In theatrical magnificence, the stage is lit up with rainbow extravagance and an oh-so-familiar song starts to belt from the speakers. Turning between my neighbouring gig-goers, it’s interesting to see their faces at this point – trying to work out that oh-so-familiar tune, you can see it in their eyes, you can see it in their smile.
And then the title greets you, literally; it’s Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’. The audience expel a light chuckle and join in with the speakers in shouting the chorus. As the novelty suddenly begins to wear off, a trio of performers enter the stage, donning black suits and tidy ‘messy’ haircuts. They certainly don’t look like scientists, but they look like exciting and promising performers.
The New York City-based band, We Are Scientists, draw parallels to popular bands like Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, and the Killers in a mismatch of musical genres: part post-punk revival, part indie rock, sprinkled with decadent 80s synth pop. Since their formation in 1999, they have released a selection of musically diverse albums, publishing their sixth Helter Seltzer this year. They were performing a quaint Liquid Rooms venue, of only roughly 800 capacity, it was going to be a tight squeeze fitting with their cliquey following of die-hard fans.
Waving a little to the audience and picking up their instruments, they jump straight into ‘This Scene is Dead,’ a Two Door Cinema Club-esque banger, the audience sidestepping happily to the tapping bassline and 1/16th hi-hat hits. It’s at this moment that the We Are Scientists virgins of the audience are feeling like the night will be quite jolly, bouncing around to these indie tunes, but this belief certainly dwells by the third song, Buckle, where the introduction of excessive drum fills and power chords morph the band into a Wombats/Killers hybrid.
Perhaps most interesting is the structure to the gig, where frontman Keith Murray and bassist Chris Cain punctuate every couple of songs with a comedy dialogue. Outside of music, the couple are known for devising an array of comedy enterprises, and this clearly translates to the gig itself; the pair banter back and forth about themselves and the audience. They take inspiration from the various shouts of excitement, of wonder, of pain from the audience and build on that a dynamic that resonates perhaps more strongly than the music they create.
Initially, I’d used the term ‘die-hard fans’ but it should be noted that during one of these skits, Murray called for an exclamation of revisiting fans, and a measly half a dozen shouts came from the 600-strong audience. Joking about their lack of die-hard fans, they were visibly touched at the spontaneity of this new audience, and promised them their philosophy, “off on the wrong foot, landing on the right one.”
The only performer comparative to this is the Nirvana-born, Foo Fighters-bred Dave Grohl, who soliloquizes during the set, but his humour is a more aggressive, simpler form (potentially because he is feeding an audience of over 60,000 as opposed to the Scientists’ 600 capacity.) Notably, however, is the diversity and depth of the Scientists’ off the cuff humour, it’s witty, it’s tasteful, and above all, unrehearsed; Murray lamented in an argument to QRO that “it wouldn’t be very funny if it were scripted…I think it’s funny that we’re wasting that much time between songs, and that we feel like having a conversation at that point.” It certainly did provide a much-needed breathing point for the audience, and was charmingly restorative.
In an extravagant moment, Murray mounts his guitar on the rack and descends into the audience for a karaoke session of ‘Textbook,’ making dramatic eye content with the audience and allowing them to sing into the mic for all of three brief seconds. He scours the entire floor, as if attempting to intimately connect with every audience member – it’s exciting, and avoids the typical rock trend of stage diving and moshing (which would have been wildly inappropriate paralleling the songs they were performing).
Their music is not madly diverse the same way rock bands like Biffy Clyro or Muse are, but each song has the potential to make you bounce up and down. The comedy dialogue between songs is light and incredibly witty, the production well mixed, and overall, it was an exciting and refreshing indie rock gig.
Guest Reviewer: Luke Morley