’re curious!

KM: Yeah, to be honest I don’t feel it helps one bit, so I don’t know why we still insist on doing it. We were filming essentially ads for our Spanish and Australian Shows that are coming up. I think we mainly do them because we own a green screen and we want to use that as often as humanly possible!

BE: Were you speaking in Spanish?

KM: Chris speaks pretty good Spanish. I hope this isn’t going up anytime soon as it will spoil it! My Spanish is abysmal and I keep using incorrect Spanish words.

MW: I hope this will go up on YouTube, I can’t wait to see.

KM: Oh, it’ll be up on YouTube.

BE: Right so we actually have some real questions to ask you too!

KM: Oh, don’t worry about those, I’ve got lots I can talk about.

(Becky shows Keith the start of our questions. The first word is just “Hello”.)

BE: Do you like how my questions start

KM: Just so you remember to be polite.

BE: Right so… Hello!

KM: Hello, how are you?!

BE: I’m very well, how are you?

KM: I’m alright. I was anticipating that question so I knew how to answer it.

BE: Perfect! I hear you’re having Chinese for dinner tonight?

KM: I’m not.  For the first time on this tour I’m not going in on the gang delivery. As you probably imagine, having food delivered to a venue at 11pm means that you’re kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of cuisine.

MW: 11pm?!

KM: Yeah well, we usually start at 9:30, but tonight we start at 9pm so we could theoretically have it by 10:45! We eat really, really badly on tour. But today, I am ashamed to admit where I bought it from, I just needed salad. I’m also a vegetarian. So I went to Marks and Spencer… no offense to Marks and Spencer but at least Marks and Spencer has a little tub of greens, I bought their Superfood thing, which is Edamame, Quinoa, Lentils and something else. I need at least one day of not eating anything but curries! We don’t have any problem with that, but this would be day four. Sorry, if we had eaten curry last night in Birmingham, where you’re suppose to get the Balti, that would have been day four… which I really wanted to do but I just couldn’t.

BE: What did you opt for last night then?

KM: Oh god, this is getting humiliating. I promise we don’t usually do chains, despite the fact I just said I bought salad from Marks and Spencer. Last night, we did Wagamammas. I mean, I like Wagamamma, but I feel like chains mean you’re getting crappy food. Maybe I’m just being prejudicial against chains. To be fair I do like Wagamamma, but, there is something that bums you out about chains.

MW: Well I guess it’s like you can eat Wagamammas like everywhere that you go.

KM: We did that for a while. There was a period very early on when we were doing van tours where we probably ate Wagamamma and Pizza Express six days a week… and then a kebab the seventh.

MW: What toll does that have on a person?

KM: It almost kills you! Well, at Pizza Express we would get the salad… Nostrano Salad sans chicken, WHICH THEY NO LONGER OFFER, PIZZA EXPRESS!

What was the actual question?

MW: The question was, are you having Chinese for dinner?

KM: Oh! So, no I am not having Chinese tonight. I am having a Marks and Spencer pre-packaged salad. (Keith mimes pointing a gun at his head and pulling the trigger.)

MW: So you’re not feeling good about that?

KM: Well fundamentally I am glad that I’ve done that, but I know that after I finish playing the last thing I’m going to want is a goddamn bowl of greens with Edamame! I’m going to want some fried rice!

BE: I know that they’ve got Percy Pigs in your dressing room!

KM: I bought those! I had heard from my tour manager, when he heard that I was vegetarian, that the Marks and Spencer vegetarian Percy Pigs are not only delicious, but more delicious than the non vegetarian ones.

MW: That’s quite a claim.

BE: I’ve never tried one.

KM: I mean, they’re ok, you’re more than welcome to one.  So I bought them for him, but to say that he was ungracious is maybe a bit unfair… he was excited by their presence but immediately demanded that I take them away because he would eat them all immediately.  So he told me to give him two and then keep the bag. I don’t want the bag though, I mean, they are ok but its just candy… I don’t want to gorge on candy.

BE: I’ll go take a couple later then.

KM: Oh by all means, Johnny our tour manager will thank you.

(Mark is fiddling with a bit of paper with some questions on it)

I keep on thinking you’re rolling a cigarette but you’re taking a really long time doing it! Give me this!

