There are at least two sides to We Are Scientists:
1) The power-trio side with the fairly straightforward live show, where they dispense highly danceable indie rock songs. You can see this at Sonar on Monday night. They take their music rather seriously.
2) The threesome who loves to pull off-kilter antics off stage. The music video to "Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt" is a great example. For the first 30 seconds, they are in the studio playing the song, until a man in a bear suit jumps through the window and starts chasing them through the streets. Then there's the band Web site (wearescientists.com), where they post tongue-in-cheek diatribes and review random things such as the "coinsmithery" of the 2004 Keelboat Nickel.
A phone conversation with bassist Chris Cain splendidly captures both sides of the band. He explains why their music shouldn't be called "dance music":
"We do gravitate toward a certain tempo and energy level, and it goes pretty well with a dance beat," Cain said. "But if you listen to the album, all of the beats really don't satisfy as dance beats. You can dance to them, they maintain a constant rhythm and so forth. ... There's actually very few straight-ahead beats on the album."
Cain's sitting in the Las Vegas Fitzgeralds Casino, and as he discusses the band's song-smithery, all kinds of wild blips and beeps are audible in the background. He's an artist talking about the most serious part of his craft while a Sin City carnival rages around him.
"[It's] the smallest touch of irony - enough to keep things entertaining," Cain said.
In short, that's We Are Scientists. They're silly, but careful not to let too much silliness into their songwriting.
"I think everyone in the world realizes that funny music sucks," Cain said.
Sorry, Weird Al Yankovic.
"We certainly have no desire to practice in that genre," Cain said. "But in everything else, we're just not the types to take what we're doing terribly seriously."
The band's been on the road almost nonstop since April supporting With Love and Squalor, their debut on Virgin Records. Cain puts the number of shows played in the past year at about 300. After performing the album's 12 songs hundreds of times, they are still not wearing thin, Cain said.
"Weirdly, I think we still enjoy playing them," Cain said. "To a degree we've made little alterations - nips and tucks - and brought different ideas to some of the songs."
That has to be a relief, especially since We Are Scientists will tour until late fall. In December, they will head back to their home base in New York City and start on the next record. The folks at Virgin wanted it a few months sooner, but the band refused.
"We disabused them of that theory," Cain said.
We Are Scientists wanted more time to write and road-test the new tracks before cutting them, Cain said.
"Ours is a very hands-on and very slow-going songwriting process," Cain said. "Songs often take weeks and months. A lot of the impetus for finishing songs forces us into a regular practice schedule five to six times a week."
Penning new music is tough while on tour, Cain said. Extracurricular activities such as record-store appearances, sound checks, sleep and partying usually occupy the band's free time.
Partying "usually begins at 11:15 p.m. - we're night prowlers - and tends to abate with the sunrise," Cain said. "The light of day tends to burn off any sort of debasing activity. When thrown into the relief that daylight brings, it starts to look gross, and you kind of shrink away and decide to be responsible. You have family, kids, wife - wives in some of our cases."
We Are Scientists open for the Arctic Monkeys at Sonar on Monday. Doors open at 8 p.m. The show is sold out. Sonar is at 407 E. Saratoga St. Call 410- 327-8333 or visit sonarbaltimore.com.