Not all bands forged at the university level are destined for failure. We Are Scientists first realized their sonorous potential during their years at the Claremont Colleges of California. After graduation, members Keith Murray, Chris Cain and Michael Tapper formed We Are Scientists and began releasing self-made EPs.
The trio became a duo in 2007 when drummer Tapper left the band. The transition was easier than expected.
"We had time to consider what we were going to do," says Chris Cain, bassist and backing vocalist.
They hired drummer Adam Aaronson to fill Tapper's space during performances.
With the departure of Tapper, Cain and Murray have forged on as two inceptive band members. With their unique musical fortitude and peculiar wit and humor, they continue to be noticed and have steadily developed a cult following in the U.S. and abroad. The band's third studio album, Brain Thrust Mastery, debuted at No. 11 on the UK charts in March.
This was a marked improvement — their previous effort, With Love and Squalor, debuted at No. 43 when released in 2005.
"When we released (With Love and Squalor) we were in total obscurity," jokes Cain.
We Are Scientists have developed a sincere cult following since releasing With Love and Squalor. Since 2005, they have toured with Kaiser Chiefs and the Arctic Monkeys and made a host of TV appearances, including The Late Show With David Letterman. They have also contributed to several TV soundtracks, including those for The OC, and The Hills.
We Are Scientists' cultish fan base was derived in part from their regularly ridiculous, often rancorous and discussion-worthy music videos.
Typically the videos bare some relationship with the title of the song, but the comparisons quickly end. The first two videos for Brain Thrust Mastery, "Chick Lit" and "After Hours," involve suspicious attitudes towards canines. In "After Hours," the duo competes for the attention of one lucky pup. "Chick Lit" involves canine wrangling in bucolic surroundings.
"We put together the idea for all of our videos," says Chris Cain. "We've always ended up with our own ideas, not because they're good, but because we made them up."
There is typically a playful disconnect between the song and the video. The song "The Great Escape" sounds like the internal monologue of a schizophrenic, but the video is a portrait of a young rock band as Siamese triplets. The walking ménage a trois must sleep, bathe and hail cabs together.
The peculiar choices and themes in their videos are due to the fact that We Are Scientists are peculiar themselves. They like to joke; they're funny guys.
"People love puppies, they love babies and most people love ice cream," Cain jokes.
But there is a more logical explanation.
"We think of everything we do as a band as in some way being a fairly honest expression of some aspect of our personalities," he says.
Unlike their videos, We Are Scientists makes an effort to segregate comedy from its music.
"We think of the sense of humor as just a big part of our personalities ... but we don't think funny songs are really good," Cain says. "I don't think we make any deliberate efforts to dovetail (music and humor)."
We Are Scientists' official Web site (wearescientists.com) contributes more to the perception that We Are Scientists are merely a gaggle of vastly humorous musicians at heart. Maintained and operated entirely by the band members, it is a window into the nature of their often manic and delicious personalities. Mixing satire and philosophy, the band's many postings leave the reader wondering whether We Are Scientists are deranged geniuses or indignant assholes.
In the recent posting "Children are Fucking Obsessed with Us," the band sophomorically analyzes their young fan base: "Is it that we craft songs that suit their smaller faces? Their smaller hands? Is it that, from their diminished vantage we, more than any other band, appear as titans? As gods?"
We Are Scientists' approach to themselves can be viewed with the same kind of satirical skepticism. Are they musicians? Are they comedians? Do they want to want to be taken seriously? Are they taken seriously? Does it matter?
Probably not. But this is really the same approach they've always to taken to their music and to themselves.
"We're trying something funny in sort of a weird way," Cain says.