We Are Scientists’ Chris Cain on Silver Foxes, Reality TV, and Musical Pastries

In late 2007 I was introduced to a band who I doubted would leave a lasting impression on me. Their sound – to me at the time, anyway – was a little too “experimental,” and perhaps a smidge too “indie” for my liking. Yet still, I bought records and invested plenty of my college “study time” watching interviews and live performances on YouTube for a band, I assumed, I hardly cared about it. You may ask: how did I rank in the top 20th percentile of my class after losing hours of sleep to Keith Murray (guitar/lead), and Chris Cain’s (bassist/vocals) impeccable harmonizations? Easy: My IQ was increased from, not eating folic acids (Ha! Take that spinach!), but from constantly spinning tracks from With Love and Squalor and Brain Thrust Mastery.

Let’s fast forward to 2011. As I write this, my heart rate is slightly elevated (okay, I’m flatlining here), and I’ve put on We Are Scientists’ latest record,Barbara, to help me focus my thoughts. Okay – so my thoughts aren’t exactly focused and I’m making all the dogs bark uncontrollably in my suburban neighborhood because I’m singing “Jack and Ginger” at the top of my lungs…but at least I can safely report that I have been nothing but devoted to the dudes in We Are Scientists as if they were N’Sync on TRL. You can bet if that type of programming was still MTV’s central focus, not only would they be on the daily countdown, but I would standing at the bottom of Times Square, holding my glitter sign and wearing their faces on my homemade puff-paint t-shirt. (That depiction of myself isn’t too far off, actually. Ahem…)

Despite they haven’t visited Los Angeles since March (Remember San Diego’s Indiefest? The Bardot?), at least I have this interview (amongst other things, like the talk of a new album) to hold me over until they return to the States from playing summer festivals –happening this month – in Japan, Indonesia, and Jakarta. So without further ado, I present to you what you really came here to read: Chris Cain unveiling delicious secrets about the new album in the works, their reality show? and of course—a summer mixtape!

Ashley Jean: I hear that you’re in the process of writing new material. So—how exactly is a We Are Scientists song conceived? (Telling this in the form of a Native American creation story could be fun!)

Chris: Yeah, sure! Well, basically, one day Silver Fox was walking through a meadow, and he heard an amazing sound. He stopped, cocked his head, and listened. It was the wind through the trees, but this wind-through-trees sound was unlike any he had ever heard before – and he had heard the wind go through the trees many times, believe me! He was a fox who lived amongst the forest and the fields, so he had heard more than his share of wind-through-trees! Frankly he was sick to death of it! On this day, though, there was something interesting and exciting about the sound, and Silver Fox stood rooted to that patch of grass most of the afternoon (as foxes will sometimes do), until finally the wind shifted and he wandered home, the sound continuing to dominate his thoughts, if not his actual ears.

Over the following days, Silver Fox’s friends, Near-Sighted Badger and Golden Hart, noticed something off about him. When they asked what was the matter, Silver Fox told them that he had been unable stop thinking about the sound that the wind had made as it blew through the trees several days before, and it made him sad to think that he might never again hear this lovely, unique sound. Near-Sighted Badger and Golden Hart said, Well, fuck it, let’s reconstruct that sound! Silver Fox was skeptical, but spent the next few hours helping his friends to trick out a small ravine with all sorts of parapets of woven grass and curtains of entwined leaves and carefully placed seashells and other small constructions that would shift the wind’s path. And would you believe it? When they were done, the breeze, as it passed through the ravine, created a sound not exactly like the one Silver Fox had heard that day in the meadow, but kinda similar, and still very interesting, very different from any wind-sound Silver Fox or his friends had heard before. And they stood around for most of the evening listening to their ravine, Near-Sighted Badger and Golden Hart very damned pleased indeed, and even Silver Fox himself pretty impressed with what they’d managed to accomplish.

Ashley Jean: Instrumentally, WAS is a band that primarily consists of three basic instruments. Do you think in the future, piano or even, xylophone will be the focal instrument? Is this dream of hearing Keith sing a ballad to a xylophone too farfetched?

Chris: Farfetched? Maybe. But dreams aren’t really supposed to represent well-researched calculations of likely future developments, are they? But yeah, you’ll be waiting a really long time to hear Keith sing over anything other than a guitar.

Ashley Jean: Can you give us a taste as to what you think the new album is going to sound like by way of pastries?

Chris: A buttery, flaky crust, filled with lava rock.

Ashley Jean: How would you feel if one of your tracks made its way onto a show like…16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom? (Obviously, a song like “Pittsburgh” is a choice for a mature love scene.)

Chris: Hard to say. If the song were deployed tastefully – say, under a scene in which a teenage mom just sits on the couch and stairs straight ahead at a wall, her eyes wearing little walls of trembling, precariously balanced tears, while her 19-year-old boyfriend, to whom she’s engaged, stalks the room and shouts about how she’s ruined his life – then we’d be cool with it.

Ashley Jean: If We Are Scientists had their own reality show, what could viewers expect?

Chris: Well, plenty of teenage pregnancy, certainly. We would aim to glorify it, though, unlike some of the other shows you’ve mentioned, which seem to have no problem displaying an open bias against teenage parents.  Also lots of water sport, to be sure – para-sailing, boat jumping, yachting around. The final ingredient – and this is how we would differentiate ourselves, I think – would be the location, which would be the Canadian Rockies.

Ashley Jean: Aside from music, you also talk Twitter. Do you think this sort of open dialogue with fans over the internet hinders people from appreciating your music? Like, do you think some people get in contact with you just for the sake of using your at replies as an icebreaker at a cocktail party?

Chris: I think that, for a band, we have a fairly diverse skill set. Not only do we write and perform music, but we tweet well. That’s pretty much it, but still, what other band can say that? We’re not aware of any.

Does the tweeting detract from the music? I don’t think so. If a person can come to our Twitter feed and learn all about the world, about politics and culture, film, sexuality, cooking, modern dance, techniques in mining, and hot new restaurants in their area…well, I think the result is going to be gratitude, and that that gratitude is going to be directed to our music.

Ashley Jean: Because it’s summer, could you make me a 5-song mixtape to quench my musical thirst? I’m sure we all need new uh…surfing music?

Chris: Yeah! Surf to this:

Relentless Love,” The Blood Arm

“Thorn Castles,” Gardens & Villa

Too Pretty To Say Please,” Two Matchsticks

The Long Goodbye,” Army Navy

Suck It & See,” Arctic Monkeys

Originally published on July 12, 2011

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