Thursday, May 31, 2007

!!! (Chk Chk Chk), 5.30.07, Studio B

Photo Credit

By Charlotte Deaver

"I'd like to see more people throw parties the way we threw parties in Sacramento when we were first excited about this music; we had a loft space and we played anything and we'd dance all night, you know? It was one of the best times of my life, really" says Nic Offer of !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Well, they've been taking their parties on the road for several years now, but I wouldn't doubt that the best times are yet to come for this band. Although no one seems quite sure how to describe their music: Is it House-Punk? Indie-Funk? Does it matter?! Nawww. The success and endurance of a group surely does not depend upon generic labels. If anything, the mad energy !!! generates is partly due to its very resistance to norms, its particular mix of genres, musical influences, ethnicities and a dose of sexual ambiguity.

Whatever the genre(s), this band makes you dance. And, they provide a lot more dirty raunch and funk than the vanilla indie culture (within which they operate) usually tolerates. Like indie artists Scissor Sisters and Peaches, for instance, they surely have their haters. And of course that's one of their appeals, that !!! are just outside the safety zone, a little too exuberant for the numbing conformity of the everyday.

The band's full instrumentation, including two guitars, several drummers, a juicy bass, and two, sometimes three lead singers, also contributes to the thrill of their performances. Real bodies, not machines, keep those driving beats and basslines solid. And the vocal performance spotlight is spread around the stage, with different singers offering their brand of shouts, growls, and belts.

But it's the seemingly insatiable and unstoppable Nic Offer who rounds everyone up, with his awkward arm-poking shake, his signature move which, as strange and unsexy as it is, works in his dance-punk-happy way. And as with many great live bands, bonding with the audience is key. The degree to which both audience participation and improvisation play a part in the music of !!! might be best reflected in their songwriting: “The songs are basically written four times” explains Nic [on their website]. “We write them in the practice space. Then we test them on the road. Then we take them into the studio, and relearn them before we tour with them again. So they´re always evolving. Playing them on the road has a way of making everything gel. People come to see us and party and dance, so if that doesn't happen, we´re not doing our job properly.”

They did their jobs "properly" on Wednesday night at Studio B, for sure. These folks have clearly spent a LOT of time locked together in a groove, and if you weren't dancing there's something wrong with you. Particular hits of the evening were "Yadnus," my favorite on the new record so far (very Nine Inch Nails), "Heart of Hearts," and "Must Be the Moon."

In preparation for their third record, Myth Takes, the band rented a house "on the "wrong side" of Nashville, [and] began each day with a strict exercise regime. "We all lived in this huge empty house" remembers Nic. “Every morning we'd do a kung-fu workout, and after that we'd jam all afternoon and night. I think the neighbours thought we were a cult or something. One time the postman walked up to the door when we were all in the living room, in our short shorts, chanting and contorted into these weird sweaty positions. It worked, though: don't mess with the magic." Indeed.

"Heart of Hearts" promo video clip


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