THE INTERVIEW: We Are Scientists
With the release of their new album Brain Thrust Mastery, We Are Scientists have grown. Though that includes losing their drummer, they have developed their sound. While you can expect the garage rock feel they are known for, the Scientists, now a duo, have possibly put out a better record than their first, With Love and Squalor. I had the chance to talk with Chris Cain about what to expect on their new album, losing a member of the band, and life on tour. Whether they really are scientists or not, that remains to be seen.
Your new album Brain Thrust Mastery is coming out in May. What can your fans expect from the new one?
Thoughtful, poppy (but not too poppy!), intelligently referential, exquisitely crafted album artwork, and some songs.
Did you do anything different when recording the new album compared to the last one, With Love and Squalor?
As we approached the recording of Brain Thrust Mastery, we decided it would be interesting to experiment with playing a lot more tennis. We chose a studio in Sausalito, CA — a place called The Plant — that offered unparalleled tennis access: immaculately maintained community courts a short two-minute walk from the studio’s back door. The facilities coupled with Northern California’s reliably temperate weather meant we were able to play tennis before and after sessions, plus during breaks. All that tennis had the desired effect: over the course of a month recording at the Plant, our tennis games improved dramatically.
Since losing your drummer, instead of finding a new one, you decided on staying a duo, and using supporting musicians. How did that affect your songwriting and playing live?
BTM was written and (largely) recorded with Michael Tapper — it wasn’t until everything was pretty much finished that he decided to leave the band. So, the effect on songwriting has yet to be determined. Probably it will make our songs more hip-hop. Keith and I have long been interested in taking things in a C+C Music Factory/Technotronic/Haddaway direction. Michael was always resistant, but with him out of the picture, things are probably going to get pretty goddamn hip-hop — ‘pretty’ to ‘very’ hip hop, I would imagine.
What are your favorite tracks off the new album?
“Lethal Enforcer,” “Dinosaurs,” and “That’s What Counts” are personal favorites, but I have a warm tolerance for most of the songs on BTM.
Your last album With Love and Squalor was named after a short story by J.D. Salinger of the same name. Is there any meaning behind Brain Thrust Mastery?
It has a koan-like meaning, which is to say logic and even language (which is construed according to logical strictures such as consistency) are inadequate to describe the meaning. Through reflection unrestrained by any sort of formalism, though, gobs of meaning emerge.
What are your favorite things about being on tour?
Probably groupies, drugs, and free sandwiches. Actually, that may not be the order. Maybe sandwiches, groupies, drugs.
Any funny stories while on the road?
We met a young fan the other day outside a venue who told us — after five or ten minutes of chit chat — that he liked us more than his parents, and could he come with us on tour? It was a little awkward. He’s doing a great job, though, so far.
What’s the weirdest food you’ve tried while out on tour?
I had something called ‘bath chap’ at a restaurant in London last month, which was described to me by the waiter as the flesh from a pig’s head scraped off, chopped, formed into patties, and then cooked. I couldn’t resist, and it was actually very good. You’d get sick of it if you ate it every day, yes, but once a week would work well, I suspect.
Who are you guys bigger fans of Obama, Hillary, or John McCain and why?
We’re Obama men. My impression is that to get to the highest rung of political achievement, one spends many years making awful compromises — taking it up the ass, essentially (not in a good way). Years of taking it up the ass breaks your spirit, scrapes away all the good intention and idealistic commitment that got you into politics in the first place, and leaves behind a skeleton of amoral ambition — like when all the meat is taken off the pig’s skull to make bath chap. It’s my vague sense, though, that maybe the chutes-and-ladders-esque speed with which Obama ascended — the flukey meteoric rise — means he hasn’t been at this long enough to have had all the good flogged out of him. Hillary and McCain are surely evil at this point, or, at best, ravenous, robotic embodiments of momentum.
You guys are from New York. So what are some of your favorite places to eat, drink, and shop for music?
In Manhattan: Pastis, Corner Bistro, Lil’ Frankie’s, Five Points, Mona’s, Cherry Tavern, Grape & Grain
In Brooklyn: Relish, The Abbey, Ana Maria’s Pizza, The Levee