Musician. Sexy Vegan. Songwriter extraordinaire. A man of the people. Keith Murray is all of these things. On June 15th, him and Chris Cain will release their third album of indie rock goodness, Barbara. This time around, they have Andy Burrows, formerly of Razorlight, joining the band on drums. The album offers a more stripped-down effort, while still keeping that W.A.S. spirit of punchy, catchy tunes.
I talked to that handsome fellow above like week about the new album, his desire to escape Brooklyn, the night I saw him share a stage with REM in Madrid and his wikipedia page. Keith is a frequent guest, so I would like to welcome him back to this space.You've been in this band for ten years now, which makes you practically a veteran. Does it make it easier to write and record a new album?
I want to say that this album was easy to write, but there was stretch for about three or four months that I couldn't get anything done. I've had this desire for a while to leave Brooklyn. We had this practice space that was hugely expensive but a complete shithole. This place just made me depressed. Going back to January of last year, it just wasn't happening for me creatively. Okay, you know the term "eyesore"?
Yes, I do.
Well, this space was a mindsore.
I wanna see this place. I'm curious.
I don't know the exact address but it was on South 1st between Kent and Wythe. We had to move out because it was condemned by the state. It didn't meet any of the building codes.
So I went down to Athens, GA because The Whigs, who we had toured with on the Kings of Leon tour, lived down there.
Of course, R.E.M. is from Athens.
That is correct. Athens had been on my mind, so I rented a cottage, brought my gear down and got to work writing the album for six weeks. From there, the album came to me easily. In saying that, I don't think I've unlocked the mysteries on how to create an environment to work in.
Look at it this way, you live a great life where you are on tour and you go to these great places and play. You come home, and it's a different pace and you probably don't know what to do with yourself.
Don't get me wrong. I love Brooklyn. When I do come home, I think I'm out too much. One out of every three people is a working musician. It's hard to gauge when it's time to work and time to play. While in Athens, my days were spent working and then I could go out at night if I wanted to. The Brooklyn curse is that it's hard to find a time and space to devote to working.
Going back to your longevity in the band, you and Chris have been together the whole time. How is the dynamic between you two? Does he have strengths that you don't have?
Our strengths combine work well in the operation of the band. When it comes to writing, that's largely my world. Chris is an excellent editor of what I do. I would send him .mp3s and have him decide which ones were worth persuring. When it comes to the band beyond our music, the sort of We Are Scientists enterprise and personality, that's all him. Chris writes our press releases and works on the websites.
How dare you! First off, Wes Anderson uses helvetica.
No, sir. That's futura.
Well, don't blame us on the font. That wasn't our choice. The mere mention of Wes Anderson and fonts is making me break out in a cold sweat.
Sorry, Steve Sizzou.
You recorded this in New York, London and Los Angeles.
That was more based on our schedules. Our drummer lives in London, while our producer, Ariel Rechtstaid, lives in Los Angeles. We recorded some of the drums in London. Our producer stayed in Los Angeles so we could do vocals and guitars. Then Andy met us in New York to do more work, but our producer couldn't. So we had Chris Coady come in to engineer the sessions. I hope to never do it this way again. It was a headache and it costs far, far more money than it should.
That track that stands out to me is "You Should Learn". It's got this great intro, it's almost Muse-like. Does it surprise you that you can make a song that's like that?
What surprises me is how people react to songs. I would have never have guess that you would pick that song out. It's happening more on this record than the previous two. We try to keep songs interesting to us and hopefully try not to repeat ourselves. The goal is to not have a paint-by-number We Are Scientist song.
With that in mind, it feels that "Pittsburgh" is your first power ballad.
It has more weight to it than your previous down tempo songs.
I think we wanted to be based more on that heavy groove. We definitely wanted to create an atmosphere with that song. I wouldn't call it a power ballad, but we might have drawn our energy from that musical trope.
Maybe in 15 years, you'll see that song in the scroll of some late-night commercial for Power Ballads of the Tens.
God willing, Chris.
Thank you ... On this album, you have a permanent drummer in Andy Burrows. Did you feel that you needed to have a permanent third band member in order to make this record and to have for the year of touring ahead of you?
Here's the thing, he won't be touring with us. When he left Razorlight, his A&R guy signed him immediately as a solo artist. He wrote two of Razorlight's big hits. As it turns out, his solo record will come out this July. He does have responsibility to Universal Music Group that will take priority over our band. He will play a handful of festival dates, but he will mainly focus on I Am Arrows.
So we'll have another drummer to tour with, but we are planning on working with Andy again for the next record.
Going back to your original question, we did want the record to feel like it was made by three people in a band. It's the reason why the record is much more stripped down.
I agree, I think "Jack & Ginger" has that quality. It's a peppy song and you can hear all the parts. It also has your signature vocals where you stretch out the chorus.
[Laughs] Yeah ... yeah.
Which of these songs are you going to pimp out for a movie trailer?
Oh please. We will pimp out any song for a movie trailer, ten times over.
Even something like Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel?
Kids need good music. Movie trailers, between me and Chris, are our preferred art form in licensing our music. Trailers are a higher art form than cinema itself. Although I like the cash, I prefer the artistry in movie trailer.
I think the reason you called the album Barbara is so that you can make up some nonsensical answer for when you're asked about who Barbara is.
It's funny you say that. We had been doing that, but by the fourth interview we withered and gave the true answer, which is that there is no Barbara. It's just a metaphor or a universal uber-woman. Barbara is a common name, but not so much associated with one person.
Well, I was thinking you can say that Barbara is the name of the prostitute that your dad hired for you when your were 15 so that you can loose your virginity.
I want to use that in the very next interview. [laughs]
If we can step back, and talk about the night in Madrid where you shared a stage with R.E.M. for their encore. You played Man on the Moon and I Wanna Be Your dog. Does it get any better than that?
I would say that it doesn't get more surreal than that. It did make me feel that I was doing something right. In terms of having a firm sense of achievement, it never gets better than that -- I'm playing Peter Buck's guitar, on Peter Buck's stage, playing Peter Buck's song, with Peter Buck standing next to me. It goes right up there with getting a gold record for the first album.
It's just a bunch of random things. Here's one: He was nominated for World's Sexiest Vegetarian 2007, losing out to Davey Havok of AFI. I would like to know what happened in 2008. Did you loose your sexiness or did you eat a hamburger?
I think I've been nominated twice, but that year I made the finals. Davey Havok pummeled me with his alien-like sexiness. 2007 must have been a banner year for my sexiness.
He has an older sister. I don't know why I need to know that.
True. I have an older sister.
He is "not a fan of religion".
[laughs] Wow. I don't know what to think of that. I am certainly not apposed to religion. I don't go around extolling the virtues of religion, but I'm not a vocal opponent of it. Not a fan of religion? What does that mean?
This is the one that gets me -- "He is known in the indie-rock world for having gray hair at an unusually young age. His hair started graying from as young as he was 22, reports suggest."
Oh come on! Is that what I'm known for?
Indie rock world? Grey hair?
Everybody is talking about it apparently. I would like to state that my hair started graying at 18, so reports are inconclusive.
What can we add to this page?
"His sexual virility is the stuff of legend according to women in the lower southeastern states."
The next time the fellas will be around is July 14th at Bowery Ballroom. Barbara is out June 15.