A Conversation With: Nic of !!!
There is only one musical act we know which defies classification, presents one of the most electrifying live shows out there, and has a track record of over 20 years under their belts. That act is !!!. The currently 6-piece band (pronounced “Chk Chk Chk”) is equally delightful on the stage and in the studio. Their unique blend of a variety of styles of dance & rock music has led to comparisons to LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, The Faint, and more, and they’ve shared a bill with everyone from Richie Hawtin to Pulp. Recently, they’ve also been moonlighting as DJs, and deliver high-energy, super-fun sets. Their positive attitudes and work ethic are infectious. We got the chance to chat with front man Nic Offer ahead of their recent journey to Europe to find out about their creative process, DJ history, and more. Sit back, press play on one of their 6 albums, and enjoy.
RP: So how’s it going? What are you up to?
NO: Just trying to get some writing done, we go on tour in a couple days and I don’t get a lot of stuff done on tour – actually I might this time – but I’m trying to work as much as I can this week.
You guys are about to tour Europe, do you have any favorite places to play over there or are you particularly excited about any of the shows?
You try to get excited for all of them… But Spain’s always good for us. Spain’s probably where we do the best. Paris is always good, and this last record has been doing really well in London so I’m excited for that.
Who is playing with you over there?
We’re opening for ourselves as Stereolad.
I was going to ask… When I just saw you that was the whole show. Is it not just exhausting to play as two different things night after night?
I was use the other “ex” word which would be exhilarating. It’s just fun. You’re there to play. Bruce Springsteen plays for three and a half hours.. DJs DJ for 10 hours sometimes.. It’s more time to play, and it’s such a different experience than playing as !!!.
How much work did you guys have to put into it to make it happen? Or did you know all the songs and go for it?
It ended up being a bit more work than we originally anticipated. We probably spent 4 or 5 days putting it together. It’s a short set – 4 or 5 songs – and it took a while for it to gel, but we went at it, and after 2 or 3 days we started seeing the light and knew it was going to work.
We’ve seen you guys several times, including at Movement Festival last year. We loved it! Since you were the only band, how was that experience compared to other festivals?
When we first came about, in places like Spain we were such a novelty in the dance world that we were playing a lot more festivals that we would be maybe not the only band, but definitely one of the only ones. We’re kind of used to that whole thing, and it feels special to be that only band, but it is a difficult task to be able to bring something that sounds as good as a mastered record. I feel like with DJs, you’re not supposed to watch. You’re supposed to lose yourself in the music. And with us, we still want people to lose themselves and not look, but that’s kind of unrealistic because we’re known for being such an exciting band to watch. We were certainly proud to be there, and it was an exciting show for us. It was a fun festival. There was a lot of stuff we got to see.
Is there anyone that’s been super inspiring that you’ve seen lately?
At that show, I thought Ben UFO was great. The last great band I saw was Viet Cong. They were pretty inspiring. For me personally, I want something different out of bands than I do dance music. What I want out of dance music that a band would do is what my band does. And there’s not a lot of other bands that are doing it. So when I see a band, I want that visceral energy.
You guys DJ too, and our readers are more on the electronic side of things. I love your sets, I think you do a good blend of “accessible techno” (if that’s a thing) and some house-ier, disco-influenced stuff – all really fun. How did you get into DJing or is it something you’ve always done?
The guys in the band who left all turned into DJs, like our old bass player and producer Justin van der Volgen does really well as a DJ. It used to be someone in the band was always DJing, then at one point there was nobody left, and it was at a time where we were starting to get more into club music than ever, so it was one of those things where we decided to just do it.
I was the iPod techno guy, and knew it wasn’t the way it was meant to be listened to, so we just started to play it. We come from something different, so we have a different perspective on dance music and where we see the lines of what we play. We like to keep it accessible, but it’s such a fine line between having a good hook and being too cheesy. If it’s something that would be played in a club I wouldn’t want to be in, we don’t play it.
Do you have any favorite labels or do you just browse through stuff?
I don’t feel a special affinity to any of them just yet. I’m pretty much still the Beatport comber and just grab stuff that catches my ear.
You said you were working on new music, but your last album came out in October. Isn’t that super fast?
That’s what everyone always says, but it takes a few years to make a record, and as soon as one’s finished there’s nothing to do but start working on another one. We’re pretty much never not working on new stuff.
You guys are spread out across the country, do you have one set studio or dates or do you bounce ideas off each other electronically?
We do all kinds of stuff… I’ll go out to California and work with our bass player Mario where we’ll just set up, jam, and record everything, then I edit it down until we have loops to play with, then we start building from there. When I’m back in New York, Rafael and I go back and forth and show each other what we’re working on and get on each other’s laptops and change stuff around. It’s almost like we give each other assignments. Like, “Ok this is good but it’s gonna need a chorus” then we meet back the next week. We like to learn from producers, so by the end of the record, we’re taking everything around to different people.
Is there anything else super exciting set for the rest of the year?
We’re scheduled to play the Shaky Beats festival in Atlanta and do some touring around that but that’s not totally for certain yet. We’re just focused on writing for now.
Find out when !!! is coming to your town by following them on Facebook. Then don’t miss the show. Seriously, don’t.