Chris Cain is the bassist for We Are Scientists, a Brooklyn-based indie pop band with a penchant for long-winded answers, absurdist humor and (apparently) pulp mystery novels. Cain and We Are Scientists will tour this fall in support of headliners Kings of Leon, with a show scheduled in the District at DAR Constitution Hall this November.
Talk about your most recent album “Brain Thrust Mastery.” – what the title means and if this is a departure from your other work.
The title is an irreducible phrase. It can’t be explained any further than the three words that constitute it. In looking for a title, we wanted that quality. We wanted something that was itself a definition. And yet, not something common like the word “And.”
That’d probably be a bad title.
That was a consideration. It was pretty close to being called, “And,” actually.
Why the change to “Brain Thrust Mastery”?
I think longer titles feel a little more enthusiastic. When a band puts out an album with a one-word title, I kind of feel like they tossed it off, like they don’t really care.
Talk about the sound of the album.
It’s poppier; the lyrics are far more sexual – sometimes brazenly so. I think that’s been a bit of the problem. That’s the only thing people realize initially: the graphic sexual nature of the lyrics . We definitely spent more time working on production details and thinking about more complex arrangements.
The band formed in California. How’d you come to work out of Brooklyn?
I think we were basically just bored on the West Coast with the weather. I don’t know if you’ve heard about the weather in California, but it’s really nice: seventies, rain occasionally. It becomes a big event if we have rain in L.A. – you know, emergency news flashes interrupting a new Friends episode. We needed to go somewhere where there was a little more spice. Not as much spice as, say, Detroit offers. But more spice than, say, Philadelphia.
Do you find that your emphasis on humor (for example, the advice column on the band’s Web site) marginalizes you as artists?
I don’t know if I would use the term marginalizes. I think our humor ghetto-izes us. It places us in a ghetto with other humor bands, of which there are none. There’s a stigma to it, but I think it’s just a categorization. It’s not necessarily bad. It happens to other bands for other reasons; you become the band that wears masks or the band that has all the sex scandals or the band with the bad songs.
I saw an episode of that MTV/Rolling Stone show about aspiring music journalists a while back, and one of the kids on it did an interview with you guys. The episode was prefaced by the notion that you really hated doing interviews.
The premise of that episode was that it was the kid’s first interview. We were presented as sort of road-hardened interviewees that were very short with him when he proved to be a little bit amateurish . Yes, we have a reputation. Check out our entry on the German Wikipedia. It describes us as, translating here roughly for you: “irascible, combative, sometimes nonsensical.”
Is there anything I haven’t asked you that’s important for this interview?
Did you want to know if I have any pets?
Sure. Do you have any pets?
Were they inspiration for “Brian Thrust Mastery” in any sense? Maybe tangentially?
I think their esprit infuses everything I contribute to the band, but I wouldn’t call them direct inspirations. I think the next album will probably draw more heavily in a sort of word-for-word fashion from my cats. More of a copy-and-paste kind of infusion.
Favorite books or albums released in 2008 that you think are legitimate or relevant?
I like the Oxford Collapse album; I think it’s fantastic . In terms of books that came out this year? I almost never read things in hardbacks … Let me check with my fact-checker (WAS frontman Keith Murray). Neither one of us can think of anything from 2008, but I think it’s because of our unwillingness to tote hardbacks around on the road. Oh! The new Robert Crais. He’s a Los Angeles mystery writer and we’ve got a destructive little penchant for mystery novels in this band. A wonderful waste of time that I can’t recommend highly enough. Check out the new Robert Crais. But don’t read that first. Read his first book, “The Monkey’s Raincoat” … Also, every book in Lee Childs’ oeuvre is well-worth your time.
Did you have anything else to add?
Well, you know about our tour supporting Kings of Leon. That’s going to be our last tour this year, I think. And then we’re going to take some time off and probably try to fucking re-launch Mad magazine. n
-Interview conducted and condensed by Amanda Pacitti.