When !!! vocalist, cowbellist, and hype-man Nic Offer spoke to us on the phone, he was waiting for a BLT. If the restaurant was spinning the Sacramento band's newest offering Strange Weather, Isn't It?, the bacon might fry itself and dance over to a bed of lettuce to make baby tomatoes. The !!! mobile party unit is known for its Parliament Funkadelic-caliber spectacle, club-worthy disco jams, and the trail of sweaty white people left in its path. Offer spoke to us about recording in Berlin, outlasting dance-punk, and mispronunciations of !!!'s unpronounceable name.
Ryan Wasoba: You describe Strange Weather, Isn't It? as your "Berlin record". You're referring to the capital of Germany, not the band who did "Take Your Breath Away" from the Top Gun soundtrack?
Nic Offer: I guess in some ways it was both, since it was such a poppy record for us. But i never thought Berlin had that many good songs. I used to love techno pop as a teenager and Berlin was always kind of low on the totem pole.
You immersed yourself in Berlin for the record, jamming in the basement of a club during the day and dancing upstairs at night. How did the experience inspire the band? Most of the clubs in America close at 2 and there's a certain level of depth that's closed off when everything needs to be reined in 6 hours earlier. It seems like here in America, it's all centered around playing the hits. Dancing over there, the whole night is kind of a journey. And Berlin's sound systems are better. You can't listen to music that deep on America's bar sound system. It's not going to do you any good, it's going to seem as boring as minimal techno is to a lot of Americans. That music has existed in their culture for a long time, and it comes from a different level of understanding, Whereas if you play Berlin techno at an American dance club it's the weird track for the night
In a certain way, !!! lives within that conflict between American and European cultures. You have a very intense club sensibility, but a large amount of your fans have come out of punk and indie rock.
Definitely, especially when we started. To be fair, we're American. We were growing up listening to Sonic Youth and stuff, that's where we came from. But when we first started playing in America, we had to teach people how to dance at shows. In Europe, we had to teach them how to watch a rock show.
I remember people writing !!! off as a novelty act, but you've outlasted so many other bands in the dance-rock circuit. I guess I kind of never thought we were part of the dance-rock, dance-punk, whatever thing because we came out before everyone. It wasn't cool when we started. We figured we'd do well if it ever was cool and we'd still be left doing it when it wasn't cool anymore.
Do you think playing dance music isn't cool anymore? I don't know. We've seen the changes come and go. It's just not like the hot buzz word flash in the pan trend right now. There's other new buzz words. It is what it is. We will have been doing it for fifteen years this November.
That's five years per exclamation point. It totally is!
Let's talk about the band name, because when !!! started, a lot of the interest was rooted in the unconventional name.
It's one of those things we never give any thought to until those situations where we have to explain it to somebody. We do have to give it thought. With other bands, it just rolls off the tongue. We wanted something that would stand out against the other names. I'm proud of it; I still haven't heard of anybody with a better name.
Most people pronounce it "chk chk chk" but I know other interpretations are acceptable. What's the most absurd pronunciation you've heard?
We played with a straight edge band once who didn't care for us. They referred to us as [makes a vulgar sound three times] while doing the jerk-off motion.
I thought the sound effect was a fart until you gave me the visual cue. "Fart Fart Fart." I'm sure we've been called that as well.