(Keith grabs the piece of paper).

MW: NOO, you’ll know what questions to expect now! What did you see?!

KM: I saw The Fly, Chris Coady, Keith Carne and uh… Muse!

MW: Ok, just pretend you didn’t see them! Well the first one, you obviously hosted The Fly Awards…

KM: And ended The Fly apparently!

BE: You’ve answered my question there! My question was… is there any correlation between you hosting The Fly Awards and the publication eventually shutting down?!

KM: My joke is that our fee was too high, but really our fee was not too high! But, I think we may have consumed too much of their alcohol and their tab was just exorbitant.

BE: I’m disappointed, because we weren’t there, you supposedly wrote a lot of good material and we haven’t heard or seen any of it.

KM: Yeah, I know. I can’t tell if I’m grateful or disappointed that it wasn’t broadcast in any way. We were pretty psyched about it. We definitely underestimated the amount of comedy we would have to write. We essentially wrote about and hour and a half’s worth of stand up. Which is a brutal quantity of stand up… pretty much no comedians do an hour and a half of stand up. I mean Louis C.K.’s Specials are an hour long max and he’s the greatest! We Are Scientists however, do an hour and a half… but okay, there are two of us, so that is 45 minutes each.

MW: I thought there might be like a live feed or at least some coverage afterwards…

KM: I guess now that The Fly has dissolved… I feel it’s OK to say it was supposed to be on XFM but they seem to have pulled out beforehand. They were like a partner of it.

BE: Are you disappointed then that you spend all that time preparing for it?

KM: No, in fact we were pretty convinced that it would not translate to on air listening, so there is a part of me that is relieved. I think XFM were correct in not broadcasting it. Award Shows are really boring.

MW: I thought with you guys hosting it though…

KM: The thing is, unless the award show is incredibly well curated and managed there is a lot of down time… huge pauses and people giving frankly pretty solipsistic speeches that nobody cares about.

MW: What was the highlight of yours and Chris’s presence there? Because I mean I’ve seen in the past videos of you doing stuff at the NME Awards.

KM: I feel like the NME Awards are a good example of why something should not really be live unless it’s like The Oscars or something. The NME Awards, the broadcasts come out like a week later because a team of editors has to cut that down to something remotely watchable. Most of the awards ceremonies are just down time and people like standing on the stage like Jarvis Cocker. (Imitates) “Should I go back and talk right now?” and then the guys from Foals are like breaking shit on a table and they edit it down into 45 minutes of eminently watchable stuff.

(The tour manager arrives to see how we are getting on)

KM: Oh man I think we are like still on the first question! I don’t have another interview do I?

Tour Manager: I can switch it!

KM: I thought Cain was doing the other one?

Tour Manager: No there’s another one as well!

KM: Ohh… a ruse interview, eh?

BE: Well our interview is going pretty well… a bit slow, but that’s Keith’s fault!

Tour Manager: Oh tell me about it, you try working with him 24/7! I’ll leave you to it!

KM: Right, sorry. So what’s this about Muse?

MW: Wow, you even remembered what order the questions are in! I heard that Muse offered you some advice… is that true?

KM: Well, I mean I feel perspective is important here. We didn’t have a mentorship with Muse. We were talking to Dom and we were playing some songs and he was like “You guys need to make a heavy rock record” it was that casually issued. It wasn’t like he sat us down and was like “I’ve thought a lot about We Are Scientists career and I’m really putting myself on the line here, and you need to do this, and I’m the producer!” He was literally like (downing some more margarita) “You guys should make a heavy rock record”. And we were like “Yeah we totally do!” And that isn’t actually what we made; I mean we didn’t actively disregarded his advice, we weren’t defying Dom; we simply just didn’t make that record. One of these days I don’t mind making the Dom curated heavy rock record. But that’s not what this one was, that’s not what was in our hearts!

MW: So do you have any advice for Muse?

KM: Make a heavy rock record?!

MW: I think they might take that as an insult?!

KM: I’m just kidding! I think they should make an easy going, sensitive, deeply personal record. My advice to them is to stop challenging the government or one of them is going to get snipped at some point.

MW: That is some good advice.

