We Are Scientists
is a band with two primary, famous members: Keith Austin Murray (‘Keith') and Christopher Ian Cain (‘Christopher I. Cain'). The two met at college in Southern California, where it's fair to say that they both majored in ‘Babes'. Although that wasn't technically a focus available at their college, one could deﬁnitely assert that had it been possible to do so, both Keith and Chris would have graduated with honors in ‘Babes'. Not that there was anything ‘honorable' about the way the two went about their ‘course work', as it were. No, they left a trail of scorched social earth everywhere they went, everywhere their ‘studies' took them. Such was their tendency to end relationships on a sour note that by junior year they were reduced to poaching students from a high school ten minutes down the road - no one at their college would even consider a romantic entanglement with Keith, much less with Chris. Shortly after graduation, in the autumn of 1999, in a desperate shot at reinvention, Chris and Keith formed a band. The rest, as they say, happened after that.
A Fantastic New Record
On the forthcoming Barbara, W.A.S. recruited Andy Burrows (former hitter-guy for Razorlight) to drum. Andy moved to New York for the summer of 2009 and began work with Chris on that crucial rhythm section trick: playing at the same time. Keith, meanwhile, decamped to Athens, Georgia, to take inspiration from the lack of New York accents, and the songs began to take shape. They recorded that fall in London, Los Angeles, & NYC. This geographical diversity could be seen as a metaphor for how disparate the three musicians are as people. Chris likes chicken; Andy likes lamb, while Keith is a vegetarian. All three appreciate beer, but sometimes, when drinking together at a pub, they order different brands. (That is rare, though.) It is a happy accident, then, that Murray, Cain, and Burrows were able to mesh their musical inclinations to such a compelling end on the songs of Barbara, a record that sees them return to the stripped-down production sensibilities of W.A.S.'s gold-selling debut, With Love & Squalor, while continuing to hone the melodic knack that has made them popular with fans and men who work for months at sea.
More about Chris and Keith
Keith plays guitar and sings, but Chris plays bass guitar and handles backing vocals. Chris grew up in Utah, yet to this day is not Mormon. Keith grew up in Miami, the setting for Scarface, TV's Dexter, and one book. Keith lives in Brooklyn. Chris has two cats that he doesn't really give a shit about, at the end of the day.
Interview by dadair
Even a 'Crap Attack' by We Are Scientists is poignant.
The Apollo Theatre in Manchester, is now well entrenched as being a pedestal for up and coming bands en route to music's elite territory. Some bands and artists prior to appearing here, have been known to display the nerves of a soccer player about to tread the hallowed turf of Wembley or the Millennium Stadium for the first time. However, for We Are Scientists' bassist and the artery that circulates their live and oft improvised humour, Chris Cain, it would take more than this to throw him off his stride. For all the recent controversy surrounding the bottle pelting of emo protagonists My Chemical Romance and Panic At The Disco, at the Reading Festival this year, the moustachioed Chris has a novel solution to this problem. When a nigh on full bottle of beer hit him whilst appearing on the NME Tour in January, he simply drank the contents of it and smiled politely.
"I think that bands can attract attention without a live show. Our live aspect is always important to the way we think about music. We always look at making a record that's
as close to our live sound as possible ."
This is the genuine Californian's humble response to a query about the importance of playing live these days. Also, it is an attempt to reason why some bands can't get near to We Are Scientists' dynamic musical strut and humour in a live setting and, why some are simply content to replicate their album sound. The guys are about to unleash a smattering of B-sides, covers and rarities upon the unsuspecting public, entitled 'Crap Attack'. Does this uncover a different side to the trembling, harmony gushing trio and highlight unexpected influences?
"Oh yeah, absolutely, a lot of it is stuff that didn't fit onto the album ('With Love & Squalour'). For example, our Art Brut cover 'Bang Bang Rock & Roll', we only recorded that recently. It is different from anything we have done before and it is not definitely where there next album is heading."
It is their Singapore on the way to Australia. So what about tonight's set any new numbers?
"Yeah, there are two new songs that we wrote on the road. We don't know if they'll be on the new album yet."
So, they are thinking about a new album? A look of pride takes over Chris' moustache as his main facial feature;
"When we've finished this tour in November, we're going to focus on the new album and distance ourselves from 'With Love And Squalour'. We are coming back to the UK for a show on the NME BRATS Tour, early next year. Then it will be spring before we are back here"
It is interesting the covers they chose, as 'Crap Attack' contains a version of The Ronettes 'Be My Baby' that has been a feature of their live set before. What does this band and song mean to them and what song of theirs would they like to be covered?
"'Be My Baby' is a great song, one of the most notable aspects of it is the harmonies and the backing vocals, which we like a lot and try to incorporate in our music. The challenge with 'Be My Baby' was to live up to The Ronettes, which we failed to do, I think."
1,800 fans at the Academy One in Manchester earlier this year, would strongly disagree with the last statement. Chris enthusiastically points to a state of the art laptop that he was fixated upon prior to this interview;
"Regarding someone covering one of our songs, there's a page on our website that I have been a bit lax in checking. Whereby, we invited our fans to do covers of our songs and the quality is really good. 'The Great Escape', 'Your Scene Is Dead' and 'History Repeats' were popular choices."
Does 'Your Scene Is Dead' take on extra significance here in Manchester? This is greeted with a wry smile and then some more diplomacy;
"I dunno, obviously Manchester continues to produce good bands. I don't know what function the scene has or what part the industry has in scenes. Because of the internet and that, I imagine scenes will still exist, but geographical scenes may disappear. Myspace and MP3s presuppose the extinction of the live show, but you will always get local bands with no money who will keep the live scene going."
And, not to mention bands for which music is a live experience and who retain a dynamic, like We Are Scientists. With singer/guitarist Keith Murray strolling in and chilling out, exchanging a witty back and forth with the interviewee, it is a good time to discover how creative differences are resolved?
"We don't, our songs represent where we've gotten to, I suppose to a point we are all equally dissatisfied with. We value what each member brings to it, though."
It is apparent that this is a clued up and genuine muso, so what does the term "indie" mean to him these days?
"I think there are two meanings; indie as a lifestyle and indie in financial terms, it describes a certain handicap, it lacks label backing and production skill. It has lost its meaning these days. Since the grunge days really, when the raw sound became popular the usefulness of that meaning of the term, has been dismantled."
Given that the band has been together for five years and released three EPs on top of their well known exhibits, are they still a changing and empirical outfit?
"Yeah, we'll never stop being a band in transition."
There is an impressive amount of people waiting outside the venue 3 hours before the doors open for their benchmark gig. The constantly evolving nature of We Are Scientists, coupled with their buoyancy for music and life makes for a dynamic and enthralling formula.