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LAist Interview: We Are Scientists

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Artist: We Are Scientists
Album: Brain Thrust Mastery
Label: Astralwerks
Release Dates: May 13th, 2008

Listen to "After Hours":

We Are Scientists is Keith Murray on guitar and lead vocals, Chris Cain on bass guitar and backing vocals. Keith and Chris were supposed to have first gotten the band together in Pomona but they disabused me of that misinformation in the below interview. Their full length album, Brain Thrust Mastery, comes out next week on Astralwerks and it's a collection of 11 rock tunes that range from disco-tinged to outright pop. While there is no overt dance club tune like previous W.A.S. releases which included "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt" and "It's a Hit", Brain Thrust Mastery is high energy all the way through with inflections of funk, punk, techno, and particularly '80s pop (as discussed below). This is a fun album that will power a fun show when W.A.S. makes their way to Los Angeles later this Summer. In the meantime all we can do is listen. We Are Scientists kindly took a break during their current tour of the UK to answer some of our questions:

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LAist: Was the music scene in LA a reason/influence for forming up in Pomona back in the day? Is there anything you miss about LA or are their haunts that you gravitate towards when you return on tour?

We Are Scientists: That's an easy enough question to weasel out of answering because we actually formed in Berkeley the year after we graduated and left Claremont. But it's fair to say that the four years we spent in LA had an influence on our decision to start a band. I'll never forget those early, early, very first Chili Peppers shows -- this was back when they were called Tony Flow & the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem and a gawky, snaggle-toothed Jack Irons was on drums and Flea was still going by Little Mikey. They were playing a lot of strip joints on Sunset back then -- mostly because they liked the food, I think -- and Anthony Kiedis could work a pole with the best of them. Seriously, dude got freaky -- FREAKY freaky. Like, whole sections of the pole disappearing for minutes and even hours at a time.

And there was hanging out at Denny's with Axl and Duff back in '86/'87 when GNR first got signed to Geffen. Those two loved the shit out of Denny's. I remember the day Steven Adler arrived breathless at our usual booth and announced that "Sweet Child" had gone to #1, and everybody's eyes got really wide and we were all kind of nervously laughing under our breath, like, "holy cow, this is a really big deal," and suddenly Axl calls the waitress over and says, "Are you waiting for the chicken to lay the eggs back there, or what, sugar? I had the Moons Over My Hammy," and everybody just lost it. Except Axl -- he really just wanted his Moons Over My Hammy. Jesus christ, Axl loved Denny's.

There's one place that I visit habitually when I'm back in LA: La Parrilla on Sunset Blvd just before it hits Silverlake. Everybody in Los Angeles has their favorite Mexican place, but unless it's La Parrilla they're wrong. Such margaritas... such fajitas... the chips are not bad...

LAist: Are you big fans of '80s music? On Brain Thrust Mastery I hear (and I'm a huge fan of these groups) among other things, some Joey Santiago guitar on "Ghouls", Psychedelic Furs on "Lethal Enforcer", the Wedding Present on "Impatience", and Squeeze on "That's What Counts" - I'm not saying that your work is derivative, it's just great to hear some of these aesthetics again. Is it just me experiencing cocaine flashbacks or did you have some specific influences for this album?

We Are Scientists: Fuck you -- I've never heard of any of those bands.

Ha. Just kidding. Yeah, that's all great stuff. Certainly we were listening very attentively to lots of 80's music when we made this album. In addition to the bands you cite, there's a touch of Eno on there, there's a lot of Bowie, there's a significant contribution from srs. Hall & Oates, and perhaps I flatter myself, but I like to think that the Fleetwood Mac we were listening to 16 hours a day bled through in some way.

But yes.... Also, you're experiencing cocaine flashbacks.

LAist: Also '80s-related, is "Altered Beast" a reference to the most excellent arcade game of the same era?

We Are Scientists: It is. In their demo stages, most of the songs on Brain Thrust Mastery had video game titles; some, like "Altered Beast", "Lethal Enforcer" and "Ghouls" (which is a truncation of "Ghouls 'n Ghosts"), were never updated. "After Hours" was originally called "Rush 'n Attack".

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There's a b-side on the "Chick Lit" single called "Gauntlet". "Spoken For" was originally called "Super Mario Brothers". Just kidding about that last one.

LAist: When can LA expect to experience your excellent stage show again?

We Are Scientists: We're tentatively planning to tour the west coast during the first two weeks of July. Final confirmation is dependent on our receiving assurances that the shark problem is being handled. A man was killed in San Diego last week by a great white shark -- this shit requires your full attention. I don't consider us big cowards, but we love life way too much to tour the west coast when there are sharks wreaking havoc all over the place, taking human prey whenever whim suggests, openly mocking law enforcement with their dorsal fins. And the press is covering it up: one article (!) on the cover of the New York Times, BELOW THE FOLD (!). And then nothing. Same story with the other national papers -- The Wall Street Journal devoted a grand total of 22 words to the full-tilt battle between man and ocean. The whole thing is surviving -- barely -- in the blogosphere, but for how long? Is America about to be quietly swallowed up by the toothy inhabitants of the Pacific? I'm not a betting man, and I don't have a million dollars, but a million dollars says yes.