Brooklyn, New York-based power pop troupe, We Are Scientists recently announced a headline Belfast show at The Limelight 2 on Friday, May 11th, 2018. The band are set to return with their sixth album. Titled ‘Megaplex’ and released via 100% Records on April 27th. The infamous duo, Keith Murray (guitar/vocals) and Chris Cain (bass), are once again set to dazzle the world with ten brand new splashes of colourful and utterly addictive pop that serve as a welcome distraction to these bleak times we live in.
Clair McAllister caught up with Chris Cain to talk about the new album and upcoming Belfast show at The Limelight.
Hi, Chris thanks for taking the time out to answer the following questions.
No big deal, actually! I was literally staring at a sofa cushion before this.
Talk me through the writing process for your new album ‘Megaplex’, and tell me about your biggest influences both musically and contextually for the record.
Most—perhaps all—of the songs on this record were initially developed during an on-going songwriting club Keith and I participate in called, rather artlessly, Song Challenge. This is a loose group of NYC-based songwriters who take a day every two weeks or so to focus on churning out as many song ideas as possible, then come together to appreciate each others’ efforts and drink beer. The idea is that you spend the day holed up in your apartment—8 straight hours—trying to write 10 songs (and record basic demos). 10 songs in 8 hours—that’s the challenge. Everyone fails every time. People usually get 3 to 5 songs. But then we all get together in the evening and listen to each others’ songs and guzzle beer. Participants include Tim from ASH, Annie from Au Revoir Simone, MGMT’s bassist Simon O’Connor, and half a dozen other semi-regulars, such as Billy Joel. (Just kidding, Billy Joel doesn’t come to Song Challenge.)
Anyway, that’s where the songs started—early 2017’s Song Challenges. And from that raw clay, we began to sculpt the album. One of our big influences was our discovery of software synths, which we had been largely too ignorant to really mess with in the past. But having figured out how to open this door (try to picture a dog on its hind legs wrestling with a doorknob here), we had a lot of fun juicing up our tunes with synths, some of which we ultimately deleted, but some of which is still very apparent on songs like “One In, One Out” and “Heart Is a Weapon.”
What made you choose ‘One In, One Out’ as the first single? How does it compare to the rest of the tracklist on the album?
Well, it has the synth juice, for one thing, which we liked. It’s also a little bit less guitar-driven than our singles have been in the past, though of course it still contains some very commendable—even heroic—guitar work. So it seemed like a nice chunky “hello” to offer to people. The rest of the album is pretty diverse, actually. There are two other songs in ‘One In, One Out’s vein — synths and dance beats with a little guitar. Then there are like four “guitar rock” songs. And then there are a couple of kinda weirdo tunes. One of them features Melissa Etheridge’s bass player on fretless bass, for example.
Was it an enjoyable experience recording the album?
It was hell! Death would have been preferable! Better to be tortured and quartered in the public square than do it again! Just kidding. It was very nice. There were couches, a fridge with seltzer and beers, and New York City’s multitude of eateries just a phone call away.
What would you like people to take away from listening to the album?
Rapture, if I had to choose one thing. It would also be cool if people who doubted us before or hated us before—the “doubters” and “haters”—listened to the album and came away thinking, “Aaaactually…”
Musically, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt since your big break with ‘With Love And Squalor’?
Sometimes simpler is better. (Though this is often untrue.)
You guys are playing Belfast Limelight in May. You are a very interactive band - how does the Belfast crowd lend themselves to this?
They lend themselves to it well. Belfastulites are outgoing, confident in their singalong voices, know where the edge of mayhem lies and how not to pitch themselves over it, and have pretty good grooming habits. In short, a good group with whom to interact.
You’re also a band that can usually be found hanging out at the venue after your shows - do you feel that’s important to do and is it something you enjoy?
We do not think it’s important to do but we do enjoy it, so we do it. The thing is, we’ve just played this great show, and that’s very much occupying our thoughts, and we want to talk to somebody about it. Well, if we left the venue and went across town to some cool bar that the local television morning news weather guy recommends, then suddenly we’d find ourselves amongst folk who had no real inclination to listen to us reminisce about our show that we’d just finished playing. But… if we simply hang around the venue, people walk right up to us full of reminiscences and eager to hear all about ours. It’s a simple shortcut, but surprisingly few bands seem to know about it.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve been given by a fan or had to sign?
Paternity papers! I mean, strange only in the sense that human reproduction is genuinely *odd* if you think about it. Like, if you were in charge of creating a species of animal from scratch, and you were thinking up the specifics of how it would reproduce, you’d have a hard time coming up with details much stranger than what we’ve currently got. For starters, each and every time a human woman gives birth, thus enacting an *essential* part of our species’ propagation, it’s a medical emergency! That, my friend, is strange.
How does it feel being a band in the current music climate?
Oh, not too bad. There are complaints to be made, of course, and we love to voice them to each other over pints, but it feels a little churlish airing them publicly, given that we have the best job in the world. We work part-time at the Coney Island Aquarium, you see, when we’re not on tour. Which is literally a dream come true.
For those who maybe aren’t aware - you made a 7 episode series of tv shorts called ‘Steve Wants His Money’. Your personalities also seem to fit that area very well - do you have any plans to do a second series, or maybe something similar?
We have whatever the step just shy of “plans” is—“ideas,” I guess? “Notions”? We have notions for a cooking show, a ghost hunting show, a travel show, a sci-fi sitcom, a police procedural sitcom, a fire station sitcom, a ski resort sitcom, and a private detective/superintendent sitcom (“Super Dicks”). Nothing *firm*, though.
Do you have a record that you always return to?
I’ve listened to “The Blue Moods of Spain,” by Spain, and “Devotion and Doubt,” by Richard Buckner, a couple times a year since I first heard them back in college. Funnily, Keith has no use for either record. But I think his crutch record—“Ambient Recordings of The Australian Outback”—is pretty boring, too!
What else have you been listening to recently that you could recommend?
Oh, sure! New albums by Soccer Mommy and MGMT are both very good. Natalie Prass’s new song Short Court Style is rad, as is the Song Exploder episode about it. Dream Wife, Simon Doom, and Annie Hart’s latest albums are all kickass.
How do you listen to music nowadays vinyl streaming or CD?
Mostly streaming, for convenience reasons. Throwing a vinyl onto the ol’ spinner—the little table that spins, that “turns,” and is plugged into speakers—is still the finest way to enjoy an album, but finding the time for that feels increasingly like scheduling a hot tub.
As a band, you all have great hair - what do you do to get it looking so fabulous?
We wake up like that! Which I guess means that the real heavy lifting is done overnight, while we sleep. If you think about it, that means we spend six or seven hours on our hair. Hard for the average Joe to justify dropping that kind of time on grooming, but we rock stars have a different set of priorities, y’know?
Don't miss We Are Scientists headline Belfast show at The Limelight 2 on Friday, May 11th, 2018. Tickets on sale now from www.ticketmaster.ie, www.limelightbelfast.com, Katy’s Bar & Ticketmaster outlets nationwide. Northern Ireland customers 0844 277 44 55 & Republic of Ireland customers 0818 719 300.