Interview: We Are Scientists – “Enlightenment is Our Gift to You”
In 2021, We Are Scientists, the beloved Brooklyn rock outfit, rolled out their much-applauded album, HUFFY. Just a short fifteen months later, they gifted fans with their eighth studio record, LOBES. This isn’t just another album to their collection; it’s got the depth and dance beats that position it as a compelling counterpart to HUFFY. Released in the dawn of 2023, the band took their music abroad with the “SHOW LOBES” tour, which hit venues across the UK and Europe. Meanwhile, back home, US fans were getting restless, buzzing with anticipation.
“Finally — FINALLY — we get to tour the United States again,” exclaims guitarist-vocalist Keith Murray. A sentiment that echoes through their entire fanbase, the tour promises to be an exhilarating mix of old classics and new hits, all delivered with the signature flair and energy that We Are Scientists have become renowned for.
Kicking off in Toronto on November 6th, the North American tour will span over five weeks, seeing them perform in cities such as Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, and more, before closing with a homecoming show at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom on December 15th.
In the midst of this excitement, Recordspin had the pleasure of catching up with Keith Murray. We discussed the dual nature of their latest albums, their unique preparation for the upcoming tour, and what fans can expect from their live shows. Here’s what Murray had to say:
Watch We Are Scientists’ “Turn It Up” official visualizer below
Hey, Keith! Thanks for spending the time to chat, especially ahead of your upcoming North American tour, how have you both been preparing, and is there a certain city you’re particularly eager to perform in?
We’ve mainly been preparing by getting together and drinking as often as humanly possible. Between tours, you can really lose some of your tolerance to alcohol, because you spend that downtime living like an actual human being, instead of sitting in music venues drinking beers before showtime, every day. It’s important to make sure that when we get back on the road, our tolerance is still good and strong. Otherwise, though, we’ve just been at home practicing and writing new music and looking up good restaurants to eat breakfast in, in middle America.
It’s hard to say what town we’re most excited to play in. The problem is that being on tour isn’t really like being on vacation; you don’t really get to hang out in many of the towns that you’re playing in. So you could be in an amazing town like San Francisco, and it actually just hurts, because you’re missing out on all of the fun attractions of the city. Instead of climbing Coit Tower, or, I don’t know, taking a photo on the Golden Gate Bridge, or something, you’re setting up drums inside The Independent which, to be fair, is a fantastic venue and one that I am happy to be trapped inside. Anyway, that said, we love getting over to the west coast; we haven’t played in Vancouver in a while so it’ll be fun to pop back in and make sure the city is still running well.
Yeah, I guess the places I’m most excited about are the ones that we most rarely get to play in. The entire southeast and southwest of the United States has been sorely lacking in We Are Scientist shows for many, many years so it’ll be great to be able to remind, say, Texas, what a powerhouse live band we are. And then we will drink their margaritas.
Your albums, Huffy and Lobes, beautifully contrast each other, almost like day meets night. How do you think your fans will respond to the live versions of the album during the shows?
These songs sit together more seamlessly live than they might seem to on the albums. We pointedly tried to make the production on these two separate albums as distinct from one another as possible, while still maintaining a cohesive sound as a band. Live, though, you can hear more clearly that these are simply We Are Scientists songs. Despite our suggestion that Lobes is a “late night record,” it’s still very upbeat and danceable, so we just rock those songs out a little more on the guitar in the live show, as opposed to simply delivering the synth-heavy versions that are on the albums. Come to the show. It will all make perfect sense to you then. Enlightenment is our gift to you.
Watch We Are Scientists’ “Less From You” official visualizer below
Given the intertwining nature of Huffy and Lobes, can you share some insights into how the writing processes for these albums differed, considering they were developed almost concurrently?
We began writing the songs that went into Huffy and Lobes at the same time. When we’re writing music, we tend to not focus on just specifically writing songs that will definitely end up being on a We Are Scientists record. If every time you sit down to write a song your mandate is that it needs to be a hit single, you’ll get burnt out pretty quickly and end up just kind of writing different variations of the same song. Or at least I will. So we generally try to write all kinds of weirdo songs that don’t necessarily ever have to see the light of day with We Are Scientists fans, to keep it fun for ourselves.
