We Are Scientists, the Brooklyn-based pop-rock band that released its major-label album debut, “With Love and Squalor,” in 2006, and its riff-filled, melodic, Beatles-esque fifth album, “TV en Français,” last year, makes its Baton Rouge debut Saturday at the Spanish Moon.
For various logistics and business reasons, We Are Scientists has rarely performed in the Southeast. The group’s tours typically skipped the cities and states between Atlanta and Texas.
Nevertheless, We Are Scientists knows one of Baton Rouge’s dining institutions well. That place is Louie’s Café. A staple of the LSU area since 1941, Louie’s prides itself on serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 24 hours a day.
During a drive from Texas to a show in New Orleans, We Are Scientists stopped at Louie’s Café.
“It’s become the focal spot of a bit of lore for We Are Scientists,” singer-guitarist Keith Murray said.
We Are Scientists maintained a restaurant review page on the website Yelp for a time. Bassist Chris Cain did the writing and posting.
“For every place we stopped for food on the road, Chris would write a pithy review about it,” Murray recalled. “And Louie’s was a place that we simply could not agree on. Two out of three of us loved it and one of us hated it. The debate raged on in our van for the entire drive to New Orleans.”
Upon hearing that Louie’s is relocating from the State Street location it’s occupied since 1986, Murray expressed apprehension.
“It seemed like that specific building was integral to the Louie’s experience,” he said. “Like the fact that the kitchen was open and you could watch the chefs going at it. That was pretty amazing.”
The We Are Scientists crew also disputed the quality of Louie’s mural, which depicts a beach scene.
“We had a long argument about whether or not that mural is incredible charming or incredibly ugly,” Murray said. “Once again, opinions were stridently defended.”
The band’s disagreement about Louie’s Café parallels the contrast between We Are Scientists’ modest reception in the U.S. and its big success in the U.K. and Europe. While “With Love and Squalor” did moderately well in the U.S., it went gold in the U.K.
“We were as surprised as anyone, if not more so,” Murray said. “But we’d always been into British music of all sorts. When our first album was being written, we were into Franz Ferdinand, that kind of thing. The American bands we loved at the time (the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) were also being celebrated over there.
“We just happened to have a confluence of interest with the British music-buying public at that moment in time. Our first album fit nicely on their radio stations’ playlists.”
We Are Scientists’ second album, 2008’s “Brain Thrust Mastery,” also found its greatest popularity abroad, debuting at No. 11 in the U.K. The group is also popular in Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland
Murray is philosophical about the differences between the band’s foreign popularity and moderate stateside success.
“It’s a different animal all together,” he said. “In the U.K., our success was based entirely on being on BBC Radio 1 and MTV. That didn’t happen here. So it’s just a different climate for music over there. And the fact that we do as well as we do in Europe sort of makes it OK that we operate at the level we do over here.”