!!! (or more commonly referred to as the more Google-friendly, chk chk chk), makes weird music. A hybrid of disco funk that makes you want to shake your stuff, and punk energy that may result in some black eyes to those in your immediate radius. It doesn’t seem like in a universe that makes any sense at all, those elements would come together to make amazing music, and yet it does. With fifteen years of history behind them, and a third album released, !!! has perfected their recipe for funk punk, and taken the sound to some interesting aural places. Vocalist, and excellent disco/thrash dancer, Nic Offer sat down with Sania to answer some questions after the band’s set at 35 Conferette music festival.
TDOA: How’s your experience been playing 35 Conferette, and what were your expectations when you came here?
NO: My expectations were just to rock the show. I thought we could just get in there, and give Denton a piece of what we can do. We were excited to be here, it’s a tough spot for us because we’ve been out of practice, but we feel really good about the band, that we’re strong right now. We did what we came to do, it was a good show.
TDOA: You guys are playing SXSW, how are you feeling about that, and do you want to see anyone there?
NO: You know what, I haven’t even found out who’s playing, all I know is there’s going to be a hundred bands I want to see. I just figured I’d go with the flow, and go see whomever I could, whenever I got a chance. We’re playing this one show between Dead Milkmen and Odd future (it was the MWTX party), and I’m pretty excited about that, seems like fun.
TDOA: What have you been listening to lately?
NO: I’ve been listening to Ramadanman lately, and the last few night I’ve been listening to Lucy, this weird electronic stuff. I really like this band called American Gypsy, just some obscure stuff on the Internet that you can find from the 70’s. I feel like there’s just so much exciting stuff out there right now. I like all the new indie-hiphop stuff that’s happening, Das Racist cracks me up. Ron Trent, this old house electronic stuff that’s been one of my favorites to listen to in my headphones. Generally, when I’m not making music I’m listening to it. I love discovering the new stuff, and it’s also exciting to find some cool old stuff too.
TDOA: The title of the newest LP is Strange Weather, Isn’t it?, and that comes from a scene in a foreign film?
NO: It’s from a Chinese movie by Wong Kar-wai called ‘In The Mood for Love.’ It’s the scene where the lead actor runs into the lead actress, and things have changed between them, and they can’t really address each other the same way because they never discussed what happened, and so he kind of doesn’t even know really where to start, and it’s raining so he say’s ‘Strange weather, isn’t it?’ It felt like after being gone for awhile, there was some kind of uncomfortable silence that we had to address, and so that is how addressed it.
TDOA: It was a three year break between Myth Takes and the new record, and you guys were in different cities during the making of, what was the writing process like?
NO: Mario and I met in California; we got some things put together. Then we regrouped awhile later in Berlin, and spent some time jamming with the whole band, and pieced some stuff together there. Then, we went to a studio back in California, and laid down a bunch of tracks there, and then went to New York to mix it. So it just kind of moved in pieces. The pieces sat in between those things, and people would take them home, and work on them a little bit, and then we would meet back together.
TDOA: Did you guys add a lot of individuality into the pieces you were working on before you brought them back to be part of the whole, almost like an artist collective?
NO: Yeah, it was very much like that, one of us will create something, and then everyone can then jump in and add there own thing into it.
TDOA: How do you feel your sound has evolved from the last record to this one? There was that break in between of course, and 15 years of making music under your belt. What direction do you think the sound is heading in?
NO: I feel like each record has gotten funkier. Strange Weather is definitely more of that, and it’s also a lot more song oriented, so that was a good thing too.
TDOA: You can definitely hear that strong funk takeover in Strange Weather.
NO: Definitely, it’s what we’ve always been moving towards, I think. I hope the next record’s even funkier.
TDOA: When !!! first started, what were your influences? Now, there’s a niche for the type of music you make, but there was no ‘dance punk’ to be found circa ‘96, so your sound almost came out of nowhere.
NO: It came together in a funny way. I was on tour with Mario’s band, they were called the Pope Smashers, they were this kind of post-punkish, Sonic Youth-y type group, and I was in a disco cover band. Every night we had so much fun playing, and kind of making everyone dance, and then Mario’s band had this great energy, so at the end of the night we’d come home and say ‘why don’t we just combine these two? Why don’t we write our disco songs, but not be afraid to go where the Pope Smashers go musically?’ We just got a bunch of friends together, and jammed one night, and it was like just like that, the first night we had something.
TDOA: That’s really cool. It’s very complete music, just takes a minute to understand how those two styles came together.
NO: It really just came from being punk, and wanting to play disco. We really didn’t have to try to put the punk into it, it crept in naturally. We’ve always even tried to keep it out, but we can’t because it’s who we are.
TDOA: Your live show leaves quite an impression on people. There’s all this crazy energy, and you guys are up there busting a move, and the audience is dancing like crazy, almost like some kind of weird cathartic religious experience. Do you feel like you have to drag some of that craziness into the albums?
NO: I mean, it’s kind of one of those things where it’s like theatre is different from a movie. We always wish we could actually pull some of the energy from the live shows into the songs on the album. We’re always trying to, but it’s a difficult thing to actually make happen, it’s a constant struggle for us.
TDOA: What’s one of your favorite live show memories?
NO: I have so many, it’s one of the funnest things in the world to me. The craziest is probably the first time we ever played in Spain. I took some ecstasy before an encore, and I don’t actually advise people to take that before playing shows because as it went on, I became sick to my stomach and puked into the audience. It was pretty amazing, we pretty much had the audience eating out of the palm of our hand after that, they were really into it. Two in the morning at a Spanish festival, and everyone was just amazed at the fact that I had puked on them. There’s a basic rule that James Brown created for funk, and that’s ‘you have to hit the one.’ You can do anything you want, as long as you hit that one, and as I felt it coming up, I thought to myself, ‘well, hit the one,’ and that was my one. I just kept singing, and totally let it happen.
TDOA: Was it projectile?
NO: It was definitely projectile, yeah.
TDOA: That’s pretty rock n’ roll.
NO: You know, hitting the one, and puking, that’s pretty dance punk. That was like the most perfect quintessential funk punk moment right there.
TDOA: What do you wish someone would ask you in an interview? Something you’ve wanted to be known, or answered that no one has quite hit yet?
NO: Would I like some money? That’s the first thing, I’m really broke right now, and so it’s on my mind. I just like to be surprised. Generally, when people ask me about what music I’m listening to I’m usually pretty pleased to talk about that because often they tell me something good too, and that’s how I find out about a lot of stuff is just talking to people about music.
TDOA: Awesome, so it looks this interview pushed the right button for you, thanks!
NO: Yeah, no problem, it’s been fun.