This ‘We Are Scientists’ article was written by Ben Duncan-Duggal, a GIGsoup contributor – Lead photo by www.mowphotography.co.uk
We Are Scientists are a jangly indie-pop band from California, USA, who have found considerable success in Britain. They’ve charted singles and albums in the country whereas in their homestead they’ve never really hit the peaks they have here. I wanted to know what the band thought of that and if they had any inkling as to why that might be.
I’m sitting opposite the pair – the band’s two key members, Chris Cain and Keith Murray, following the departure of drummer Michael Tapper in 2007 – in the press tent at Portsmouth’s Victorious festival – and I put this question to them. ‘I think it’s all down to quality. We have the most commercially desirable product’ states Chris, completely deadpan.
He’s joking, of course. We Are Scientists are famed for their notorious sense of humour. In 2007 they gave ‘self improvement lectures’ as a support act on their own tour, under the name ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’, and in 2009 they wrote and performed in their own sitcom for MTV. Their Wikipedia page actually says they have interview and on stage ‘banter’.
The other reason it’s obvious that they’re are joking is that We Are Scientists are an Indie band. By the laws of Indie, that means they cannot state any interest in the commercial world. But We Are Scientists genuinely aren’t interested, or at least that’s how it appears. ‘(Selling records) is just something that some people have,’ says Chris ‘You know, it’s not something we set out to do’. ‘It’s a fortuitous coincidence’ continues Keith ‘that we have a hugely saleable product, which is what we call it as artists’, rolling the word ‘product’ around his mouth with relish.
But the band were forced to deal with the commercial world when in 2005 the band signed to EMI for their first album produced on a label. It was, to date, their only album produced by a label, with the rest produced by the band and then distributed by the label. ‘We got to keep the same producer for that album, so there wasn’t really a lot of challenge there’ says Chris ‘But I think there was more of a sense of committee on that album than we wanted. They wanted to push us to write different versions of the songs. ‘Try rewriting the chorus!’ ‘ he mimics. ‘But in our case, it was only with one or two songs. We were happy to play ball, it was the only record we did that on, so I don’t think it was particularly tortuous. But I would imagine that that would be a pretty crappy way to have your career go’.
And so they’ve been free to pursue any musical direction they might want to ever since. Of course, the background against which they have pursued their careers has changed. Guitar music isn’t as commercially strong in Britain as it once was – it’s mid noughties strength is the real answer to the question of why they’ve been so successful in this country – and other bands, particularly new bands have adapted. Were We Are Scientists tempted to do the same? ‘I don’t feel we have to keep up with where the music’s going’ says Chris ‘But I do feel that becoming Abelton masters and abandoning guitars would be helpful’ he says wryly. ‘But I’m not interested. We’ll still just do whatever we’re doing’.
And what are they doing? ‘We’re flying out to LA next week to finish mixing the new record next week. In theory, it should be out in the spring of 2016’.
Later on, I spot the band sitting in an area intended for keeping children happy, seemingly oblivious of the fact they are surrounded by toddlers. It seems fitting for one of the most humorous bands in the industry.