We Are Scientists with PAWS – Electric Owl – May 02, 2014

Almost 8 years after one of the greatest, most memorable interviews of my young music editorial career, I had a chance to revisit and photograph We Are Scientists in Vancouver. My experience with this group is mostly limited to that interview, a couple lives shows of yore (including dancing on a picnic table to see over the crowd while eating noodles during their set just before the hailstorm from hell was unleashed on the Sasquatch Festival in 2006), and their magnificent album of the same era, With Love And Squalor. It is music I have not forgotten, and was pretty pleased to be able to head out and see how they’ve been getting along since. Before getting into the galleries, I am just going to post up this shot, because along with it being one of the most ridiculous and fun interviews I ever conducted, it also provided one of the greatest uninhibited interview photos I ever got. These guys got so entrenched in their yarns they just started losing it in gales of laughter: wearescientists So. That is pretty much how I remember them, howling over a table at the Yogen Früz in the library downtown about whiskerless kittens, monitor lizards, and hitting George W Bush in the butt with rubber bands as he piloted an animal-laden canoe towards the Hoover Dam. I am pleased to say not much has changed. On arrival, the room at the Electric Owl was just starting to fill up, and to the side, WAS singer Keith Murray was manning the merch booth, much to the delight of fans who were both snapping up goodies and taking advantage of a photo opportunity with him. Longtime tour partners PAWS, hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, were on stage still linechecking and setting gear up. Shortly, they got going, beginning their set with a greeting and an invitation to come closer to the stage. “We came all the way from Scotland – you can come closer to the stage,” asked singer Phillip Taylor. This band is noisy and energetic, bodies flying around the stage, hats flung from heads. They were on the cusp of releasing their album, Youth Culture Forever, in North America, and had brought along a handful of copies to pre-sell to the lucky few who managed to snap them up. With Murray still manning the merch table, Taylor piped up with an offer; “What’s that Keith? Keith says he’s buying.” Through the set, they continued to invite fans forward and respond to folks yelling at them that they were awesome, and had great shirts. Fitting intro to this band, a new group for me, and one to watch!

Changeover between sets was brief, and under blue lights, We Are Scientists emerged to play an energetic set. The oddball thing about these guys is that in their videos, banter, interviews, photos, they are total cut-ups. I mean absolutely bonkers sense of humour. But musically, they have a rather refined, serious one-part-timeless-one-part-trendy sound. It’s a bizarre balance. But they really are so good at being funny. They also haven’t changed in 8 years, aside from acquiring a new drummer. On board for touring duties behind the kit was Keith Carne, who was celebrating a birthday this night – and the band didn’t let anyone forget it. The set they played was long, varied, spanning the years and making the fans in the room very very happy. Carne basically never stops smiling behind the drums, and thanks to a well-placed fan, had a 50s rock n roll pompadour look much of the night. Murray sings and plays his guitar with a hunched-up intensity that pigeon-toes and kicks his legs, hidden behind a wall of hair (as per his own admission during the show, he wins at haircuts). Bassist Chris Cain wandered the stage from time to time, looking serious when he wasn’t cracking jokes between songs. Some highlights of the banter included the disbelief that they had played 100 shows with PAWS… or was that 453 shows? Yes, the 453rd show with PAWS. There was an extended discussion, following Carne’s trivia factoid that the Frasier sitcom opening credits use the Vancouver skyline instead of the Seattle skyline, about Peter Jackson’s forthcoming Frasier trilogy, starring… Sylvester Stallone. But who is the guy who plays the brother? Oh yeah. David Spade. Nearing the end of the set, a cake was brought out alight for Carne’s birthday. He’d already gotten an on-stage shot. Now he gets a cake too! We all sang Happy Birthday to him (after a metal version by Cain), and after a short drum solo, Carne blew out the candles. I’m not sure what happened to the cake after that. All told, terribly fun night. I hope these guys keep sticking around.

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We Are Scientists

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