So, it was officially the first “in the trailer” interview Artsweek has scored, and, all things considered, it went pretty darn well.
As celebs and Hollywood types meandered around the backstage area at the All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival two weekends ago, trailer doors swung open, revealing members of Modest Mouse, Black Heart Procession and even Sonic Youth sitting schmoozing with family and friends, tossin’ back a few and relaxing as music blared from the stage behind them.
At the sidestage, Artsweek quickly jetted past Nic Offer, the lead singer of the hot dance-punk band !!! (for now, pronounce it as “chick, chick, chick”), who was involved in a nasty spat with an alcohol-thieving random. Artsweek rustled up the journalist spirit and approached in the name of a spontaneous interview.
Since the spring release of their EP Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (a True Story), this eight-piece collective has been fueling a growing heat both stateside and abroad. Something about booty-shaking beats, thumping bass and those loveable cowbells have made !!! staples of hipster DJ playlists, as their music elicits wondrous dancefloor magic . The group performed earlier on Saturday sending electric waves through the somewhat stiff crowd, peaking when Offer hopped off the stage and began busting moves through the crowd.
Hours later, backstage, Artsweek lucked out. Nic put his feud on hold, obliged and, moments later, was sitting in the band’s trailer alongside guitarist Mario Andreoni, spilling details on the upcoming full-length and the dance-punk “movement,” and trying not to get too riled up about that damn band name.
Artsweek: So, tell us a bit about what’s going on with you guys? Plans for the next few months?
Nic Offer: We’re working on our next record. A full-length!
Can you tell us anything about it?
Mario Andreoni: I think it’s going to be good. (The group starts laughing at the elaborate response.) That’s what we’re working towards (laughing, mocking himself). We’re trying to make a record that’s good; that we like and that other people will like, as well. It’s going to be in the vein of danceable music.
Where are you guys based?
Offer: We’re originally from Sacramento and then about 2 1/2 years ago, three-fourths of us moved out to New York City so we’re basically in New York. [The two members in Sacramento] fly out and we practice as much as we can in a weekend and they fly back, but it makes it kind of hectic.
Can you nutshell the band’s history?
Andreoni: We’re all just friends from home.
O: Sacramento’s has kind of a small-town scene. Everyone [in the band] kind of knew each other and we knew we wanted to play this certain kind of music. So, we basically were just like, “Let’s get together and do this,” and at our first practice we had something we were all really into. And that’s turned into seven, or wait, eight years? This past September was our seven-year anniversary.
Aww, did you guys do something special? Romantic dinner?
O: Nah, maybe for our 10-year. That’s a big one.
When you talk about all wanting to play “this kind of music,” what are you referring to? What influences?
A: We’re going through changes constantly. When we started out, we were going for something very specific. We knew we wanted to make dance music – something kind of like James Brown mixed with Can or Sonic Youth. But as we’ve been playing music over the years, we’ve discovered other kinds of dance music, then house and techno, then Brazilian, jazz and on and on…
What music are you guys listening to right now?
O: Well, I happened to have brought all the CDs I’m listening to right now in the trailer! Let’s see… (flipping through cases) London Underground, Notorious B.I.G., a German techno comp, N.W.A. and – oh! – this is my new favorite: music from the South Pacific, Isley Brothers, Michael Meyer and Warp Records compilation. This [type of music] is a big influence, what first got me into house music. This and Daft Punk.
What about Gang of Four or more recent dance punk groups?
O: We definitely like [Gang of Four], but I listened to them since I was 15 so it’s kind of like throwing down the Ramones now or something. It’s sort of an assimilated thing.
A: We love Gang of Four, but its not like we put on their record and were like, “We wanna’ do this!” (pointing to imaginary record). It’s already been sublimated; it’s a part of our fabric.
O: And in fact, even more so now since there’s so many bands that are a part of the whole Gang of Four dance punk thing, like Radio 4, the Rapture, you know. We’re trying to kind of avoid that and do our own thing.
Have you guys felt the buzz around the recent EP?
A: Oh, yeah! Since the record came out, for sure. Our friends have gone abroad and they’re like, “Your shit’s being played in Berlin! And in Spain! And France!”
Alright, so what’s with the name? How is it officially pronounced?
A: (quickly slurring words together) Pow, pow, pow; chick, chick, chick; bang, bang bang…
O: It’s really simple, actually. We thought of it because of that film, “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” with the (makes clicking sounds), but for some reason we weren’t sure if everyone could make that [sound]. We thought it was one of those things like (rolls tongue) so we settled on it just being three sounds, whatever you want. It turns out everybody can make that sound, though, so we should’ve just stuck with it. “Chk, chk, chk” ended up being what most people were calling it, and the label wanted us to stick with something, so we kind of compromised. We’re still not that [name], but it seems to be the one everyone’s running with.
A: What’s extremely annoying is when we come into a town to play a show and we’ve been advertised as (spelling it out) “C-h-k, c-h-k, c-h-k,” and it’s like, “Hey! That’s not our fucking name!” Our name is the three exclamation points and you pronounce it how you want. We played a show in San Francisco where we were billed on the marquee as “Pronounced as: Chk, Chk, Chk,” and I was like, “What kind of name is ‘Pronounced as’?” It was just stupid. But people came anyway, so I guess it didn’t hurt.
For more information about !!!, visit their website at www.brainwashed.com/!!!.