What's your favorite Indonesian horror film
For a long time it was quiet around the New York band We Are Scientists. For the m4music festival in Zurich they stopped by Switzerland again after a long absence and presented the new album "TV en Français". We sat down on a bench with singer Keith Murray on Turbinenplatz and talked to him about the new album, horror films and The Lonely Island.
Have you already watched the TV program in the hotel? Part of Switzerland is also French-speaking, which is why we also have “TV en Français” here.
(Laughs) I haven't turned on the TV in the hotel until now. I will probably be able to enjoy some French television. I'll do that in a moment when I get back to the hotel!
Do you actually speak french?
Un petit peu. Not at all, actually. I studied French at the university for two years. However, that was textbook French and not actually spoken. That's why my conversational French is very poor.
Then we'd better continue the interview in English! How did you come up with the album title «TV en Français»?
We were in Miami and took photos for the album. Miami has a large Franco-Canadian tourist population. So we saw this hotel that was promoting the Franco Canadians and that they had television in French. We really liked the photo and thought it was very cool! But it also seemed a metaphor for relationship communication, like mistakes discussed in the lyrics of the album. Sometimes the content of a conversation with the partner seems like watching TV in a different language. You understand the basic content that is being said, but not much in between. Maybe you miss the most important aspects.
You released your last studio album four years ago. Why did it take you so long for the new album?
There are several reasons for this. We tried to make an album that should sound like a 90s college rock album, like The Lemonheads or Buffalo Tom. We wrote about seven or eight songs like that and we liked them. But it didn't really sound like us. Rather, it sounded like we were doing an album for someone else. That's why we stopped and started all over again. We then recorded the album alone and without a label and we finished it over a year ago. After that we had to send it to potential record labels and negotiate with them. That took a long time. The label wanted more time to set up the album, which then took longer and longer. So we released a 7-inch record last summer and an EP in the fall to bridge the waiting time a bit.
We are very bad at networking and we probably don't treat the music business as seriously as we should. We see it more as fun, which it actually isn't, because this is our job too! But we should actually take it more seriously.
With “Hoppipolla” you covered an Icelandic song and with “She hat was mississ” by Bela B. you also covered a German song. Do you also have cover songs for French songs?
I'm not at all sure, but I don't think we did anything about it. Chris can speak French pretty well. So it would be pretty easy for him to do that. We should do that someday and then make it big in France and French-speaking Switzerland!
You have a lot of funny videos on Youtube. Is humor important to your music?
I don't think humor is important to our music. Rather, it is sometimes the case that he breaks our music a bit. We never try to accompany our music with humor. However, Chris and I really like comedy. So it's more important to our personal psychology, but I don't think we really associate it with our music. I know that a lot of people like comedy here because they like our music too. But then again, we never think about it being part of the same art - if that statement makes any sense.
Some videos are homages to horror films.
Oh yes that's true!
Do you watch a lot of horror films on tour and are you more amused than shocked?
I very rarely get shocked when watching horror films. We love horror films and watch them almost all the time, whether we're on tour or not. But I don't think we have any horror films on the bus at the moment. We're watching a lot of action films right now. Have you ever seen "The Raid"? This is an Indonesian martial arts film. It's really good! But yes, we love horror films - we actually like all kinds of films, but especially the fact that horror films are often so stupid and they really only have one goal: as long as they are either bloody or scary, then they have done their job. Acting performance can be poor, as can the direction. But if they scare you - then it's a good horror movie!
Black Flag's Henry Rollins played on Wrong Turn 2. Would an appearance as an actor be something for you too?
What?! I didn't know that - amazing! He also plays in "Bad Boys 2". He's in every sequel! But if someone wants me as an actor, then I would certainly do it! I'm not a really good actor - at least not a trained actor like Henry Rollins (laughs). It's not really something we're actively trying to do, but if a director asked me then I definitely would - especially with horror films!
What is your favorite horror movie?
I do not know exactly. The scariest horror movie I've seen in a long time is 28 Days Later with all the zombies. In general, I really like zombie movies anyway. I just watched the original Dawn of the Dead on my laptop last night. This is actually a very bad movie, but I liked it a lot! The special effects are very old fashioned and look really bad! But it's fun to watch and it's also very long - almost three hours, I think. And through these three hours there is a creepy atmosphere - it's really fun.
I don't think there will be a Swiss festival that we play at. But we're trying to set up a few more festival dates.
Akiva Schaffer directed four of the earlier music videos. He is now very successful with The Lonely Island. Are you still in contact with him?
Yeah, but we haven't talked to him too much lately. He moved to Los Angeles after leaving Saturday Night Live and we live in New York and he now has a child too. So we don't see each other too often as he lives on the other side of the country. But we write to each other sometimes. I don't know if you know all of Lonely Island, like Jorma for example. Jorma still lives in New York and I see him quite a lot. Andy is also there, but I almost never see him. I think he's very busy all the time!
But these guys could give you a role in a horror movie!
Yes, that's right, but I don't want to force favors from friends.
Was there never a possibility that he would direct a video again?
We talked to them about it, but they're all very busy and I don't think any of them are still making music videos. I think they write more for television and it's kind of difficult to get the deadline to work. All of our schedules are so crazy and it would be difficult to find time to do something together.
The m4music Festival is also a networking festival for the Swiss music industry. How important are such networking events for you as a band?
Networking is fundamentally extremely important! However, I think we are very bad at this. We haven't really spoken to anyone since we were here in Zurich. My girlfriend is here with me. So she and I went to the hotel, then we had lunch and then we drank red wine. Unfortunately, I didn't do too much networking. But America has kind of networking festivals like the South by Southwest and the CMJ Music Marathon. These were very important to us when we were a much lesser known band. But, as I said, we are very bad at networking and probably don't treat the music business as seriously as we should. We see it more as fun, which it actually isn't, because this is our job too! But we should actually take it more seriously. After this interview I'm going to network (laughs)!
In summer you play at several European festivals. Are you going to come back to Switzerland too?
I don't think there will be a Swiss festival that we play at. But we're trying to set up a few more festival dates. As far as I know, we currently have our own show in Zurich between a festival in Bologna and Rock am Ring. But I would really like to play at a Swiss festival. We played at the Openair Gampel once and it was really a great festival and a lot of fun. In the year we were there, Limp Bizkit were headlining and actually I don't like them at all, but still it was a lot of fun and I had a great time there! The environment at this festival made it so fun - I would love to go back! I don't even know whether we played at other Swiss festivals.
The Gurten Festival in Bern might be something for you - you would surely like that too!
I don't think we've played there yet. But I'll check it out.
After the interview we found out that We Are Scientists played at the Gurten Festival in 2006. This festival, however, did not seem to have been as firmly anchored in the memory as the performance at Gampel 2010. Another reason why the Openair Gampel is a very special memory could also be because a band member forgot at the festival after this show (see link: http://www.virus.ch/Artikel/We-Are-Scientists-Musiker-am-Gampel-vergessen). It remains to be seen whether this was Keith.
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