There are certain things in the world that make you move. Hurricane-force winds, for instance, or a machine gun spraying bullets at your feet. A freight train headed directly at you will also generally cause movement. A glacier? Glaciers move mountains. Then there's Sacramento/New York band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Now, even though !!! aren't a freight train or a glacier, their hirsute disco-house will move you. Actually, they are a freight train, and you want 'em to mow you down. The rhythm guitar is unstoppable—Mario Andreoni's fitted rhythm fans across the frets. Add a little wah-wah, some distortion, a slight phaser effect, at 120 beats per minute? Kablam! You've got a dance-punk craze on your hands. Or did, in 2004, with their release Louden Up Now. Presently, with their fifth studio album, Thr!!!er, the dirt of the craze has been glossed up a bit, but that doesn't mean it's any less danceable.
Leading the !!! charge is singer/chant specialist Nic Offer. During the band's instrumental sections, he conducts interpretive, aerobic hand-jive workshops. The music controls him. Look for strut-hopping and hip-thrusting, where it's Mr. Offer if you're nasty. The combustion is infectious. So Saturday, raise your Shishkaberries high to the sky, succumb to the Offer, and commence gusto-movement therapy. If you can't dance to !!!, you're either a desert cactus or Michelangelo's David. Offer spoke.
Do you believe in spontaneous combustion?
Like where people just burst into flames? I don't know. This past Saturday, we played on a beach in San Sebastián, Spain. Immediately after the encore, I kicked off my shoes, ripped off my shirt, and ran and jumped in the ocean. I wasn't on fire, but I'd like to think I was.
Tell me about partying with Lance Armstrong and Lars Ulrich in Tokyo. Y'all had a saltine cracker fight in the hotel exercise room and Lance got pissed? Then Lars wouldn't get off the bidet?
Well, if we're talking about celebs, I'd rather talk about the first time we played in London. We were leaving for the airport and still had some very stinky green bud. It was this fancy hotel, and I saw a dude with dreadlocks in the lobby. I figured I should offer it to him. He said, "Of course, thank you," and introduced himself by saying he had played with the same bass player for 30 years. Sure enough, we had just given weed to Sly Dunbar [laughs]. I can't remember if Robbie ever came out, but Michael Rose did. It was a beautiful sunny day, and as Sly walked outside, he sang out—just one of those good mood sing-outs you do sometimes. You know, you always wish you could give back to the musicians who have given you so much, but you never really get that opportunity. Black Uhuru and Sly and Robbie are definitely artists I'm lucky to have given back something to.
Sorry, but I gotta ask: When !!! are at a restaurant, does anyone ever say, "Can I get the check check check?"
Uhhh, whoever makes a joke like that is probably gonna have to go ahead and pay for that whole check check check.
Do !!! subscribe to any formulas when you're recording?
Not really. I think it's good to have many different processes so that songs don't end up all sounding the same. In general, I try to get a good beat kicking on the drum machine and work from there. We still jam a lot, record it, and pick out the parts that get hot and string them together.
How were the Thr!!!er sessions? Who produced? Talk about getting your sounds.
The sessions were a blast. I think at this point in our career, I can safely say we've made our best records while we were also having a good time. We also worked the hardest on this one, but it was fun. Jim Eno [Spoon] produced most of the tracks, and it was great learning from him. I really thought he was great at seeing just what each track needed to make it work. To me, he's truly a born producer. We don't believe in attempting to get your sound; we believe you just do what you find interesting and it will be your sound 'cause it's you. If anything, you should try to make it sound different from you—and don't worry, it'll still be you. The trickiest phase is probably knowing when to wrap it up; it's easy to keep making it and remaking it. I'm sure a lot of artists would answer similarly.
How did the song "Slyd" come together? I really like that one.
"Slyd" is a weird one, right? It was really just a beat and a bass line that I had pulled out from a jam with Paul Quattrone [drums] and Mario Andreoni. I literally woke up one morning and thought, "I'd like to make a song modeled after 'Pump Up the Volume.'" That was made in the crazy, hazy, early days of sampling, when all the breaks were up for grabs and still fresh. What if we made a song like that, but made all the samples up ourselves? We could just string random bits of lyrics together, and make it seem like it was taken from several different songs. I sent the track to Teresa [Eggers], who was auditioning for us at the time, and she sent back an iPhone recording of her singing the "Slyd" hook in the shower. I asked her to come over and lay it down, which she did, and then we goofed around and said stupid stuff through the delay pedal. I set about cutting it up around the different bits, showed it to Mario, and he laid down more bass lines and that synth at the end. Finally, we took it to a friend, Patrick Ford, in New York, and he made it sound coherent. It's been one of the funnest songs to play live, which is great, 'cause it was one of those songs we were never sure if people would understand. Though if all our future songs ditched the verse-chorus structure and just had girls giggling through delay pedals, it'd be fine with me.
Let's do a little playlist of music you're liking right now—just off the top.
Let's see, lately I'm liking the new Mikal Cronin album, Chance the Rapper's Acid Rap mixtape, and I'm a Yeezus believer. My favorite songs this summer are "Bipp" by Sophie, "Falling Angel (12" version)" by Dinky, "Finder" by Ninetoes, "To the Disco '77" by Move D, and "We Still In This Bitch" by B.o.B featuring T.I. and Juicy J.
In your formative years, what albums did you listen to the most?
Formative years? You mean like high school, or when the band was first starting? High school was the Smiths' Meat Is Murder, Lloyd Cole & the Commotions' Rattlesnakes, OMD's Crush, New Order's Substance, and Siouxsie and the Banshees' Peepshow. In the early years of the band, I'd say it was Chic's C'est Chic, James Brown's All-Time Greatest Hits, Sonic Youth's Washing Machine and Bad Moon Rising, Dr. Dre's The Chronic 2001, Talking Heads' More Songs About Buildings and Food, Gang of Four's Solid Gold, Missy Elliott's Supa Dupa Fly, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Stereolab, and Unwound.
What do you think is the most underrated band of all time? I've always thought Ratt was underrated. Ratt never gets props.
Oh man, are you fucking with me? I used to LOVE Ratt. I did an air-guitar show to "Back for More" in the sixth-grade talent show. It was quite the production. It would be YouTube gold now if someone had videotaped it. Doesn't it sound like Guns N' Roses ripped off the beginning of "Scene of the Crime" for "Sweet Child o' Mine"?
What's an overrated band?
I'm known for being really open-minded, but Green Day can eat one as far as I'm concerned. I don't get it. Pop-punk isn't really my thing, but there are a million catchier bands of that genre. Even the bands they influenced are better. I'd rather hear Blink-182.
What's coming up for the rest of the year?
Oh geez, tough to say. Anything can happen. There are a bunch of new songs, but we haven't started learning them yet. Who knows, maybe the band won't even like them. I wrote a couple songs with Pittsburgh Track Authority—not sure when those are coming out, but look for that. Paul's working a lot with his band Shockwave Riderz—they're really awesome.
Okay, phobia time. Did you know that the fear of vegetables is called lachanophobia? Do !!! have any good phobias?
I did not know this. The first time I had a bad trip on acid, I had just finished reading 1984, and I was basically seeing patterns made out of that whole rat scene at the end. Not too fond of rats, but since moving to New York, I've learned to deal with it.