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On the Radar - No 217: We Are The Physics

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B-movies, wiry post-punk, math rock, razor-sharp wit and acute self-awareness are among the clashing ingredients of We Are The Physics.

The Glasgow band have returned to the public eye this year with Your Friend, The Atom, their second album on This Is Fake DIY Records.

Ahead of a show in Edinburgh tomorrow, we caught up with Michael (the band consists of Michael, Michael, Michael and Chris) to talk tours, song titles, live performance, Stuart Murdoch’s new film and whether they’re tired of being compared to Devo.

This will be your first live date since your October tour… how did that go?

“It was a beezer, yeah. The first half we were supporting We Were Promised Jetpacks and that was great because most of their fans were throwing eye-daggers at us for the majority of our set. More gigs should be comprised of completely different bands like that. The second half of the tour were our gigs and that was equally as good because some people were there and didn’t want to see us die. We actually did a gig the other night in Glasgow, so we’ve done live stuff since October, but this’ll be our first date in Edinburgh in ages. Edinburgh usually just looks at us with a sort of irritated grimace. Much like everywhere else. We don’t seem to go down too well in Scotland… or England. Or anywhere.”

How have the new songs from Your Friend, the Atom been received?

“People seem to enjoy them. More so than the stuff from the first record, which is good because that’s a million years old. We’re a lucky band in that the people who do like us are fantastic and just want us to keep being us. Plus our label and management are always so supportive of us doing what we like. There’s no pressure on us to have commercial success, or write the ultimate pop hit – we can write anything as long as it’s inherently us. I think that’s more important than artificially engineering success or trying to appease the public. If we continue being ourselves, we should keep our seven fans.”

You know the value of a good song title. How do you come up with them?

“It’s not on purpose, it’s usually just what the song’s about. Although, I think if you’ve got free reign to be imaginative with a title, why not use that? There’s probably a million songs with bland titles like ‘Losing You’. Who wants to listen to another ‘Losing You’?! Let’s lose ‘Losing You’. I hate whatever songs are called ‘Losing You’. I can’t think of one song called ‘Losing You’. Might write one.”

Your live shows are energetic affairs. Are there pre-season band training sessions before a tour?

“If not eating as much rubbish counts as pre-season band training sessions, then that’s it. We usually have one practice before a tour and remain pretty static because we’re looking at how to actually play the songs. We sometimes have vocal warm-ups before going on, but it’s usually just a case of shouting ‘VOCAL EXERCISE’ to see how long it takes for someone to leave the room angrily. We specialise in not only annoying people who have to listen to our music, but each other.”

If you had a pound for every Devo reference in a WATP review, how rich would you be?

“Not that rich, really! We don’t get many reviews. We’re not going to shy away from our influences and, especially with this new record, there haven’t been as many references. The sort of critics who review records like ours usually know what they’re talking about, so they can see where else it’s come from – stuff like Skids, Brainiac, Dead Kennedys, Man Or Astroman, Cardiacs, as well as Devo. We’ve always offered up lists of bands we’ve stolen from… er… been influenced by. I think it’s more shameful to deny it then claim journalists are being lazy when they cite the obvious. If someone says we sound like Devo, that’s a compliment. But you have to take it all with a pinch, someone said we were ska in a review once.”

You make an appearance in Stuart Murdoch’s new film (the Belle & Sebastian songwriter has been working on a Glasgow-set musical feature called God Help The Girl). What can we expect from that?

“Probably us being cut out. We haven’t seen the finished product, but we’ve heard it’s brilliant. We spent a week or so on set, pretending to be a band, just like we do in real life. It looks like a Glasgow musical, and we got to do some acting, which was basically us stinking up the screen with real actors. Plus, we got to craft a song with Stuart, which was a good laugh.”

What’s the best thing about being in We Are The Physics?

“All the riches and fame. In honesty, just being We Are The Physics. Turning up to gigs across the world and seeing people who get it, and just enjoying the whole thing with them. You can accuse us of being derivative, or behind the times, or ahead of the times, or whatever, but we’ve consistently been ourselves. You see bands collapsing under the weight of not being able to ride the popularity bandwagon and, whether we’re playing to three people or no people, we’ve got that unflinching conviction to We Are The Physics. Not everyone’s going to like it, but it’s ours. Yeah, it’s like a terrible noose.”

We Are The Physics play the Limbo Xmas Shindig tomorrow (Friday) at The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, with Snide Rhythms and The Bad Books

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