Interview: We Are Scientists’ Helter Seltzer is like a quinoa salad

we are scientistsSo, it’s a We Are Scientists interview. What to expect? Absolutely no idea. If you’ve seen or read any of their interviews elsewhere – although I’m not sure you’d ever need to read anything else after this comprehensive discussion of all the big talking points surrounding the band – you may have noticed that they like to joke around.

Just as their fifth album Helter Seltzer was being released we caught up with them in trendy Shoreditch, where, as we arrived they were chowing down on some lunch in Pitfield, a typically hip cafe near Old Street which adjoins an interior design shop, obviously. With a Sofar Sounds surprise set to prepare for that evening, they found time to talk about their existential album art and of course Marmaduke and the Houses of Parliament. It seemed a shame to discuss music, so on the whole we didn’t. They’d say whatever they liked anyway... Much of which can’t be printed here for fear of a range of libel and criminal actions against both parties.

The new release is described by Keith as “slower but not sluggish” when we ask if there was a more relaxed approach brought to this, 11 years after With Love and Squalor. Chris clarifies, as he often does, with deliberately slow dry wit, “the tempos are probably a little slower but it’s got more slammin’ beats... We made the beats slam.” In an attempt to describe why this might be the case, we are asked a ‘would you rather..?’ style question: “Which would you find more tormenting... A woodpecker rapidly tapping on your noggin’ or a Viking clobbering you with a giant hammer methodically?”

The discussion continues for quite a while as the duo refined the question, probing for an answer before deciding the metaphor might need some work. Presumably We Are Scientists are likening themselves to Thor, and who are we to disagree.

The video to "Buckle" is incredibly silly, but memorable. We note that the guitar solo which coincides with Keith squirting mustard at Chris’s face in a squiggly fashion means that when you listen to that part of the song, a mustard-y equalizer fills the mind’s eye:  “If we were really doing our job, from now on if you hear any music you would see mustard,” Keith replies in a dejected tone. Chris admits that they have failed.

The new tunes are still new to them despite the fact “we had finished the whole album over the summer but we didn’t want to inundate people with songs that they weren’t going to here for five months." Chris corrects him, as Keith originally says seven. We Are Scientists agree: “We’ve played "In Our Head" a few times,” though. In another interview, Chris had explained the emotional expense to fans of listening to TV en Francais:  “This one costs you a little less,” he muses, continuing, “It’s a bit more generous as a listen... Some people like a quinoa salad, some like a Bavarian cream cheese doughnut." Another intriguing food analogy to consider alongside their gastronomic "Buckle" video.

On their own blog, they explain: “The cover art to Helter Seltzer contains answers to most of history’s great questions. It will also teach you the secret to living a great, productive life, if you let it.” So, cough up guys, what are they? “If we tell people in interviews what they are then they’ll have no reason to buy, or even look at the album." Chris, sagely adds that “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey." Apparently it is the act of decrypting it that will answer these questions. Deep stuff.

When they are both so funny together we wonder why they don’t break into the comedy music market for a bit of fun, after all they had a video mini-series "Steve Wants His Money" on MTV UK: “We did just write a pretty good theme song to a Marmaduke movie... The song itself isn’t very funny but the context is kind of funny... The song is deadly serious... It’s funny that the singer seems so devoted to Marmaduke." This leads to a protracted discussion about who Marmaduke is, with Keith looking up facts about the 2010 movie on his phone, with which he exclaims periodically “Owen Wilson”, “Emma Stone” and "Kiefer Sutherland!” over the next five minutes or so.

We Are Scientists recorded a song in 2010 to support the England football team which we assumed was to express their love for one of our national embarrassments, not the case: “England just worked syllabically in the song that we wrote," they were really gunning for “Chile” but were only prevented by indecision over the pronunciation.

We start to talk about how they’ve said the further North you travel in England, the better the crowds: “That’s kind of a common place... that’s the received wisdom... New York is better than Miami... (Chris) it’s something to with the magnetic fields of the Earth... (Keith again) we do better in the Netherlands than we do in Portugal... the Yukon is the very best of audiences...” We conclude that in the North “their plight is bleakest therefore a We Are Scientists gig is an unheralded pleasure."

Wondering what they might do while in the UK, it turns out they are keen to get to Madame Tussauds and the Dungeons in London: “We went to Parliament last year, we got to do some behind-the-scenes stuff and eat in the cafeteria,” they brag, Chris asked us to strongly assert that the fan who showed them round was “a very old woman who works there if Parliament read this” because they also did something else while they were there that would probably get them sent to the Dungeon, but not as tourists next time.

In an act of unparalleled humility they rule out any covers in their upcoming live session: “On the first album we did covers ‘cause our set was only half an hour long and we had to play seventy minutes, between five albums there are no other good songs that would beat those," here’s Chris again: “We can’t do covers anymore because that would be the worst song that we play."

Getting up to leave, Chris obviously needed to get a last dig in at Keith. Under the pretext of our desire to 'get out of their hair', he observes to Keith, “I’ve got more of a traditional man’s haircut whereas you’ve got a woman’s haircut, an older woman." If that’s not all you ever needed to know about We Are Scientists, we don’t know what else we can do.

Disclaimer: Some or all of these conversations may or not be true.

We Are Scientists' fifth album Helter Seltzer is out now via 100% Records.


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