We had a chat with Keith Murray, lead vocalist of New York-based indie rock duo We Are Scientists, on the release of their seventh studio album Huffy and spending lockdown creating colorful cocktails.
It’s been three years since we’ve had any new album from We Are Scientists.
The New York-based indie duo, consisting of members Keith Murray and Chris Cain, have been hard at work on fresh material for the past year, steadily trickling out singles and quirky music videos since May of last year.
From the lockdown-themed ‘Cut Your Hair’ (which sees the pair partaking in DIY haircuts) to ‘Handshake Agreement’ (featuring a fictional music critic named Beef Harmony played by Cain), independent creativity is at the forefront for these two rockers.
The promotional material also saw the group concocting 10 new cocktails for each of the 10 new tracks in the album, keeping fans entertained hydrated through the months of quarantine.
All of this culminated in the release of their seventh LP Huffy, independently released by the duo last month on October 8.
One month later, we caught up with lead vocalist Keith Murray on his thoughts of their new body of work so far.
AsiaLive365: Hi Keith, Nicky here from AsiaLive365 in Thailand! How was 2021 for We Are Scientists?
Keith Murray: In the grand scheme of things, we got off pretty easily. We had just begun recording our latest record, Huffy, when everything shut down. So I feel like we were in good position to be isolated. Making a record is sort of like being quarantined under normal circumstances. Going into a windowless room and not talking to anybody else for months at a time.
It’s been much harder since we’ve finished the record, and normally we like to celebrate by going out and obviously we couldn’t do that very much.
AL365: I suppose COVID didn’t stifle your creativity?
Keith: No, I think the removal of life’s usual distractions probably aided our creativity. The options were spend a lot of time working on this record or watching Friday Night Lights for the second time in its entirety.
I think our reaction to quarantine was to dive into making the record. I think, if anything, it pushed us to be a little more creative to give us more focus on the record than we might have otherwise.
AL365: Huffy is your first self-produced album. Moving forward, will this be the way you release future records?
Keith: I think so. Over the course of our group, we were arching toward self-producing. Our first record or two, all of the songs were written in a rehearsal space and then we needed a producer to help us figure things out.
As we kept making records, our demos have become more involved and ornate. We love all of our producers, our decision to self-produce wasn’t because we don’t like working with producers. I think we were finally in a place where we know how to make a record sound exactly the way we are imagining.
I think we are very excited about pushing one another to be a little more self-critical, try to figure out what exactly it means when Chris and I are making a record. Rather than asking someone else to tell us what’s good or bad, it’s really fun for us to try to decide what’s working and what’s not.
AL365: Huffy is full of catchy hits we’ve come to expect from you guys. What I thought was fun with the record are the creative materials surrounding the release such as the cocktails! I love the little jingles you make at the end of every cocktail recipe video.
Will you be dropping an official release of said jingles?
Keith: I think? Remember, all these jingles are around 30 seconds long each. It wouldn’t really be a satisfying record. When the album first came out, we put out a digital deluxe version for like 3 days. Those were included in that! I’m sure those will see the light of day again at some point.
AL365: Out of the ten, what would you say is your favorite cocktail?
Keith: I’ve been in Miami for the past year or so. I’m about to move back to New York, but while I’m down in Miami, I decided to get into rum since it’s a very Caribbean-based spirit. The cocktail that speaks the most to me right now is probably the Lemon Beach Sunshine which is a very tropical, Caribbean-style cocktail.
AL365: Mine would be, “HEY! Some Kind of Melon!”
Keith: Oooh, that’s a great song! Actually, Some Kind of Melon is a good cocktail as well. Maybe a better song.
AL365: Let’s talk about your new album Huffy. As I’ve said before, it’s full of catchy songs. The track ‘Handshake Agreement’ has a music video featuring a music critic named ‘Beef Harmony’. How did his creation come about?
Keith: (Laughs) Well, we spend a lot of time sweating over music videos. Perhaps a problem that we have as a band is that we opportunities like MVs maybe too seriously! We’d be disappointed if we made a music video that was just ordinary, those that were designed to make us look like cool dudes playing music.
We consider each music video like a little movie we get to make. I think our music videos tend to be too complicated and the Beef Harmony one is a perfect example of that.
I think it came about because one of those YouTube video commenters did a commentary reaction video to the MV for ‘Contact High’. Chris forwarded it to me because the guy didn’t really say all that much about the video. Every 15-20 seconds he was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool’ and ‘Oh, jetskis!’ That’s about as much input as he had.
So we were like, ‘Well, what if a reaction video were to go pretty extreme? So extreme, that the guy became part of the video itself?’ I think we like how meta it got where the reaction video becomes the music video. I don’t know. Mainly, we just thought it was funny to have a guy named Beef Harmony.
AL365: You even offered him a drink at the end.
Keith: I think we became friends at the end there.
AL365: And then he ended up selling out too?
Keith: Or did he become a greater artist? Nah, he probably just sold out.
AL365: I also dig ‘Sentimental Education’. That’s a great song with its uplifting vibe. Is there an overall theme to the album, song-wise?
Keith: Thanks! We definitely don’t tend to have preconceived ideas about the songs before we start. I don’t remember exactly how I started ‘Sentimental Education’.
I’m sure that part of it involves meeting some of my wives’ old college friends. I started thinking about that sense of being at university and meeting the sort of people who sit around a dorm room talking about philosophy and politics that they don’t really understand. And how easy it is to be overwhelmed by that, to be convinced that you don’t know as much as other people. But now that I’m an adult, I know everybody’s just really good at bullshitting all the time!
I sure it started from there. I started feeling like I should just be quiet. I don’t wanna say too much and seem like an idiot. I think it’s just about having conversations where you’re always trying to appear to be smarter than you are.
AL365: Another song I want to talk about is the morbidly-titled ‘Bought Myself a Grave’. What’s with the dark lyrical content?
Keith: Now my bandmate Chris wrote that! He had read something in which one of the main characters involved had pre-purchased their grave plot with a family member. I think he just started thinking about how would it be like if the only thing you really owned was going to be the place where you would end up in death.
I don’t think he was in a particularly dark place but I think that’s part of why we tried to make the second half of the song seem more jubilant and happy. It’s a morbid sentiment, but I don’t think we think of it as a terribly morbid song.
But maybe I should be asking Chris how he’s doing more often!
AL365: How do you feel about Huffy having come out in a month now?
Keith: It feels crazy! We spent the better part of the COVID-era quarantine working on Huffy. Hopefully, it seems like COVID is going to be less constricting to the world than it was.
So it’s funny that Huffy is almost a pin in this timeline. It’s making me think that this period of all of our lives has come to an end. The way we know that now is because Huffy is out! (laughs) We’ll see though, we’ll see.
AL365: What’s next for you guys?
Keith: Well I hope that what’s next for us coming to Bangkok again! Right now, we don’t have any Asia dates which really annoys me. But we’re gonna harrass our booking agent about fixing that.
AL365: You guys make up part of my indie rock playlist when I was growing up. You probably hear this too often, but ‘The Great Escape’ was featured in the Burnout Revenge video game. That’s how I was first exposed to your music.
Keith: I think you would be surprised at how often we hear Burnout cited as a way people heard about us. At the time, we were just like, ‘Yeah put our song in a video game!’ Never in a million years, we would expect so many people tell us that they first heard about us on Burnout. That’s very cool, I’m down with that. I think people should drive very fast to We Are Scientists. But safely!
AL365: Thank you Keith for your answers! Have a good day!
Keith: You too!
Listen to We Are Scientists’ latest release, Huffy, on Spotify below.