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Interview: We Are Scientists

6 min read

We Are Scientists burst onto the music scene in New York in the early 2000s. These guys might not have been looking to play music full time but, with their successful indie rock sound and humourous charisma, Chris Cain and Keith Murray were born to be famous musicians.

Chris had a moment to spare from their busy touring schedule, and spoke to renownedforsound.com about their new album TV En Francais, their webisodes Steve Wants His Money and the difficulties of establishing a band in the ever growing music industry. Here’s what he had to say…

Melissa Redman: How are you and where in the world does this interview find you?

Chris Cain: Hey, I’m pretty good thanks. We’re in Vienna, Austria as part of our tour at the moment. It’s pretty great here, we’ve had some time to relax and explore Vienna which we don’t often get to do.

WeAreScientists-TVEnFrancaisMR: You have just released your fifth studio album TV En Francais. How did you come up with the title?

CC: Well we were excited about this idea of exploring lyrics of conversation and miscommunication. We were in Miami taking some photos and there was a hotel that had an advertisement for TV in France. We took a photo of it and that ended up being the album cover. It all comes back to the idea that when you watch television or have a conversation in another language, you don’t fully comprehend everything that’s going on.

MR: You guys have been together for 14 years now. How do you manage to keep your sound fresh?

CC: We’re first and foremost avid listeners and consumers of music. We’re always interested in what other people are doing and coming up with, so what we hear I guess inspires us. It’d be crazy if we still sounded like our first album back in 2005.

MR: Do you ever get sick of one another?

CC: No not at all. We still hang out all the time; Keith is the person I hang out with most when I’m in New York. When we’re on tour and you’re in this enclosed bus space with like ten other people, I sometimes feel like going for a walk by myself or whatever. But yeah, we still hang out together casually all the time.

MR: How would you describe the band to someone who has never heard of you?

CC: Hmm it’s getting harder and harder to describe. The longer we go on, the less obvious it is of the influences on the album. I guess you could just say we’re a general indie rock band, generally mid-tempo stuff and a little bit dancey. In the past it was obvious that certain artists on certain albums influenced us, like With Love and Squalor it was obviously David Bowie. But yeah, I can’t really figure out how to describe how we sound right now.

MR: Which is your favourite song or album that you’ve done and why?

CC: I’d say this album, TV En Francais, is my favourite album so far. We wouldn’t have released it if we didn’t like it better than our previous ones. My favourite song on the album is probably Make It Easy, because it’s such an unusual song to do and it’s great to play live.

MR: When you first got together, did you find it hard to establish a place for yourself amongst similar bands?

CC: Well we technically first got together in 2000. We weren’t chasing this idea of being full time musicians; we all had full time jobs that we actually really liked and it almost seemed impossible to break into the industry in New York. I don’t even know how it happened, one day we were playing for 30 people, the next 300. I don’t think I’ll ever figure out how people ever heard of us, it’s hard to make sense of it really.

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MR: You guys have made a mini web series called Steve Wants His Money. Why did you decide to do this, and is a second series indeed in the works?

CC: We decided to make Steve Wants His Money for lots of reasons. We try to do anything we’re invited to do. I don’t even remember the original pitch, but MTV wanted us to do it with other people writing and stuff, and we were like no, we’ll write it ourselves. I think we just tried to be as weird and crazy as possible. We try to say ‘yes’ to as many opportunities as possible. No there isn’t a second series in the works as yet and I don’t think there will be. But we do want to maybe try some more screenwriting.

MR: So you guys are on tour at the moment, do you have any sort of rituals that you do before you go on stage?

CC: Not really, I kinda wish we did though. We’re still pretty excited about playing live shows though, even after such a long period of time. I’ve actually been making juice cocktails before shows lately because we just got this juicer thing. Hand juicing gets you in the zone.

MR: Have you had any embarrassing experiences whilst performing live?

CC: Yes, I had one yesterday actually. We played an acoustic set at a museum in Berlin, we only played like eight songs and weren’t really planning an encore. But everyone was cheering and wanted one, but we hadn’t really though about what we would play for an encore. Anyway we were about to go back on and this woman came up to me and was like “I have to tell you something”. I thought it was going to be something really creepy or something, but she just went “your fly has been undone for the whole set.” I was like oh no! It was pretty bad, but at least my fly was done up for the encore.

MR: Why did you decide to put advice/review/features columns on your website? It’s not the typical thing you see on a band website.

CC: This goes back to the idea of always saying yes and making the most of opportunities. Band websites are generally really boring, I think they’re being greedy of WiFi because you can go to a heap of websites to find our tour dates. As long as people are going to make the effort to come to WeAreScientists.com, we should make it interesting for them. Our entire lives haven’t just been about music; we’re also really into literature, art, film etc and we like to share that on our website.

MR: What is next for We Are Scientists?

CC: Well we’re on tour until mid-June, I think, then we’ll do a heap of European festivals across the summer. We hope to do some more screenwriting sometime in the future, and will hopefully write some new music whilst we’re on tour. But then again, we tend to be a bit lazy on tour. Why sit inside when you can go out and explore Vienna or wherever we are? We might not come back here many times in our lives, so we like to take advantage of being on tour when we can.

MR: Thanks for your time Chris and good luck with the tour and record.