Over the last decade, We are Scientists have managed to carefully cultivate an image that combines comedic personalities and serious music. I’d always imagined that this partially contributed to their success, especially here in the UK, but as I spoke to bassist Chris Cain I realised that mine wasn’t an opinion shared by many. “I think you’re the first person who’s ever asked about it as a positive,” Cain tells me. “We often get asked if we think that the schizophrenic nature of our project as a whole is off-putting to some fans. There’s always a possibility that the comedic side of our general activities is confusing to people who like the music.”
This was a likelihood I’d never really considered, but Cain seemed convinced that their humorous approach to videos, website content and interview technique is something that is seen as a conflictive aspect of their work, rather than a supportive one. However, when I asked if he and Keith Murray, the band’s vocalist/guitarist, had ever considered bringing comedy into their music, he was adamant that this was not the answer. “Keith and I are really allergic to comedy as a music genre. I really like Flight of the Concords for example, but the music is my least favourite part.” He also mentioned The Lonely Island, a comedy-based band with huge success in the States: “We’ve been pals with the Lonely Island guys for years, they directed our first few videos. I do think their songs are very funny- ‘Jizz in my Pants’ for example. But the outro to that song is so great that, to me, you hear it and you find yourself wishing that it were a real song and not a comedy song. There’s something inherently lesser about a comedy song. We don’t have to carefully police our music for silliness, its not a temptation for us.”
Cain is undoubtedly set on keeping the music and humour of the band as separate as possible, despite the apparently negative responses to this disparity. I was now keen to raise a different common criticism of the band that I had previously noticed. Reviews of the bands new album TV en Français and it’s predecessor Barbara continually comment on the lack of musical progression of the band between records. I asked Chris how he felt that the new album had moved forwards from the band’s previous efforts. “I feel like its a natural extension of where we’ve been going with our whole career. It seems noteworthy to me for being less referential than any of our previous albums. In the beginning we were explicitly referencing other stuff that was going on around us in New York City in the early 2000’s; during the first record we were consciously thinking about bands like The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and Liars. Then on the second record it was stuff like Fleetwood Mac and Bowie. This, to me, is the first record that just sounds completely like We are Scientists and no one else. I don’t hear other bands when I listen to the songs.”
Its reassuring to hear Cain talk about the new album in such a confident way, and he convinces me that the band have genuinely adopted a new approach in their writing and recording this time around. It may have taken them four albums but it seems that We are Scientists have finally found a style and sound that they can claim as their own.
I couldn’t resist one last question, about the bands 2010 World Cup anthem ‘Goal! England.’ Would there be a follow up for this year’s competition? “We were thinking about writing another song for this year.” Cain responds. “But I don’t think we should write one for England, because if they lose again they might scapegoat us for their failure; they’d call it ‘The We are Scientists Curse’- and then suddenly there goes our popularity over here.” So, no World Cup anthem this year from the band, but a promising new album as a substitute.