With their fifth studio album Helter Seltzer, New York’s Indie-rockers We Are Scientists delivered the perfect album for the upcoming summer. Most of the songs on it, like “Buckle”, “In My Head”, “Too Late” or “Waiting For You”, are extremely catchy. Believe me, I haven’t been able to stop listening to the album for weeks now. So, in case you didn’t catch the drift by now: you really have to give it a listen if you haven’t already! But before you start (remember you won’t be able to stop listening for a while), read our interview with Keith Murray, one half of We Are Scientists below! He chatted about the recording process of Helter Seltzer, its crazy album cover, touring life, if they ever thought about quitting and so much more:
Strife Magazine [Melissa Wilke]: With Helter Seltzer you wanted to create an all out pop album. Why did you choose this direction for the band?
Keith Murray: It's just what we were interested in, at that moment. We've made five albums of increasingly poppy music, so it seemed like a fairly natural progression for us. We've certainly not given up on our love for writing hard rock bashers, but it felt like it would be a fun experiment to try to shoot for a more pop-centric sound than is usual for us.
SM: Did the recording process from this album differ to the last? If yes, how?
KM: Every record has been different. For the last record, we spent three weeks in the New York City's legendary Magic Shop (sadly, the studio has since closed, not directly because of anything we did - I think!) and then finished up in our producer's subterranean studio. This time, we took a more holistic approach - we rented an empty space in a warehouse in Brooklyn and built a studio of our own. We went in there every day for three months and treated recording like a 9-to-5 job. It was a refreshing change of pace, not having to heed the time-sensitivity and financial burden of being on a third-party studio's clock. It let us be a little more experimental and to feel less under-the-gun than is usual for us, when recording.
SM: Do you have a favorite song on the album? What makes it special to you?
KM: I like them all, really, but Too Late is a big favorite of mine. It feels especially poppy to me, what with all of the bleepy synth sounds and largely electronic drums. Plus, it's got a killer melody and a fun middle-eight breakdown.
SM: We love the album cover of Helter Seltzer! Can you tell us the story behind it? How the hell did you come up with it?
KM: We wanted a cover that would reflect the "helter skelter" aspect of the title, so we just made a jumbled list of inspirational elements we wanted to include - it's got Illuminati-grade intrigue, Eyes Wide Shut-style sleazebags, and the helicopter from the beginning of The Running Man. It's got alcohol and cats and acrobats. Pretty much everything we like.
SM: You’ve been a band for 16 years now, that’s quite a long time! How did you manage to stick together for all those years? Has there ever been a moment when you wanted to quit?
KM: There hasn't been a moment when I've wanted to quit, no. I suppose there have been times when I wondered if we *should* quit, in the name of maintaining our financial, emotional, and physical well-being. But being in a band with your best friend makes it pretty easy to get over the difficult hurdles and plow forward with the more exciting and rewarding aspects of being in a band.
SM: You’ve been on tour since April this year, and you have shows scheduled until mid-October (so far). Do you enjoy the touring life or do you prefer the creative process of writing and recording new music?
KM: Both have their benefits. It's pretty great to be able to travel and see foreign lands and have people applaud for you. That said, it's also pretty great to be at home with your loved ones, not living in your own filth.
SM: How do you pass the time when you’re on tour and traveling a lot? Do you have any wild hobbies or maybe even some stupid games you invented?
KM: I'd estimate that we spend about 80% of our downtime searching online for the best places to eat and sleep. Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google, this one physical book we have called Road Food - all and sundry are mined in an effort to maximize our touristic experience. Sometimes it pays off - we spent a day off on this last European tour eating tapas, slurping sangria and swimming in turquoise waters below an ancient fortress in Tossa De Mar, Spain. Sometimes, we fail - on the very same tour, we waited until the last minute to find a place to sleep in eastern Switzerland, and so, at about 3:00am, we spent way too much money on a single, hostel-style room for the whole gang. There was no hot water and the streets outside of the hotel were - according to our tour manager - lousy with muskrats.
SM: What have you planned after the shows in October? Will there be more tour dates?
KM: There will probably be a few more tour dates, but I expect we'll slow down a bit and start focusing on writing the next record. We're hoping some random touring will present itself - we've got our eye on India -but it's been over a year since we recorded Helter Seltzer, so I'm getting the itch, again.
SM: You are celebrating the 10th anniversary of “With Love And Squalor” with a special performance at the El Rey on July 16th. What can we expect from the show? Do you have anything special planned?
