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A winning formula

CHRIS WASSER finds that Chris cain, a founder member of WE ARE Scientists, is keen to keep on experimenting

It's 11am in New York City's East Village and Chris Cain is still sitting over his morning coffee. What's more, the bespectacled bassist, otherwise known as one-half of indie rock duo We Are Scientists, is in "a less rambunctious mood" than I had expected.

"You're either benefiting or suffering, depending on your viewpoint, by the fact that it's still morning," he laughs. Hmmm, better hope for the best, lads. Then again, it's not like we haven't got plenty to talk about.

After all, it's nearly five years since the release of the band's major label debut, the rather fine With Love And Squalor. Since then, the NY-based outfit have toured the world, lost a drummer, gained a lot of fans, starred in their very own TV series, and, oh yeah, ditched their label, too. They've also been busy in the studio, releasing two more albums along the way: 2008's Brain Thrust Mastery and, more recently, the delightfully spiky Barbara.

So, let's kick things off with a little business talk, shall we? I see that former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows sat behind the kit for the new record -- how did that meeting of musical minds come about?

"We had been sort of casual friends for a year or two," says Cain, "and we had already reached out to him about possibly doing two or three tracks on the record under the assumption that, you know, as a member of Razorlight, he wouldn't really be able to do the whole record. When his time freed up, we were all excited about him doing the whole thing."

According to Cain, Burrows is currently a "theoretical member" of We Are Scientists. You may not catch him on tour, but that isn't to say he won't be working with the band again.

"We all are really, really excited with how Barbara turned out, and we really wanna do the next record together," he tells me. "Our affiliation with Andy Burrows continues, let's put it that way."

Good stuff. And what about the split from EMI/Virgin late last year, then? Were Cain and BFF/guitarist Keith Murray pushed, or was it really their own decision to jump ship?

"It was a decision that we were lucky enough to be able to make," says the 32-year-old.


"Basically, Virgin were unwilling to keep to the contract that we signed with them back in 2005. They didn't want us to leave. They offered us a new deal, and we weren't very excited about it -- that's the short story."

As Chris further explains, the guys were offered what he describes as a "new world" deal -- a contract that would essentially lead to the label earning a percentage of the band's touring and merchandise revenue.

Simply put, they weren't having any of it.

"If you're an up-and-coming band and a major label offers you a deal and nobody knows who you are, it's still a pretty good way to get your music out there," he says. "But, for us, we had a built-in audience already -- it didn't seem that insane for us to try to kind of distribute the record ourselves, so that's what we're doing.

"I mean, I'm still not convinced it was a brilliant decision," he continues.

"I don't think we're gonna go out there and make a million bucks because we now have our audience and we're able to just sit back and, you know, roll in the revenue.

"We're taking on a lot of costs that a record label would have taken on for us -- we may very well make a good deal less money, but it will be our f**k-up if it does f**k-up, and it will be our victory if it succeeds," he chuckles.

Indeed, ever since meeting at Pomona College, California, in 1997, Cain and Murray have pretty much been inseparable, with the latter even teaching his new buddy how to play the bass before starting their first band. I'm guessing they still get a kick out of each other's company.

"In an interview yesterday, somebody was asking us 'what's the most important thing for a young band to focus on?'" he says. "My immediate response was, 'having people in your band that you're great friends with'.

"You obviously need to be enjoying what you're doing -- that's a lesson that applies to anything in life -- but for a band especially, it's so intense, touring around in a sh***y van, eating crappy food, being away from your family and loved ones and so forth; if you're not doing it with your best friends, then it honestly just is a f**king nightmare. So, the fact that Keith and I were best friends long before this band ever happened, I think is the reason we're still around and loving what we're doing 10 years into it."

Seeing as how we're already getting a little sentimental, I ask Cain about fatherhood and how he deals with spending time on the road away from his four-year-old son.

"Fatherhood's amazing. Obviously, as with any parent who has to travel for work, I think it's a uniquely sort of taxing thing, but I think, you know, being with your kid every evening is also taxing -- or so I hear from parents who never leave their homes!" he laughs.

"I don't know. It's a 'grass is always greener' situation. I will say that when I'm home, I'm able to hang out with my dude way more than most parents who work a nine to five."


I wonder, though -- do you still get to party a lot, you know, live up to the cliched rock'n' roll lifestyle that goes with the job? "Yeah, there definitely is still that fun side to it. Probably more than is healthy," he replies.

"I actually feel incredibly sorry for Keith, because when we're on the road, we're very social, very active, and then we get home, I get to sort of retreat into my domestic fortress. Keith, as near as I can tell, just goes on with the late nights and the drinking pretty much non-stop. I'm assuming that the world is only gonna get maybe one or two more records out of Keith Murray before he drops dead," he concludes, "so we should enjoy what we get!"

Barbara is out now. We Are Scientists are live at Oxegen, Sunday, July 11