Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint a generic genre for a band, but then again, isn’t that was makes a band fun? Cue: We Are The Physics, Scotland’s answer to the lifelong question: What has three Michaels and a Chris? Described as alternative, new wave, sci-fi punk and a series of other quirky titles, they have shared stages with names from Franz Ferdinand to 30 Seconds To Mars. With their record ‘Your Friend, The Atom’ ready to make your mind explode (in a wonderful way – we wouldn’t endorse malicious mind explosions), it seems you have no logical choice but to keep reading, do you?
Track for review – Applied Robotics – With a tight rock introduction, the band’s erratic quality takes to the front. Entertaining and unpredictable, the band encompass what we love about them: their quirky nuances, their catchy guitars, their tight beats. Expect the unexpected, then enjoy it.
IS: For those who have not heard of your band, how would you describe yourself and your sound?
Michael M (vocals/bass): Everyone’s heard of our band, how dare you. We’re called We Are The Physics, we sound like a big buzzing noise coming from a fridge, with some prick shouting ‘woo’ over it. We claim to play ‘mutant science punk rock’, but basically that’s just a way to make derivative music seem more exciting. It’s a sort of new wave/punk thing. It’s fast and jerky. Someone once said we looked like the aliens from Mars Attacks versus Moss from the IT Crowd, that’ll do.
IS: How did the band first start out?
MM: We started out not being able to play very well, a tradition that continues to this day. We would practice every Sunday in Michaelguitar’s bedroom much to the dismay of his neighbours and got our first gig by accident when the booker at the Barfly in Glasgow was genuinely trawling through the alphabet of Glasgow bands on MySpace. And then, one week later, we were headlining the O2 Arena in London. It’s mad how it all happened so fast.
IS: Where, ideally, do you want to take your music? What is there to achieve?
MM: Without having any sort of existential crisis, we don’t think there’s anything to achieve. Ultimately, anything and everything we do is completely pointless, so as long as we’re doing it our way and enjoying it while we do it, there’s no end goal. If we can continue to make the music we enjoy and still enjoy it ourselves, that’s enough. Although, if we had to choose something, we’d say going into space. Nothing to do with the band, or music, just going into space in general.
IS: If you were to recommend a track to a new listener, which would you pick and why?
MM: If it had to be one of ours, we’d issue an apology in advance, then pick the shortest one possible, which would be Drawing Anarchy Signs On Your Pencil Case Is Redundant. I think that runs for about 8 seconds. It’s better to spare them the agony. However, if it’s quality you want, we’d have to really really think about it, due to the sparseness of quality in our body of work. We’d recommend ‘Less Than Three’ or ‘Goran Ivanisevic’, because they’re readily available on YouTube and The Internet Dot Com. Although, it must be difficult to have your life, new listener, with all the pressing urgency that you can only listen to one track.
IS: If someone was to come to their first show of yours, how would you describe the live performance?
MM: Like watching four grown men embarrass themselves for little or no money because that’s literally what’s happening. We like to put on a wee bit of a show, our general rule is to never ignore the audience. We’ve seen so many bands who just go on and play without ever addressing the people in the room. There’s a certain charm to that, but you might as well stay home and listen to the record.
IS: How did you approach the recording of ‘Your Friend, The Atom’?
MM: With a sigh. It’s been something we’ve been trying to do for years – we’ve all just been so poor, we couldn’t afford to. So, by the time it came to actually recording it, it felt like the end of a lengthy and exhausting court battle. We’re not the most articulate of bands when it comes to music, so we’d print out photographs that represented how we wanted it to sound. One that hung over the mixing desk for the duration of the recording was a guy being blasted into the air by an indeterminate source. It was from a film, but we have no idea what film. We also printed out photos of shuttle launches, middens, Red Square in the winter, DNA, two seagulls looking pensive, as many wrists as we could find and Kenny Loggins.
IS: Was there a particular sound or narrative you had in mind going into the process?