BE: I think we might try and gear things toward the new record now?

KM: Pfft.. please… what record?

BE: I heard you have a new album out?!

KM: You heard we had a new record out?! Now that is some poor preparation for an interview!

BE: No, just kidding, we were actually sitting in the car outside earlier and we had the windows down, listening to the new album. What is your personal highlight off the new album?

KM: Chris has purported that I am incredibly fickle because I definitely do change my mind all the time. I think right now I like ‘Return the Favour’ the most. I was really into ‘Make it Easy’… a week ago? And I’m still into it, I haven’t discarded it as total garbage… just slightly garbage.

BE: So what will tomorrow’s highlights be?

KM: I don’t know, I’ve been slightly resistant to the charms of ‘Don’t Blow It’. It was one of my favourites when we wrote it but we have been rehearsing it, it’s not in the set yet but I’m really coming round to it. I think ‘Don’t Blow It’ will be the next one.

BE: What delayed the release of this album? We interviewed you back in July 2012 and you said that the album was going to be released in 2013.

KM: A lot of things actively delayed it, just administratively. Our initial intention was that we didn’t want to make it with the same producer that made our last three records; simply because we wanted to make it with someone else. And then he found out about this and became very adamant that he should produce it again. So we were like “Oh I guess that changes our mind about things… so lets talk about how this will work” so that ate up a few months. Oh and he is also now one of the biggest producers in music. Awesomely for him… but complicating his schedule. So he couldn’t just say “I want to do it” and then be like “Cool see you in the studio”. So we started those negotiations and then at some point his manager was like “Listen dudes, don’t listen to him, he can’t do it!” So yeah, it turned out that we couldn’t do it, he was too busy in a fucking amazing way. I mean, he made a bunch of the best records of the past year. He made Vampire Weekend’s new record, which I think is the best record of the past year. He did the Haim record…

MW: Wow, is that Ariel Rechtshaid?

KM: Yeah! So we all wanted to make it work but because he is legitimately so in demand, and we can’t pay him what any of those people can… his manager was like “I know in a grand world bros would just make records, but I’m not letting my artist make this record!” So we were like ok; we weren’t like hurt by this because our plan wasn’t to make it with him before he very charmingly convinced us again.  I mean he is amazing and we would have loved to but y’know.

So then we were like, several months later back to zero but, our friend Chris Coady who had engineered our last two records and makes amazing records on his own; we had been talking to him about being involved in making the record with Ariel, if Ariel were to make it. But now the Ariel thing clearly wasn’t going to happen we were like… “Lets still make it with Chris Coady please!” And Coady was way into it. I think we did need to make a record with someone else and someone like Chris who has a very like curational sense without feeling like he is elbowing into things, which was kind of different for us. His taste is impeccable but he never really enforces it on you. But he then secretly does stuff and then you think “God that is better!” So that took a while!

We also had let go of our management, which is also a long story, having left EMI on our second record.

MW: I wanted to ask you about that, what happened?

KM: EMI over the course of the two albums we did with them, changed presidents, if you include the presidents in the UK and the US, 5 times. So EMI was in different hands constantly and (so was) everybody we had worked with, we were definitely much closer with the people we worked with in the UK. And by the time we were going to make our third record, only one of the eight people we had signed on to was still there. They got a new president and I don’t really know what their state of affairs is now but they seemed dire. So we were like well… it seems a move people are making is to put out records themselves via distributors. So we tried that out, it was a weird move, but we knew we didn’t want to be on EMI. We renegotiated a contract with EMI, we were signed to EMI US, so we renegotiated with EMI UK and then were like, we don’t actually want to sign. So, the manager we hired when we signed to EMI wasn’t really a manager interested in independent releases, so when we left EMI we wanted to find a manager who had experience doing that. So we had to look… that took a while.

Then when we found that manager, he had to find out who was going to distribute the record. We finished the record in 2013… wait… we finished it in 2012, which is why we put out the ‘Business Casual’ EP in 2013 in June/July which we made in two days. Just to give ourselves something to do!

MW: The last time we spoke to you we were talking about Chris Coady…

(Keith butts in) KM: The last time we spoke? As in about 30 seconds ago?!

