We Are Scientists Dives Deep Into “Megaplex” With Blurred Culture BC INTERVIEW: WE ARE SCIENTISTS
BROOKLYN, NY- We Are Scientists is a NYC based indie rock that recently released their sixth studio album Megaplex. Megaplex takes We Are Scientists sonics in a livelier direction, using more synths to infuse their post-punk sound a dance-rock edge.
Constantin got the chance to speak with Keith before the band flew out to Berlin for the start of their tour.
I listened to the new album, and I think it’s fantastic. I love the sound. So you’ve been doing this now 18 years, correct?
[W]e have been doing this Full Time since 2004/2005 but we technically started the band in 2000 in our basement in Berkeley, California.
When did you know, “Holy shit this is happening?” Was it with “After Hours”? was it slightly before that?
I remember we played our first show in a really tiny dive bar called The Port Light in Oakland, California. I remember thinking ‘Holy Cow, We’re a real band!” Even though it was just about six of our friends there because we had promised to give them our beer tickets if they came. I guess we really started feeling like something was happening when we made an EP of a bunch of the song that were going to be on our first record, “With Love and Squaler”, and that EP kind of made its way to the UK and started getting played on BBC Radio One. And we’re like, well that’s really weird and I guess now we actually have to consider ourselves a real band and maybe start practicing a little bit.
How do you feel your sound has evolved? I know how the web categorizes it, but how do you categorize your sound?
We just think of ourselves as a pop band. I guess when people who we know won’t have ever heard of us, ask what kind of music we are, I usually tell them pop rock, but I think we just think of ourselves as a pop band. We are pretty omnivorous as listeners and we like a lot of just straight up pop music and I think that’s what we think we’re making. But when we deliver it we tend to really like loud distorted guitars and pounding drums so it ends up getting pretty rock music I guess.
It has also sort of a post-punk revival feel. There’s definitely that indie feel. The thing that I like about you guys is you’re genre benders. You are not afraid to go to from sort of an electronic almost pop sound to kind of the heavier rock sound. One of that songs that really struck me on the new record is “Your Light Has Changed”. [T]hat song really connected with me. [I]s there something personal that happened in both of your lives or is it sort of an amalgam of feelings and experiences? [I]t’s a bit darker. It’s a little more sinister than some of the other tracks on the album in a very good way. Is there a particular reason for that? Personal influence?
A lot of our songs kind of get reversed engineered lyrically. Like a lot of the songs start out being very specific and then I often try to kind of dial back the fine point specifics on them for universality. But that one kind of started out … I don’t even remember how I started thinking about it. I suspect it might be that I like to go to sleep. I put on podcasts, [and have] people speaking directly into my ear all night. I think that kind of started from being on tour and just like trying to block out distracting noises. And I tend to think a lot when I’m trying to go to sleep, so its pretty good to just hear other people thinking for me, and then I can go to sleep cause then I don’t have to. But I listen to this podcast a lot called “Mysterious Universe”.
I’m familiar with it!
You are? The the thing I like about “Mysterious Universe” is that it is these two Australian guys that I definitely don’t know, and they are talking about, you know, paranormal and supernatural phenomenon. So, it’s interesting enough, that if i want to listen, I’ll listen, but it’s also unimportant enough, that I can, you know, phase out. But I think, I was listening to them talk about like night terrors and like … hagging, you know, sort of like hags appearing while you have sleep paralysis and stuff.
I did not expect that conversation to go here. I like it.
Needless to say, I don’t believe in any of this, but I really [just got drawn into it]. I think I was listening to an episode of that, and that was sort of what the song was initially about. And then I sort of turned it into a song about, you know, like most of my concerns about romantic confusion and like the paralysis of feeling like you’re not capable of doing anything in this face of this overwhelming presence, romantically.
“Megaplex” is your sixth studio album. What did you enjoy most about the process creating the album?
On our last record […] we rented this space in Brooklyn for three months and built a studio in there, and we kind of ended up using those three months. And when I say that, I don’t mean we were hard at work for three months. I mean, we were like, we have three months, we can fuck around in here for three months, and it will take three months! So this time, we just rented out our friends studio for three 1-week stretches, and it was just really breezy. Like we knew exactly what we were doing when we went in.
What was the worst part? Was there a worst part?
The worst part is always the stress of knowing that these takes are the final product. I always say that recording is my least favorite part of being a musician. And when I say that, I mean, literally the moment where they’re like, “Ok, We’ve hit record. Now do it!”
You’re thinking about so many things and kind of like a stupid pressure is on. [N]o matter how much fun and how informal a situation we create for ourselves, it’s never quite as much fun as writing the demos in my apartment. Where like “I don’t give a damn” and if I mess up, more times than not, I’ll be like, “That was a really cool mistake!” [W]hen we are recording in the studio, if I mess up, I’m like “No, no, no, no, no, I already wrote the part, I should play the part the way I wrote it!” You know? So, I think my least favorite part is the actual moments of recording.
I feel that I hear certain old school influences. What are you listening to from the old school? You know, are you listen to Motown are you listening to Kraftwerk? I don’t know, what are you listening to?
You know what? Your Motorik reference is pretty apt, I’m looking for a lot of Noize through our work. Pretty similar to Kraftwerk, you know, kind of just that straight ahead drum beat, like Motorik driving drum beat. [W]e ended up signing to the German label who owns Noize catalog.
Better music scene, New York or LA?
Oh boy, I really, really hate to say it, but it seems like LA these day is the real center of American music […] A lot of my friends are moving to LA to be a part of songwriting workshops for labels and stuff. It feels a little bit to me like music is not really that interested in scrappy music right now. It’s kind of into lush produced, crafted music and LA is a pretty good center for that. So I got to say, it makes me weak to admit it, but I think LA has it… for now.
Got any favorite tracks off the new album? Any one particular song that’s like your baby?
I think “Heart is a Weapon” was one that I was always into and worked really hard to try and make. It’s funny because things like “You’re Light Has Changed” which are kind of straight up rock tracks, tend to come more easily because I’ve been playing 3-man rock for twenty years now. And so I think at the time, I didn’t really think about it that much. I mean, I liked it and was like it’s a really cool song, but then once we recorded it and people responded to it, it changed my opinion of the song. So I think while we were making the record, I just was like yeah, and then we’ll do “You’re Light Has Changed.” That song’s really good! And now it’s one of my favorite songs and I’m really excited every time we play it. I don’t know, it’s all really pretty malleable.
You’ve been in the business for a while, you’ve made a lot of great music, What can you say you’ve learned now that you didn’t know 18/20 years ago about the industry? Particularly in your case with the music you’ve made.
I think something that I’ve learned is, it’s all a little bit of a shell game. You have always got to pretend that you are holding the winning cards at all times and you can’t let people bluff for you and bluff you. I think probably like most industries and like well, running for president, you don’t actually have to know anything or be good at anything. If you just tell people that you’re the best thing, people tend to believe that. If you don’t do it, nobody else is going to do it for you.
That seems to be working with the current administration,
It is, you’re right it is. Working might be wrong word, but uh, it’s having an effect.
We Are Scientists are currently on tour in Europe and will be back in the States for gigs by June. Check them out.