MM: Not particularly a sound other than ‘here, just make it sound like PEEEOOWWWW’. We’re not great in the studio, we’ll tend to spend hours focusing on one noise that people will find completely incidental. We spent a whole day writing a guitar solo that we intended to record for dogs at the highest frequency we could. We have no idea if we did it right because we couldn’t hear it. But we saw a dog moshing.
IS: Lyrically, what would you say the record deals with?
MM: There’s a load of topics on the record all generally boiling down to the theme of good ideas becoming bad ideas. There are songs about tourism, embracing your failure, nuclear power, the imminent redundancy of the male genitalia, posthumanism, infidelity, 1960s space exploration, weight imagery and junkies eating buns, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag. We’ve never written a love song, but there’s plenty of them around if that’s your thing.
IS: How would you sum up the overall product? How would you compare it to your previous work?
MM: We just made the best record we could at that point. It may not be for everyone, but it’s ours. Also, it’s fast.
IS: Are there any tracks in particular you’d recommend to listeners as your favourite? If so, why?
MM: We’re not really the sort of people who make lists, or pick favourites, it always seems really reductive to circle a select few – albums are important to us, they’re a collection of songs rather than a chosen single, or a ‘best song’. Record labels are always on about the leading tracks, and radio-friendly songs, but we never really think of them like that. I think you’d have to listen to the whole record to get a real feel for it, by buying it at all good indie record shops using your real money and not downloading it illegally.
IS: What are your favourite parts of being able to work in music? Anything you’ve done to date that you are particularly proud of?
MM: We always approached being in a band with little or no pomposity – there are a lot of careerist bands out there who see logical progressions, and ‘graduating’ to bigger venues as a goal. For them it’s a job and you play the right cards to get promoted. But if we’re playing in front of two people (likely), or two hundred people (rare), or two thousand people (never), it’s the same thing to us. It doesn’t matter how many people are there – we’re doing We Are The Physics. Of course we’d like as many people to enjoy it as possible, but it’s important not to forget why we started the band so, if nothing else, we’re proud of our own conviction. And that probably means we’ll never get anywhere.
IS: Is there anything coming up that you’re looking forward to, and that people should watch out for?
MM: Well, Christmas is coming, so that’s pretty good. Other than that, we’re going on tour in October to try and promote the album or, as it’s known in the industry, lose a lot of money. Then, of course, our new album comes out on 22nd October and that’ll get us on Christmas Top Of The Pops with Basshunter, Slade and N-Dubz.
IS: Instead of just learning about your music, everyone seems to have a defining record and/or gig from growing up. What would you consider that defining show/record and why?
MM: We all pretty much liked different sorts of music growing up – Michaelguitar was right into metal and I remember going round to his house and seeing he had a torn denim jacket with patches on it which I thought was awful because I was more into miserablist goth stuff. I think we’d all have our own separate defining records and moments, but I remember going to see Manic Street Preachers when I was about 13 having just discovered The Holy Bible, and it was one of those moments where every other thing you’ve heard and seen just becomes redundant. Collectively though, I’d say the moment we all heard Cardiacs. It’s kind of like having a favourite film, and watching it for years and years, knowing every scene in and out, and then getting a new Blu-Ray release to find deleted scenes you’ve never seen before, completely blowing away how familiar you are with the film. Cardiacs did that for music for us, they redefined everything.
IS: What do you think makes your band unique?
MM: I think as long as your band sticks to their own collective organic personality, it’ll always be unique. Maybe not original, but yours. I suppose we’ve always done that – we haven’t jumped on a musical bandwagon or a buzz, so we’ll drift in and out of fashion as the popular people pick and choose. It’s not really what we got into music for, and probably not what anybody should get into music for. We’ve never thought we were an original band, but people still have a real problem placing us anywhere – we don’t fit into any scene, and nobody knows quite where to put us in terms of genre or billing. Not sure if it makes us unique, but it certainly makes us feel like awkward bastards. The good thing about that is that we don’t just attract people of a certain age-group or a certain style, our gigs are a real mish-mash of people. It looks like The Breakfast Club at our gigs.
IS: Anything you’d like to add?
MM: Two and two to get five.