Oh yes, this is a team effort.
“IF YOU LIKE TO MOVE YOUR BODY, THEN YOU NEED THIS CD.” This is what the sign read above the first !!! CD I bought. Always trust your local music store. Even though !!! was still pretty underground, they weren’t kidding. Part funky, part punky, !!!’s music will get your body movin’. Next thing you know, you’re shakin’ your booty with the best of them. Don’t get confused; their name is a mystery to everyone. The premise behind the name is that you fill in the !!! with what ever you want. It can be any word or sound you choose, as long as it’s said three times in a row. Pow, pow, pow. Rub, rub, rub. Dance, dance, dance. Almost everyone calls them chk, chk, chk. With seven members in the band, !!! are completely outrageous live and are particularly mind-blowing on a small stage. There are two drummers (sometimes they use two kits), two guitar players, a horn section, a keyboard/equalizer, and of course a lead singer.
Nic Offer is not only the perfect frontman, he is also the hardest working. He butters up the crowd, but more important, he doesn’t stop moving the whole time. He is known for telling a crowd to dance a little harder. That’s valid, because the more energized the crowd, the better the show. And it seems the whole band puts everything into it when they play. When John Pugh switches to singing, Allan Wilson beats the bass drum while playing the sax and Offer holds the mic to the horn. Oh yes, this is a team effort. Even while playing mostly new songs in 105-degree heat at Coachella, neither the band nor the crowd stopped moving.
Their recent show at the Creepy Crawl was not to be believed. First, everything seemed to be going wrong, starting with a no-show by the opening band. So !!! rolled with it. They’re known for selling cheap, funky mix tapes at their shows; this time, St. Louis got a live mix. Instead of an opening band, !!! members took turns spinning their favorite records and got the crowd moving even before their performance. Even better, they were on hand for everyone to talk to.
Next, there were problems with the sound. Not a setback for this band, however; they moved ahead as planned and made do with what they could. And they were on fire. I didn’t know a St. Louis crowd could move as much as we did that night. We danced so hard that at one point Offer said, “Damn, St. Louis! You guys really know how to shake it!”
Selling more records abroad, !!! are making their way around the U.S. to promote their new record, Louden Up Now. Just as funky and raw as their first (self-titled) album, Louden Up Now is more focused and slightly more mature. Not only is the production better, they are experimenting with sound, using some electronic beats as well as instruments. All around, !!! is both personable and driven. And the ambition is paying off. Signed to both Warp out of England and Touch and Go out of Chicago, !!! seem to be the “it” indie band at the moment, and their momentum is only building. It’s not surprising that lead guitarist Mario Andreoni took time from finding a hotel with high-speed Internet (because he also works his “day job” on the road) to chat with me over a Busch at Dapper Dan’s before their show at the Creepy Crawl.
I know some of the band members live in New York, but some are in Sacramento.
We’re all from Sacramento. That’s where we started.
I knew that, but I thought some had moved to New York.
Yeah, well I’m still in California. Actually, me and Alan are in California
I saw you at Coachella. How was that? Any stories?
Everyday, we talk to people in every placed we’ve played that said they saw us at Coachella and it’s just crazy. It’s a bigger concert than I thought it was.
In terms of overall concerts, it is the closest to a European festival the United States has. It has such a diverse lineup, and so many different things to do. It’s been so long since I’ve been to a big rock show. I know if I was younger, I would be so incredibly stoked to go to that thing. There were just so many people to see.
I was in the crowd and no one was standing; everyone was dancing. How did you guys get hooked up with Coachella? I’m always so amazed at their lineup.
Actually, it started at that Glass House show you saw. That was Goldenvoice show. Well, one of the guys that runs All Tomorrow’s Parties [another kickin’ American music festival] saw us on that tour. He recommended us to Steve at Warp and he recommended us to All Tomorrow’s Parties, the Matt Groening one that was in Long Beach. So we played All Tomorrow’s Parties, and then immediately after, Goldenvoice asked us to play Coachella. It was like a step ladder: Play on the Trans Am tour for Goldenvoice, play the Knitting Factory, play All Tomorrow’s Parties, play Coachella.
So it seems that the band is really taking off.
I just feel like that it’s being at the right place at the right time. We’re still every bit as serious and bust our asses as we’ve always done, but some how we’ve gotten these opportunities and people have gotten to see us, and the ball has started to roll. We just kept doing it and doing it and doing it. We always thought we had the potential. We started out playing to just five people in a basement, but it goes on from there.
How long have you been together?
How many of you started and how many are there now?
Seven; still the same number. All original. When we first got together, we knew right away. We wrote something like two songs and we knew we could do it. It took us a little while, and it still takes a while to find our space within the music. It can be really hard. I think, back then, we were fighting more for space.
Speaking of space, I think you’re better on a smaller stage. Tonight is going to be hilarious watching you all fit in on The Creepy Crawl’s stage.
That stage is really small. It’s as big as this chair; it’s ridiculous.
Yeah, you have two drummers. How are you going to fit?
Well, it’s a drum kit and a percussion section. Sound check was interesting.
I bet it was. Are you guys unhappy with the stage or do you like it like this?
Some of my favorite shows have been on tiny stages, where we cannot even move. I feel like sometimes the tighter we’re all together, the better because the sound just rushes over you. Feeling music like that is the most exciting thing. So I think we sort of excel in situations like tonight.
When did feel like you were starting to make it as a national act?
Our first show as out of town; it was in Portland. We drove 11 hours to play Portland. Every band I’ve ever been with has been that serious. We want people to hear our music and we want to play for people.
How long is this tour, and what’s in the future?
This tour is a month and a half, then we’re off to Europe to do festivals for a couple of weeks and then we’re off to Japan to play the Mount Fuji Festival. I guess the record has been doing amazing over there. It’s just crazy.
How does the American market differ from European and Japanese markets?
I thought that I was kind of spoiled, because in the U.S. we’ve only really played the bigger cities: Chicago, New York, L.A., San Francisco. Then we started in Providence, a smaller town, and there were many people who hadn’t heard of us. And we hadn’t experienced that in a long time. I think that the U.S. is just so spread out that it’s just harder to reach people. You really have to bust your ass. We’re going to [headline] our biggest show in Los Angeles in a few weeks and that’s going to be a real test to see how we’re doing in America.
I really like the new album. Are you guys working on anything new?
Oh, yeah. We’ve already started and we’re putting out another 12-inch in October. There’s never really a shortage of ideas for us.
Well, there are seven of you.
[Laughs.] No, we just want to keep it going. We always feel like the thing we’re working on the moment is always our favorite thing to work on, and we’ll keep working like that until it doesn’t [work]. We’re just never really happy staying still with what we have. I feel like we’re always looking for something that will make us stick out even more.