We Are Scientists
It was the kind of bar where nobody nice goes on the kind of street where nobody nice lives, which is probably what made it so cheap, which is definitely what made We Are Scientists take meetings there. Not that Murray & Cain were cheap, but they could do math just fine. If they were sticking a quarter into a video game machine, they’d just as soon the thrills last for more than thirty seconds. Same with buying a lady dinner. Of course it had been a long time since video games or dinner with a lady cost a quarter, and anyway they weren’t looking for video games or ladies, except in the deep-down quiet way that men always are. They were looking for a producer.
Murray & Cain, they’re the guys who started We Are Scientists 13 years ago. Fresh out of college and bored by their day jobs, they figured rehearsing a rock & roll band would eat up the long slow evenings. Only it backfired, because the band panned out. Now nothing eats up their long slow days, except proving that a busted clock is wrong nearly all the time, and if you watch a pot long enough, eventually it boils.
They ordered two whiskies, no ice, filled to spilling. Those were for Cain. Murray took a squid-looking thing made of plastic tubes from his briefcase and handed five of the six tentacles to the bartender, who attached them to the five closest taps. Murray stuck the free end into his mouth and nodded, and the bartender opened the taps. That’s when Chris Coady stepped out of the gloom.
They’d met Coady six years prior. At the time he was a hotshot engineer who’d made his bona fides giving The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and TV on the Radio their signature sound. Now he was one of the best mixers in the game, and had a producer’s résumé that reminded you of a perfect hundred dollar bill. It looked so good it had to be fake. Only Coady was for real — Beach House, Wavves, and The Smith Westerns could testify to that.
“Tequila, ice,” he said, reading aloud every word on the itty bitty drink menu in his head. “Beer fucks with my sinuses.”
They talked. Songs, gear, bands, plus dirty, slanderous gossip. Lots of agreement, with enough “you’re fucking crazy”s to keep things interesting. It started to sound like this was the crew for the job. Two months later, they were drinking the same thing, but they were doing it in one of New York City’s best small studios, the kind that doesn’t come cheap, but gives you a lot more than you paid for. By the end of the year they’d made a record that knew how to throw a punch, but was no slouch in the bedroom, either. A record that gave you the big, wide-angle view, then brought you in for a closer look. It was a We Are Scientists record, and it was a Chris Coady record, and everybody who’d listened to it was having a real hard time staying calm.
A little calm was required, though. It had been a couple years since the band were part of the major label world, with its conveyor belt efficiency — putting out the record would take time. So while the suits set to work finding the right label partner, the band did one of the the only nine or ten things they do really, really well: they recorded some more music. Just a little more music.
A couple of days in their pal Tim Wheeler’s studio with his wunderkind partner Claudius Mittendorfer, and five more songs were ready to go — chopped, locked, exported to lossless AAC. But what to do with them? Like greed pooling in the chest of a recently elected politician, it didn’t take long for a plan to form.
We Are Scientists released “Something About You/Let Me Win,” a double-A-side, in July. “Business Casual,” an EP featuring two tracks from 2014’s untitled album, is out October 15th on Dine Alone Records (North America), 100% (UK/Europe), and through Caroline Records elsewhere.
1, 2, 3
The heartbeat that sparks the third song on 1, 2, 3's debut LP isn't just a flutter effect meant to set a melancholic mood. It literally symbolizes the start of a new life. Or in the case of Nicolas Snyder and Joshua Sickels, a crucial state of rebirth—the next logical step after the "classic rock 'n' roll casualty story" of the duo's last band, the Takeover UK.
While that project took more of a straight-laced approach to pop music, 1, 2, 3's songs are as stubborn as their name. In other words, good luck reducing New Heaven down to a tidy set of buzz words.
Or as Snyder puts it, "That's the general idea with this band—that it doesn't belong to any specific genre, and that there aren't any preconceived notions about the name or who we are."
Take the aforementioned "Heat Lightnin'," for instance. Once you make it past Snyder's fragile vocals, a disembodied whistler, and several unidentified flying objects, one thing emerges—a liquified bass line that seems to be…talking. And then there are the many striking, speaker-panning elements that reward repeat listens elsewhere: the shimmering synths of "Lonesome Boring Summer," the swooning strings of "Wave Pool," the sucker punch percussion of "Work," the lethargic blues licks of "Just Like Heaven (is gone)," the restless riffs of "20,000 Blades," and, well, we'd go on but that'd take away half the fun of digging through 1, 2, 3's sonic detritus.
If there's one unifying factor throughout the Pittsburgh band's first full-length, it's the lingering sense that Snyder—the band's primary songwriter—watches a lot of movies. How else to explain why New Heaven unfolds like the rabbit hole-riddled narrative of an art house film?
"I spend more time watching movies than just about anything but sleep," admits Snyder. "Stuff like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, any Sergio Leone film, even Who Framed Roger Rabbit?—it's all had a major impact on me."
As for how Sickels fits into this equation, the drummer has known Snyder since middle school, back when they bonded over skateboarding and punk rock. So when he heard the early stages of 1, 2, 3, he didn't have to think twice about rejoining his longtime friend and bandmate.
"I've spent the last 10 years telling everyone how great NIck is at songwriting," says Sickels, "So I was gonna follow him into 1, 2, 3 no matter what."