Put on your dancing shoes and get ready to shake your butt – !!! plays the Fillmore at the TLA in South Philadelphia tomorrow night.
!!!, commonly pronounced “chk chk chk,” is an explosive mix of funky grooves, infectious dance beats and raw attitude. Guitar, percussion, bass, synthesizer, saxophone and vocals compose the Sacramento octet’s idiosyncratic repertoire. The band is currently touring in support of their third full-length album Myth Takes, which is arguably their most cohesive work to date.
“We really worked to make everything hit about it,” frontman Nic Offer said. “We made the funky [parts] the funkiest, the heavy the heaviest, the hard-hitting hit the hardest and the catchy the catchiest as can be.”
The title track couples an upbeat feel with wispy guitar, elastic bass lines and vocals so laid-back they’re almost whispers. “Heart of Hearts” and “Must be the Moon” not only have the intensity and “boom-chi, boom-chi” house beats of dance-floor scorchers, but also rock harder than the band’s previous catalogue. In some songs, Offer briefly departs from his signature moans, mumblings and chants to carry a melody. “A New Name” could easily be a Bee Gees hit with its disco style and high-pitched chorus.
The 10 tracks that comprise Myth Takes are noticeably refined: shorter in length, simpler in structure and tighter in sound than the band’s past works. Lyrically, the new album shows maturation as well, especially compared to the catchy but nonsensical verses of past favorites like “Me and Giuliani Down By The School Yard (A True Story)” or “Hello, is This Thing On?”
“I sort of did the whole Neil Young thing where you take something close to you but obscure some of the details, so everyone can find themselves in it,” Offer said.
For example, “Must Be The Moon” uses a simple but effective rhyming structure to tell the story of a drunken hook-up caused by the lunar cycle, an event that surely resonates with most college students.
!!!’s musical and lyrical growth is evident in Myth Takes, but their sound remains powerful, sexy and original. Two-thirds of the equation was deliberate.
“Of all the things we’ve discussed, the sexiness was never one of them,” Offer said. “We’ve discussed sex extensively, but the sexiness was always in the music and it just worked out that way.”
As for their energetic reputation on and off stage, Offer said concert-goers should expect unlimited enthusiasm at a !!! show.
“People get so jaded watching shows of bands they like, and I feel like a lot of people get re-excited about music in general after seeing our shows,” Offer said. “It is fresh and it is raw and we really deliver a lot of energy.”
An outdoor festival in Holland where !!! recently played is a perfect example of the passion that Offer puts into his music. “It was for free and everyone in the town went, so it wasn’t like we were just playing to a bunch of punk rock kids or indie rockers . . . we were playing to moms and dads,” Offer said.
“There was a pond and it came directly up to the stage,” he added, “so basically we were playing to this huge body of water with people gathered at the sides of it and at the very last song, I cannon-balled into this pretty nasty pond . . . it felt great.”
The band’s current American tour is their most extensive, and seven months on the road makes 2007 !!!’s most productive year. Still, their following is stronger in Europe, at least in terms of the amount of dates played and the crowd sizes. Offer blames this on a formulaic and close-minded approach to music in the states.
“When we started doing parties and dancing – and we were originally punk rock kids – we’d play anything that would make us move, whether that was Stevie Wonder or The Rolling Stones or ‘Pump Up The Volume’ or old hip hop or whatever, we just did anything and it didn’t really matter,” Offer said. “When something is new and fresh, it turns into a set of rules, and I would hate for that to kind of happen to the kind of music that we’re doing.”
Another reason for their unpopularity is that American venues tend to close earlier than in Europe, Offer said. “America doesn’t even know how much fun it could be. In other countries, you go home from an after-party at eight in the morning and the people you were partying with are going to another party and you’re like, ‘Oh, man, I’m out!'”
But Offer said he is optimistic about !!!’s growing reputation in the states and looks forward to playing Philadelphia, home to one of their stronger scenes. “Philadelphia always has a lot of kids looking to get down,” he said.
Jimmy Viola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.