|Photo by Laura Means http://web.mac.com/lmeanswell|
For other photos for interview, check out http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=2060052&id=57701330
How has the tour been so far?
Cain: It has been pretty good. We have been talking to (concert) promoters and apparently this fall is the worst fall in a long, long time for live business in the states. Which is obviously related to the general downturn in the economy. So the shows have been really smaller, but they have ended up being really fun. We have even been going down of the floor a lot, when there is a really small amount of people, and play on the floor. Even when there are too many people to do that, it still ends up feeling more like a house party, than a club show.
Are you guys heading to the U.K. soon?
Cain: We will be there November 15th- 30th, and the last time we played there was in the end of August. We all played there off, and on throughout the entire summer.
How are the shows there, completely different?
Cain: It’s quite different, they are bigger there. Beyond that there isn’t a huge difference, I feel like the fans that we have here are passionate, interested and tend to come to repeated shows. They seem to be very dedicated.
With your latest release, Barbara, I heard that you approached the writing and recording with your live performance in mind?
Cain: That’s true. I think that the most significant, guiding principle was that we wanted to return to a three-piece live form, whereas we became a four-piece for the last record because the songs had more extensive arrangements and we needed a keyboard player to pull off a lot of those songs. We missed the energy, and more push-and-pull of the three-piece. I think the more people you add on stage, the more locked it things become. Whereas fewer members on stage gets the audience to notice any small idiosyncrasy or unique moment that one of the three people onstage is having. It also means that mistakes are accentuated, but to good affect generally if you are that type of band. We are a band who dresses up our mistakes, as to make the most of them. More slimmed Down arrangements (on the record), and in keeping with that spirit we wanted the songs to be more concise and “poppy.”
Was it difficult going back to that three-piece approach?
Cain: No, it was kind of exciting. It was cool to loosen up that way again.
I saw a great video that you and Kurt made concerning the use of twitter, and I was wondering what your take is on social networking as an artists?
Cain: It’s cool, I like it and I definitely enjoy interacting with our fans in that way. So, if nothing else I think that it has made being in a band more fun. It is great to have direct, unfiltered, interaction with your fans on Twitter and FaceBook, or whatever. I am not totally convinced that it has revolutionized the sales model. Its not completely apparent to me that it is easier to sell music. Obviously, there is a possibility of smaller bands, having their music listened to, but I am not sure to what degree it actually happens. Just because it can happen, doesn’t mean it does. Yes, anyone can log onto your “anonymous” band’s MySpace page and hear the music. So, in theory you have gotten your music in front of 5 billion people. The other thing is that something has to cause them to go to those bands MySpace page, and it’s that reliance on taste makers or radio, that is still very much a part of how music is sold and marketed. Conservatively, I am saying that social networking has made being in a band more fun, but not necessarily changed how the business works.
We Are Scientists’ music videos have always had such unique style, what would you say are some of the inspirations behind them?
Cain: Well, different videos of our have had different inspirations. The first one we made, “Nobody Move,” specifically referenced the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Which I think we did to “mixed” success. There was the “Chick Lit” video, which is the one where we are herding Pomeranians; we wanted it to look like a “City Slickers” sort of thing. The “I Don’t Bite” video, which is our most recent one, is the first video where we did not concept it. The guy who directed it came up with the concept, and he has been our photographer for years since our first record, and he has also become a good friend. We needed to get this video done, and we were going to be in L.A. where he lives, and we ended up asking him if he wanted to direct something. He responded with a paragraph of vaguely, suggestive adjectives and nouns. I remember some of the touchstones being David Lynch, Fred Easton Ellis, Tom Wolfe and he didn’t really explain what the plan was. The only thing he told us to bring was a white suit, for me to wear. So we got there, shot the video and it is pretty insane. It is very much a product of his demented imagination.
Being that both you and Keith came up with the previous concepts for you music videos, what made you decide to hand off that responsibility?
Chirs: I think it was just the “run and gun” nature of that video, and the last minute nature of it. I literally e-mailed him “hey, do you want to director a video for us when we are in town?” To which he wrote back the idea and said “yeah, I’m seeing this, this and this.” The I read it to Keith and we wrote back “sure, let’s do it!” It was just kind of how it happened. Serendipity (laughs).
Now for this album specifically, I read that Keith actually wrote most of the album while in Athens, Georgia and Miami, Florida. Does he write the majority of your songs typically?
Cain: He’s definitely the primary songwriter, and he writes all the lyrics. Typically, the way that we have worked in the past is that Keith will kind of lock himself away and start generating song ideas and make really crappy recordings with just a verse and a chorus, where he just mumbles lyrics. Lyrics are the last thing to happen, they usually happen in the studio. Then he will just e-mail me these ideas, and I will give him feedback. After we get enough that we feel like should become full-blown songs, we get in a room with whoever’s drumming with us at the time and start to work out full arrangements. After we’ve got what we think is the correct version of the song, we do a really crappy recording of that and send those to our producer Ariel Rechtshaid (who has produced all three of our records). On the last record, he came back with some really wild ideas, and cool prompts and things. On this record, because of the nature of these songs, there wasn’t much to be added. There was more of him just making it sound awesome, which he definitely did. But since the songs are more stripped down, and bare bones I think there was less room for producer flourish. That is the “We Are Scientists” writing process.
In 2009 you came out with a mini-series on MTV in the U.K. called “Steve Wants His Money.” Any future plans with continuing that series?
Cain: I think we will. We are talking to MTV in the U.K. along with a couple of other networks. Right now we really don’t have any time to do anything right now, so the future plans have been with next spring in mind as a time to shoot something. Yeah, we have some ideas and we are trying to get someone interested. “Steve Wants His Money” was made for an insanely small amount of money, and we would like to work with little more of a budget this time. Nothing insane, but just so we can shoot in more than four locations. A lot of the scenes were shot with one camera, which means that when we are talking back and forth, we have to re-do the scenes several times from different angles, which is incredibly annoying as an actor(laughs). Luckily we are good enough that it was absolutely fluid (laughs). It was just extra work.
Just from interviews I have seen and videos you have made, I have noticed that both you and Keith have great comedic timing and insight. Have you ever thought of combining the two, comedy and music?
Cain: Well, I think that we have gotten as close as we can, without making humor songs like Weird Al Yankovic or Lonely Island songs. That has always been unattractive to us. I don’t think humor songs are very funny and I neither Keith nor I would be inspired to take the time to make a good humor album, whereas writing the real songs is sort of impulsive in the way that you would want any kind of art, whether it is funny or not funny to be. You love doing it, and that’s why you are doing it. Not because you know that you can, and that is the same with the funny stuff we do, do. We do it because we come up with the idea, and it seems so hilarious, that we have to do that. Humor songs don’t seem that way to us. It is more like, “I guess we could do that?” Nah.
Perfect day, windows down, driving, what are you listening to?
Cain: That is a good question. What would I listen to? Maybe the Whigs? Yeah, Athens own and one of America’s finest bands for sure. I think I would put on “In the Dark” by the Whigs.