Interview: Chris Cain of We Are Scientists

By on Tuesday, 30th September 2014 at 11:00 am
 

We Are Scientists will be starting a coheadline American tour with fellow Yanks Surfer Blood tomorrow in Boston. Ahead of the 10-date outing entitled The Spatter Analysis tour, I wanted to get some questions answered by bassist Chris Cain, who just happens to be one of the earliest supporters of my amateur bass playing. (I’ve stuck with it after 4 years, I’ll have you know.) We chat about their current album and its pesky ‘special’ character, their videos and how they know the Surfer Blood boys. Read on…

Hello Chris. Where are you today? Did we interrupt you doing something?
In New York City! I’m actually sitting in bed, sick. Not terribly happy about it, but the timing could’ve been a lot worse. The tour doesn’t start till middle of next week, so there’s plenty of time to mend. I’m supposed to record some backing vocals Tuesday for an acoustic EP we’re working on, I’m pretty confident I’ll make that deadline.

Your latest album, released in March, is entitled ‘TV en Français’. Let’s talk about the name first. How did you decide on the title? Was it because you wanted to use a nonstandard character of the alphabet with a squiggly thing?
Ah, yes, the highly undervalued cedilla. That squiggly line does add a touch of class to the album, you must admit. Funnily, it ended up being a real pest. The words “TV EN FRANCAIS” that appear on the front of the album don’t have a cedilla, because that’s an actual photo of a motel wall, and we didn’t want to alter it. But on the spine we wrote the title in a similar font, with the cedilla on the ‘c’. And get this: as a result of an error in the artwork, that spine-cedilla ended up splatted like a swatted mosquito on the motel wall on the cover of the album on the entire initial UK run of CDs (10,000 of them, I think). Very mischievous, that little squiggle! Of course, the happy ending is that a copy of the album from that “faulty” print run is now considered rare, and worth around $800 on the open market.

How much French do you and Keith (Murray, lead vocals and guitar) actually know? Has the album proved especially popular in the Gallic region of the Continent?
Well, we’ve only played in France once since releasing “TVeF”: it was a show in Paris, and it went very well indeed. We’ve got three more French shows coming up end of October, though, and I think those will be the true test of the album’s success. Historically, we love France a lot more than France loves us; maybe the scales will tip a little closer to even this year.

‘TV en Français’ is We Are Scientists’ fourth album, following on from ‘With Love and Squalor’, ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’ and ‘Barbara’. What do you think sets this new effort apart from all its predecessors?
Well, we continue to evolve as songwriters and musicians (improve, I hope), so the material we generate continues to change. That’s the boring answer. The exciting part was working with Chris Coady as producer for the first time. Dude is a one-man “delicious sounds” generator. He’s also an extremely interesting and pleasant conversationalist. The full package, in other words.

I read that you parted ways with your management after the release of ‘Barbara’. That sounds pretty heavy. Was that time apprehensive, nerve-wracking, freeing, etc.? You guys have been around quite some time now, so I would think that having been around the proverbial block, you know how you work and who will be good for you.
We’re getting better and better at understanding our own needs and picking out people who can fulfill them, but we’re still pretty dumb about it. Work in progress.

The last promo video you released was for ‘Make It Easy’. Looks like you’re in favour of unconventional relationships?
Absolutely. It’s time to retire the shopworn model of “Right Man + Right Woman = Eternal Love”. Not only does it miss a huge spectrum of possibilities, but the one possibility it does describe, it describes unrealistically. This essay by Alain de Botton on what a practical marriage would look like isn’t exactly what we’re talking about here, but it’s awesome, so let’s segue into it.

What ground is there left in the universe for WAS to cover if you’ve already filmed a promo in outer space?
We still need to shoot a video that takes place inside the cab of a car that has just smashed through the guard rails of a bridge. It’s in slow motion, and the entire song plays while the car’s plummeting. When we shoot THAT video, we’re done.

In May, you made your third appearance at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, performing on The Late Show with David Letterman. Give us the lowdown, be honest: what was Dave really like? Who’s funnier, you or him?
Dave is funnier than us, I would say, after carefully weighing the evidence.

This week you’ll be starting a new tour coheadlining with Surfer Blood on the East Coast. Are you guys friends? How did this joining of forces come about?
We met the SB fellas when they were touring their first album and we were touring our second. Bumped into them on the festival circuit a lot. And as of a couple of years ago, we have the same booking agent in the U.S., one Mr. Mike Mori. It was Mike who had the lightbulb moment, I believe, when he realised that WAS and SB were both looking at doing a run in the fall. A big part of it was probably Mike realising that he could put together two tours while only really doing the work of organizing one. But we were big fans of the idea as soon as he presented it, even if it does make his life easier than we’d ideally like.

What great things are you expecting to happen on this tour with them? What are you dreading?
I’m dreading the complaints of injustice that will come from the giant swaths of North America that the tour isn’t visiting (they’ve been rolling in steadily since announcement). We admit it: the tour is simply too short. Only 10 cities will get to experience it. It is, indeed, not fair.

I’m most looking forward to becoming local heroes in those 10 cities.

Any last words / quips for your fans?
For the shows, please wear shoes with good support and plenty of cushioning. Elbow and knee pads are recommended but not required. A helmet would look dumb.

We wholeheartedly thank Chris from crawling out from under the covers to answer these questions for us, and thanks to Stephanie too for her assistance.

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