Anyway, after we’d compiled dozens and dozens of songs, we kind of realized that we had way more good songs than we’d like to put on a single record (we have an unofficial ten-song limit for our albums, as a courtesy to our fans). We also noticed that the songs that we most loved could be split into two stylistic groups. The more rock ‘n’ roll songs ended up on Huffy and the handful of synth-heavy dance songs that we had ended up being the basis of Lobes. Once we finished Huffy, we returned to those pop songs and ended up writing five or six more that specifically fit that mood and, voilà: Lobes was born.
Huffy seems to revisit your original guitar-driven sound, while Lobes explores more synth-based territories. What sparked this sonic exploration, and were there any specific musical influences that steered you in this direction?
We never really have specific sonic intentions in mind when we begin writing a record. We kind of just write a bunch of songs and choose the ones that we like the most, when it comes time to record the record. We were just faced with such a bumper crop of songs that we loved, this time around, that it became easy to split them up and really lean into their individual genres a bit more without having to worry about whether or not they would compose a single coherent record. So with the Huffy songs, we could lean way more into scrappy rock, and on Lobes we could lean more into the vibey, atmospheric, dancey synth-pop element, and within the context of those individual records there wouldn’t be any genre whiplash. I don’t really know who was inspiring us on the rock songs. We’re kind of the best rock band working today, so nobody’s really inspiring us on that front. We are inspiring them. For Lobes, we definitely were inspired by the likes of Charli XCX and Dua Lipa and Chappell Roan and that kind of indie-pop world. I don’t know. We’re always listening to lots of different stuff, so it’s kind of hard to tell what’s creeping in and influencing us until we step back and take a look later on.
Watch We Are Scientists’ “Lucky Just To Be Here” official visualizer below
Creating a setlist from eight albums must be challenging! How are you navigating the selection to maintain a balanced representation of your musical evolution and to ensure the flow is just right during the performances?
When it comes to writing setlists, I’m generally a pretty big coward. I tend to go hard on including all the singles and fan favorites and tunes that are most likely to win over people who have perhaps never heard them before. I tend toward the obvious crowd-pleasers. Chris [Cain] is a much braver man than I am, and he likes to include outliers and deeper album cuts and songs that might surprise people because we so rarely play them. I think somewhere in the middle of those two philosophies is probably the best approach, or at least I have to say that in the interest of diplomacy. We do have many, many, many songs at our disposal at this point. Some of them, we don’t even really remember how to play. We’ve been having fun, recently, rotating random songs in and out of the sets on the spur of the moment, just to keep it interesting for ourselves and to keep the fans guessing.
With fans eagerly awaiting your upcoming shows, given the lockdown-induced hiatus, do you have any messages that you want to share to those excited to see a We Are Scientists performance?
Your excitement is warranted. Don’t worry about whether you’re overreacting. Your emotions are correct!
And finally, any current song, EP, or album you’ve been playing on repeat recently?
We’re pretty into Destruction For Dummies Part Two by Jean Dawson. It’s actually listed as: “Destruction for Dummies”, Pt. 2 Jean Dawson as “Nightmare.” Frankly, I don’t know what that’s all about, but this little EP is sweet. Really great writing and cool sounds. Very vibey. Kind of home-produced indie vibes. Highly recommended!
We Are Scientists 2023 North American Tour Dates
November 6 – Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern
November 7 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Café
November 9 – Columbus, OH @ Rumba Café
November 10 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
November 11 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
November 12 – Kansas City, MO @ Recordbar
November 14 – Denver, CO @ Globe Hall
November 16 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
November 18 – Portland, OR @ Show Bar At Revolution Hall
November 19 – Vancouver, BC @ Wise Hall
November 20 – Seattle, WA @ Madame Lou’s
November 22 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
November 24 – West Hollywood, CA @ The Roxy
November 25 – Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room
November 26 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
November 27 – Phoenix, AX @ Valley Bar
November 30 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
December 1 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
December 3 – Austin, TX @ Antone’s Nightclub
December 5 – Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
December 6 – Atlanta, GA @ Aisle 5
December 7 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle Back Room
December 8 – Washington DC @ Union Stage
December 14 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
December 15 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom