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Homicidal men in bear suits, ironic boxing-ring deaths and pets made of porcelain all play key roles in We Are Scientists videos, but there's more to the Brooklyn-based dance-rock trio than absurdist videos, a laugh-out-loud website and ridiculous album art.
On the act's major-label debut, last year's With Love and Squalor, We Are Scientists proved that you don't have to be British teenagers to conquer indie clubs and dance floors. In any other context, guitarist/vocalist Keith Murray's angst-filled and lovesick lyrics might seem emo, but dorky danceability, a snot-nosed punk edge and a knowing wink inject more than enough helium to lift the mood.
Since forming the band in California in 2000 and relocating to New York in 2001, Murray, bassist Chris Cain and drummer Michael Tapper have refined their literate and impossibly catchy guitar rock into something like Weezer bumping into Wire in the record bin after narrowly avoiding run-ins with both Loudon Wainwright and the Weather Girls. We recently gave Murray a break from the group's grueling tour schedule to chat about movies, misogyny and meatpacking.
Westword:What, if anything, do you remember about your last Denver show, in March of this year at the hi-dive?
Keith Murray: I remember we were desperate to go see a film and were disappointed by the highbrow offerings at the theater up the street. They weren't showing any flesh-rending horror or base comedy. When you've been in a van for the past four hours, you don't want to watch some Scandinavian art film.
All that time on the road must be hard, but what's the worst thing about being in We Are Scientists right now?
If I had to pick one thing, I'd say it's the people in the band -- and the ideas and the philosophy of the band are just awful. Also, the intense racism of our band is sort of off-putting, as is the brutal misogyny. Otherwise, it's pretty positive. The only problem is who these people are at the core.
Given that, who's your least favorite member of We Are Scientists? Remember, there are three people in the band, including you.
Hey, I'm great. A lot of people won't say this of themselves -- or, let's face it, of me -- but I'm great. As for the others...this might sound like spineless diplomacy, but both of the other guys are equally bad. They're each awful in their own ways -- real bottom-of-the-barrel bad apples.
Sounds horrible. How will you survive the next ten years?
I'm hoping we've abandoned music in ten years and are doing the sitcom thing. Right now Chris and I are drawing up the idea. We want the three of us to work in an abattoir. It'll be a pig slaughterhouse, and we'll call the show Hamming It Up With We Are Scientists.
After we've established the setting, we can move on to slaughtering cattle in season two. Maybe that's a silly dream, but it's like when you're little and you want to be a princess: You know it's improbable, but it could still happen.