|!!! (Chk Chk Chk)
Joseph Coscarelli - July 30, 2007
Nic Offer once told the world, "Giuliani's got his rules but we ain't no fools,
let's break them," in response to the mayor's Orwellian style, Footloose-revival.
This rebellious rhetoric is exactly the sort of gospel that the New York die-hards
crave. As the frontman for the New York by-way-of Sacramento band !!! (pronounced,
chk chk chk, or any other percussive onomatopoeia) Offer has his mutinous
catch-phrases down to a science, serving as the ideal commander on the S.S.
Groove. If !!! were indeed a ship, it'd be a jarring ride, as the band's
pulsing groove-infused dance punk would surely rock the boat. The band's policies,
as staunchly pro-dance, speak volumes about their ever-expaning legacy as purveyors
of this high-octane breed of punk.
Along with bands like The Rapture, Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem,
!!! have pioneered a resurgence of hip-shaking in live music, proving a complacency
in the state of indie-rock and effectively doing something about it. In the
topsy-turvy world in which we live, there is something to be said about deftly
picking your battles. Amidst political unrest and apocalyptic foreshadowings,
!!! stick to what they now, speaking out against serenity and immobility and
championing those who made New York City what it is, the seedy underbelly of
sweaty freaks with a hop in their step.
The band found its beginnings on the heals of Offer's experimentation
as a disco cover band, Black Liquorice. After playing a show with the similarly
energetic Popesmashers, the bands refused to let the party cease, like those
bar flies dreading last call. Instead, they pushed the partnership into a full
West Coast tour, eventually fusing into a single, party-punk entity. After moving
to New York City six years ago from Sacramento, the band was quick to root itself
in the nightlife, catching the towering first wave of dance-punk fury. In classic
Peter Pan fashion, the band's surge toward eternal youth and immortality
has brought them national attention and critical acclaim on the strength of
their self-titled debut LP and it's near-perfect follow-up Louden Up Now.
The dance smash, "Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard (A True Story)"
brought the band national press and even a tour with Red Hot Chili Peppers,
its epic rhythms and groove for days meshing seamlessly with its raver/political
On the band's newest full length, Myth Takes, !!!
attempt to take their brand of jittery, dance-club fodder to a level far beyond
Gang of Four worship. Instead, they carefully mold their sonic harmony with
an ear for atmosphere, as disco-style beats provide the anchor for walking bass-lines
and complimentary, angular guitar. Offer's vocals are low and haunting, but
injected with spunk and attitude, cementing his off-the-wall banter as the sturdy
voice of a mini-movement. !!! bring towering hooks as "Must Be the Moon" and
"Heart of Hearts" could easily thrust the band to "Giuliani" status and beyond.
Where their previous albums came relentlessly hard, catching a groove, but only
if it could hang on for the high-speed ride, Myth Takes finds its groove
from the get-go, bobbing and weaving its way to an album-long cohesion.
Currently on tour in Europe with a U.S. national tour to
follow, vocalist/spokesman Nic Offer took a break from French cheese spread
to talk to the Deli about the band's past, present and future.
Do you see dance-punk as a legitimate movement within music?
I hope it is because we're in it. Some of us are still upset about being lumped
in with others, but when we started we thought indie rock was totally fucking
boring. To toe the party line with indie now means to have a cowbell. But I
hope some kids are starting up some crazy shit now because they can't stand
the fucking cowbell. Indie-rock needed to change and it's going to need to change
again after all of this. Even still, I hear bands who push it further, something
like the Klaxons. There's so much fertile ground within it.
How does it feel knowing that it's nearly impossible to go to a show these days
without hearing the drummer playing a disco beat?
We've almost decided to add a no dance rock clause to our contract. We don't
want to fucking hear that music after we off stage. Any style of music that
gets going, there's a few leader and a bunch of people who don't get it, but
follow it anyway and turn out a mediocre product. And the problem is there are
always people who want to support the mediocre. But twenty years down the line,
after the backlash, there's the music that stands the test of time.
How would you compare New York City and Sacramento?
Comparing Sacramento and New York is ridiculous. We've lived in New York for
six years now. It feels like home. But Sacramento is where we spent our formative
years, so there's still a family there. We knew absolutely everyone. In Sacramento
there's no cool scene. In New York, there's obviously a cool scene but there
are so many people doing whatever the fuck they want, so many different families,
that you can still do whatever the fuck you want.
Big cities in general, but New York specifically has quite the reputation for
being an unresponsive hipster crowd. Is it something you've dealt with?
We definitely dealt with arms-crossed when we first started, but it was all
across the country. But there were towns where we'd show up and people just
got it. And New York was one of those towns. I remember the first time we played
a New York party, everyone went nuts and we were like "This is the town for
us!" It's never been much of a problem for a band like us. The problem now are
the 'fans' who are really die-hard and want to stand right up front to watch
everything you do and not dance. It used to be that everyone who wanted to dance
would come straight to the front, and now all those people have to get behind
these dorks. There are always going to be people who don't want to dance.
What do you think makes you guys able to constantly drive people to going wild?
I think there's a lot more groove in us. We've always been more excited
about a groove than the post-punky side of it. The groove has always been more
exciting. We're also just more punk than almost any of those other dance-punk
bands. We come from a raw energy and we give a raw energy every night. A lot
of other bands try and conjure it up but for us it comes very naturally.
With the band just on the edge of the underground and the mainstream, is stardom
a goal for the band?
We want to play for as many people as want to come see us. And we want to make
the kind of records that we want to make. We like a lot of weird stuff and we
like a lot of pop, but my favorite stuff has always been the weird pop. We're
always trying to push it higher, starting from playing for 8 people in a basement.
It's very natural to want to always go bigger, so we want to go higher than
we're at right now. But we want to go until we're not having fun anymore. Wherever
that takes us...
We're really happy with Warp and we're able to do most of the things we want
to do. I don't know if we're a type of band like The Killers. I don't know if
we're ready. We would do it if it felt right, but it just hasn't. The fact is
that even with Warp they try and force us to do things we don't want to do..
things likr a Jaguar commercial or a Nike album. And it's just never felt right.
Luckily, they understand art, but it just makes you wonder, how could we work
with Warner Brothers?
As a band releases more albums there's a constant struggle with the live show
in which long time fans want to hear the band's classics, but the band is really
excited about their new songs. How do you find a balance?
It's been difficult. We try and give "[Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard]"
a break but you realize that sometimes you play a song and people sing along
to every word and you have to see that these songs really mean something to
people. There's a lot of members in our band, we need to charge a lot for tickets!
When the people put down the money, you want to give them what they want. At
the same time, people like our live show so much because of the magic that happens
because we're having fun and it's free to us. When it becomes a chore, no one's
going to get what they want. They won't be getting the magic.
What can fans expect from the Myth Takes tour?
It's definitely focused on the new album but we've been giving people the
big hits. We've tested all these new songs out before the album came up and
they were killing them. So since the album came out, it's great to see people
respond even harder. That's how we knew these songs were good.