To us, the fact that we're playing the entirety of that album is pretty unusual - we had long ago left three or four of those tunes for dead. We did a similar show in NYC in May, and I was really impressed at how awesome the second set - full of all of the post-With Love and Squalor hits - was. I think that second set on its own was my favorite We Are Scientists show, ever.
SM: Do you have a certain fond memory of that album era which you want to share with us?
KM: It was just really fun to be a new band, totally wide-eyed and naive about the music industry [n.b. - my phone auto-corrected that to "them suck industry"], slowly finding our footing and building a fan base from scratch. It was exciting to go from total anonymity to playing on festival main-stages in a matter of months.
SM: Which artist or album do you have on repeat currently?
KM: We're all really into the new Mitski album, and, of course, we're always excited about PAWS, who released a great new record just this week.
SM: Can you recommend any new upcoming bands to our readers?
KM: See above!
For news, tour dates, media and social links, check out We Are Scientists' homepage here.
Written by Melissa Wilke
Post-hardcore act I Prevail put themselves on the map when they released a cover of Taylor Swift's song 'Blank Space'. However, soon after that, it became clear that besides covers, I Prevail are good for a lot more.
With their debut EP 'Heart VS. Mind' the guys proved that their popularity was more than justified and it did not come as a surprise that the band got picked up by Fearless Records rather fast. Each and every song has been streamed over 1 million times, and Blank Space even up to an incredible 19 million plays. I Prevail are embarking on a huge tour through the US in a couple of days, which they are headlining.
We were asked if we were interested in having a chat with the guys prior to this tour, being the I Prevail fans that we are, we could not say no. We had a lovely chat with vocalist Brian Burkheiser about their upcoming tour, the very anticipated upcoming debut full-length album and much more. Check it out!
First of all, congrats on the huge tour that's coming up! Everything about it looks amazing.
Are you guys stoked?
Thank you! Definitely stoked to get back on the road. We've been locked in the studio making the album for the last six months, so it's time to get back out.
Any specific cities you're really looking forward to?
We're looking forward to them all but obviously Michigan shows are always great with that being our home state. Denver is like a second home to us. Then Pittsburgh and Madison are always killer. But we have high expectations throughout the entire tour.
The openers for the tour, The White Noise, My Enemies & I and Bad Seed Rising, have you guys worked/played with them before?
Never have played with any of them before, but we definitely think all of them are unique and will bring their own energy to the show. I'm really stoked about the lineup.
In comparison to the debut EP 'Heart VS. Mind', what can we expect differently from the upcoming debut album?
I think we stayed true to our sound, but really just matured a lot in our song writing. The hooks are bigger, the heavy parts are heavier and we really have a focused message. We took a couple risks that were outside the box as well. I'm really proud of what we created.
What has it been like working with Fearless Records for your first album?
It was great. They added a lot of value to the process. It was our first time working with a label in making an album, so we didn't know what to expect, but they definitely delivered.
When can we expect more information about this album?
Pretty much any day now! (This info has arrived, check here for details)
When you first released the amazing 'Blank Space' cover, originally by Taylor Swift, was the success anticipated?
Definitely not to that level. We had some goals in mind, but needless to say we had no idea what was coming. We've just stopped asking why and started rolling with it.
It appears you guys can play brilliantly live plugged in as well as acoustic, will we be seeing any acoustic tracks on the upcoming 'Strike The Match Tour'?
Yea definitely. We like our set to feel like an emotional roller coaster, so we take the energy up and down. No better way to take a break from the pit than by holding up a lighter and singing a ballad or two.
Are you guys planning on touring Europe anytime soon?
I hope so. There have been some talks in our camp of that being on the radar. I would love to be able to get our fans over there. They are great and we need to make that happen for them.
So far, what is your favourite track to play live?
My favorite was always the title track off the EP, Heart vs. Mind. Has a lot of right from the intro and just has a good blend of heavy and melodic parts. Kids always go hard to the breakdown live so that helps any song you're playing.
Will we be hearing any unreleased tracks on the upcoming tour?
Definitely playing some new songs on this tour!
Do you guys have any advice for starting bands?
Obviously spend a lot of time developing your sound and putting out a quality recording. That is always step one. Beyond that, make sure you have your image dialed in and are learning how to market yourself. You will always be able to reach the people you want to better than anyone else. You'll always care more as well. I think we're in a time where bands need to be more self-sufficient than ever before.
And finally, do you guys have any pre-show rituals?
Yea we do actually... a little hard to explain, but I'll try! So we all stand in a circle while one of us says very sings, "ancestors protect us" The other five guys respond in unison, "may they protect you." Then we go through a series of very complicated handshakes. If you've seen the movie Hot Rod, you'll get it. If not, this will seem very stupid. It's worked for us so far though!
