We Are Scientists
W.A.S. is a band with two primary, famous members: Keith Austin Murray (‘Keith’) and Christopher Ian Cain (‘Christopher I. Cain’). The two met at college in Southern California, where it’s fair to say that they both majored in ‘Babes’. Although that wasn’t technically a focus available at their college, one could definitely assert that had it been possible to do so, both Keith and Chris would have graduated with honors in ‘Babes’. Not that there was anything ‘honorable’ about the way the two went about their ‘course work’, as it were. No, they left a trail of scorched social earth everywhere they went, everywhere their ‘studies’ took them. Such was their tendency to end relationships on a sour note that by junior year they were reduced to poaching students from a high school ten minutes down the road – no one at their college would even consider a romantic entanglement with Keith, much less with Chris. Shortly after graduation, in the autumn of 1999, in a desperate shot at reinvention, Chris and Keith formed a band. The rest, as they say, happened after that. A Fantastic New Record On the new album Barbara, W.A.S. recruited Andy Burrows (former hitter-guy for Razorlight) to drum. Andy moved to New York for the summer of 2009 and began work withChrisonthatcrucialrhythmsectiontrick: theend. playing at the same time. Keith, meanwhile, decamped to Athens, Georgia, to take inspiration from the lack of New York accents, and the songs began to take shape. They recorded that fall in London, Los Angeles, & NYC. This geographical diversity could be seen as a metaphor for how disparate the three musicians are as people. Chris likes chicken, Andy likes lamb, while Keith is a vegetarian. All three appreciate beer, but sometimes, when drinking together at a pub, they order different brands. (That is rare, though.) It is a happy accident, then, that Murray, Cain, and Burrows were able to mesh their musical inclinations to such a compelling end on the songs of Barbara, a record that sees them return to the stripped-down production sensibilities of W.A.S.’s gold-selling debut, With Love & Squalor, while continuing to hone the melodic knack that has made them popular with fans and men who work for months at sea. Unlike most Americans, Chris & Keith never carry a gun, favoring instead a baseball bat with nails driven through 2010 was spent bringing a live rendition of Barbara – along with a curated selection of old favorites – to lucky audiences all over Europe, North America, and Australia. Many people generally considered “unlucky” by their friends were also at the shows.
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."