MW: No, about two years ago! You mentioned that when you were struggling to play certain guitar parts, he showed you a nightmarish YouTube video of someone injecting silicon into their genitals…

KM: Oh god, I forgot about that!

MW: I just wanted to know if he has stopped that or has he shown you any more interesting videos?!

KM: I may have mentioned back then that showing that just further hurt the scenario. We all decided to leave and meet tomorrow instead! I think that was just a trial effort for him, he realized maybe that wasn’t the right way to do things!

… I had totally forgotten about that, thanks! I am going to text him immediately after this and ask him if he has followed up those gentlemen!

MW: He might start doing that kind of stuff again if you remind him though!

KM: I want him to do that to other people! I can’t be the only person infected! You should ask other people he makes records with if he’s done it to them! If you interview Yuck, Smith Westerns, Beach House… ask them!

BE: Also we were going to ask what activities you would recommend doing whilst listening to the new album?

KM: You should probably play Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. That is a rookie question! Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 OBVIOUSLY!

MW: Your new drummer, Keith Carne, we met him downstairs… he made me feel like I didn’t know enough about my own shoes. I have no idea what my shoes are (except that they are New Balance).

KM: You know, he is weirdly obsessed with New Balances. I have heard him engage with other people about their New Balances.

MW: I saw a disappointment in his eyes when I couldn’t tell him what number they were.

KM: I’ve never met a man so invested in New Balance! But I’ve never had a conversation with him about them because no offense… I don’t touch the things! Apart from Converse or huge puffy old school hi-tops, I don’t feel like I can pull off sneakers.

MW: Keith must be just sponsored by New Balance and nobody knows about it!

KM: That does sound like something that sneaky bastard would do!

MW: How did you guys end up finding him to replace Andy?

KM: So, we had a keyboard player touring with us after we put out ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’, a guy called Max Hart. Max Hart now plays with Katy Perry but also is producing albums. He produced a country style album that Keith Carne played on and we then realized that Andy couldn’t do that much touring because he has albums to make. I was having lunch with Max one day and was saying how we needed to find a drummer for this tour and he was like “don’t worry, I’ve got it, you don’t need to find one I think I’ve got him.” But what he did say is there was one problem… his name is also Keith! I feel like having two Keiths and a Chris is ridiculous!

MW: It sounds like a sitcom! Maybe you could make that!

KM: We’re not that making anything.

MW: Another episode of Steve Wants His Money?

KM: It’s just not going to happen! I’m going to run to the toilet!

(Keith returns with his drink)

BE: What is that drink? Is it a margarita?

KM: No its err….

BE: Is it cloudy lemon?

KM: Err… yeah. No, it’s a margarita! Our tour manager bought us a juicer.

MW: We did see a lot of squeezed limes earlier!

KM: That was me. That’s how the FBI no that I’ve been around!

MW: So finally, the video for Dumb Luck… I made Becky watch it the whole way through today, she thought it was disgusting!

KM: It’s not disgusting!

BE: I’m not sure I’ll be watching it again!

KM: Awww (Keith shows disappointment)

BE: Well it was a bit gruesome for me… gruesome for girls!

KM: Gruesome for Girls… would be a good album title for We Are Scientists!

MW: What did you actually use? What was that coming out of Chris’s stomach?!

KM: They were organs of some sort, not human, not his… I’m assuming they were some sort of beef organs. I had to handle a cow tongue as well. It made me really sick.

MW: Especially being a vegetarian?

KM: Yeah, I had to touch it way to often for my personal taste… no pun intended!

MW: Also in the part where you are vomiting, what is that?

KM: That was a concoction of my own devising. The only things they had for us during that shot was really awful coffee and super under-ripe bananas. I didn’t want to eat either of them but you know what happens when you mush them up in your mouth… it looks like barf! So I was like “I want to barf!” So that was the use that those bananas and coffee had!

(The tour manager returns)

KM: Hey, they just asked how we made the barf in Dumb Luck!

Tour Manager: At least the questions are original!

KM: Thanks for not asking how we got out name! Or who our favourite scientist is…

BE: Thanks Keith, would you like to say thanks to the camera?

KM: No I would not (staring at the camera), you thank me camera. Thank you viewers though… but this Sony Handycam HD… you thank me.

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