Starting sometime in 2015, Serpent & Co. was created as a UK & US clothing brand co-founded by Ben Bruce of Asking Alexandria along with co-owner Tim Leftwich! And you wanna know the best part? All the clothes are inspired by rock & roll!
We were lucky enough to catch up with Tim Leftwich and chat about how the creative process of starting Serpent & Co. was like, the brand's designs, Warped Tour, and of course, the supportive customers! Check out the interview below to find out all that and more.
1. How did the name and logo for “Serpent & Co.” come about? Is there a specific meaning behind it?
Tim: The original conversation about our brand name was Ben calling me and saying he wanted to call it something bad-ass and he thought a Serpent pretty much summed it up. I just added the & Co to just give a smart twist on the name. We actually worked with a really great design team on the logo so it you closely you can see the Serpent head, then there is an '&' on it's side in the middle and the tail forms a loose 'Co'. So we put a lot of effort into it.
2. On the About Us section of your website it says, “Serpent & Co. strives to become a brand that creates unique, high quality menswear and womenswear.” What inspired you and Ben to want to get involved in creating a “unique” clothing line?
Tim: We both love fashion and music, maybe a bit too much, but there are so many brands being started all the time these day so you have to do something special to stand out. We didn't just want to be another t-shirt brand that releases a couple cool designs and fades away. We wanted to make something so amazing that you can't help but come back for more!
3. The Got Ink? Tee and Skulls Tee are two of my favorite shirts on the website. What was the process like getting or creating those designs?
Tim: So I originally came up with a few versions for both of those tees and was batting the ideas back and forth with Ben until we really nailed it! The skulls tee was all about creating something fashionable that had a bit of a dark twist to it. The Got Ink? Tee was literally just us having some fun with the idea of ink and tattoos. I mean let's face it... we just created the greatest pun ever in an illustration!
4. What's it like seeing people wear what you created?
Tim: It's pretty awesome. The support for the brand has been incredible so to see people wearing it out and about is the best thing we could ask for!
5. Would you ever let a fan make a design for Serpent & Co.? Why or why not?
Tim: Why the hell not! I'd definitely like to see what people come up with. I'm sure at some point in the future we might do something like that... but only if people promise to make something badass!
6. Was there a time that a customer recognized you and expressed to you how they felt about the brand? If so, what did they say and how did it make you feel?
Tim: Let's be real here...Ben gets recognized all the time obviously so I'm 100% sure people have said they love the brand to him. It hasn't happened to me yet, but there's time ;)
7. Do you know what it's like for Ben to be working with Serpent & Co. compared to his last clothing line, Ben Bruce Clothing (BBC)? Was there a reason for getting involved in a new line while the other still exists? Because both are awesome!
Tim: I'm answering this for him and he thinks Serpent & Co. is the best thing that has ever happened in his entire life.
8. How has the brand grown compared to when you first started?
Tim: It's grown massively in a really short space of time. We're going to be on Warped Tour all this Summer, we're making preparations to move into stores, and more and more people are wearing the brand everyday.
9. We're excited that Serpent & Co. will be at Warped Tour! Is it true that the brand will be attending all the dates? If not, which will Serpent & Co. be attending?
Tim: Providing we don't run into any issues (and we sincerely hope we won't!) then we will indeed be on the entire Warped Tour. We won't be selling at Hartford, CT, but we will still be hanging around at the venue.
10. We saw that Serpent & Co. will be choosing two people for each show to be part of the Serpent & Co. street team to help promote the brand at Warped Tour (free passes included.) What should the participating street team members expect from this experience?
Tim: We basically just want people to have a great day with us. We want them to be able to still enjoy all the experiences of Warped Tour as well as a little extra fun with us. They'll be doing a little bit of promo with us, but we might even be doing some signings at our tent so they may even get to meet a few people!
11. Will all the items featured on the site be available to purchase at Warped Tour? (Such as the ones that are currently sold out on the website?)
Tim: We aren't selling every item from our store at Warped Tour, but there will actually be a few exclusives on the Tour which will be awesome, so expect to see a few new items there!
12. Overall, when wearing Serpent & Co., how do you want your customers to feel?
Tim: We want people to feel comfortable, fashionable, but most importantly we want them to feel like they can wear it with pride without anybody judging them and to know we love them for wearing something that's so important to us!
Interview by Melanie Gomez
Want to grab some Serpent & Co. merch right now? Click HERE to check out the store!
You can also follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat: @serpentandco
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