!!!'s Nic Offer says band is testing new songs on the West Coast
The band !!! (a.k.a. "Chk Chk Chk") has plenty of justifiable reasons for being excited about a West Coast tour in the middle of winter. First, unlike their current home base in Brooklyn, we barely even get winter here. Second, their quick stint of club dates up and down the coast is affording the Sacramento-bred band time to test out new material for an album they’ll be recording in March.
Since forming in 1996, the band's crowd-pleasing brand of dance-punk has landed them on just about every major festival stage from Coachella and Bonaroo to Spain’s Primavera Sound. But in the spirit of testing a new crop of unreleased songs, the band has decided to give fans an intimate round of shows for their quick-hitting “Caliiifornia” tour. And despite the perceived difficulty of fitting a spastically energetic six-piece band on a small club stage, front man Nic Offer says !!! is definitely an act that can rock on all terrain.
“People always ask us how we’re able to fit our show on small stages," Offer said. "But through the ups and downs of our careers, and being all the way at the bottom, we’ve been able to play anywhere.”
More important, this four-date outing between Santa Barbara and San Diego from Feb. 28 to March 2 offers their raw, sweat-drenched club music a chance to thrive in its natural habitat. Before Thursday's show at the Echoplex, Offer spoke with Pop & Hiss about their forthcoming record steeped in a mixture of unapologetic electro, rough-and-tumble rock guitars and a newfound work ethic inspired by Prince.
Pop & Hiss: Having played so many huge festival stages in the last few years, what does it feel like to be playing your music in a club where it really seems to be most at home, stylistically?
Nic Offer: We kind of like it all. It’s exciting playing the bigger stages, but when you’re at a club and the people are just right there in your face, the energy is just more compacted. Taking the energy of a huge stage and putting it in a small room makes it all the more explosive. Everyone that was at the show last night who came up to us was like, “Oh, I saw you at Coachella and this was so much better.” I think people are just blown away by something that intimate. It’s more exciting.
How do you determine on stage what new songs you really want to keep? Does it just depend on the audience reaction?
I’m looking for applause. You can tell right at the end of a song whether or not the audience got that one. You can see the songs take over. People may not respond to it at first, but then as the build happens or a chord change happens, you can see the change in the crowd as well. That’s what I’ve always really liked about dance music. Everything else can be kind of fishy in terms of what blogs or websites get behind a band. But on a dance floor, if it ain’t happening, it ain’t happening. People will just walk off the floor if they don’t like it. If you can see they’re not dancing, you’ve just have to make that beat funkier.
You’ve also been working in a cool Prince cover of "Extraloveable" into your sets. Are there any plans to cover more songs for the album or are there any songs you’re dying to cover live?
We’ve recorded a couple Prince songs but we’re not sure when they’re coming out. We recorded "Extraloveable" and "Irresistible Bitch." We’re not really performing them on this tour, just because we have so many new tunes, even ones we want to play but can’t really get to.
Where are you planning to record?
We’re doing the bulk of it in Texas, recording with the drummer from Spoon, Jim Eno. We were always fans of theirs. They’re not really dance music per se, but they’ve always had an original sound and the songs have always had a lot of space in them which is really important for dance music. And we feel we still have more to learn there. And we called him up and got a hold of him, hung out and decided to try out the recording with him.
Is there any pressure to get another record out, considering the three-year gap between all of your albums so far?
We usually just try to do it until it’s done. But we also realized that sometimes you’re just not doing it enough and you could work harder. This record will hopefully come out sooner than the other ones. We wrote the whole thing in a year so our goal is to continue that pace. Musicians by nature are lazy sometimes and we’ve been spending the last year or so being really inspired by Prince and how hard he works. Everyone always comments about how talented he is but people often overlook how hard he works. He already had “Around The World in a Day” done by the time "Purple Rain" was just coming out. So we just try to push ourselves and work harder.
!!! (Chk Chk Chk) performs at the Echoplex on Thursday with Wild Belle and DJ Nobody. 1156 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles. 9 p.m. $15 advance, $17 day of show, $18 day of show, walk-up. Ages 18+.
-- Nate Jackson
Photo: The band !!! (a.k.a. "Chk Chk Chk). Credit: Lane Coder