BYT Interviews !!!
!!! (Usually pronounced Chk Chk Chk) have been on a one band mission to promote unselfconscious hip-thrusting with their intelligent brand of dance-punk. They’ve hit the road with their new album Strange Weather Isn’t it?, and are headed to DC.
I got a chance to catch up with frontman Nic Offer before his show at Black Cat this Wednesday, and here’s what he had to say:
BYT: Thanks for taking a sec to talk with me. We’re looking forward to having you back here in DC!
So you were in DC last year around this time to play the same venue you’ll be playing tomorrow, the Black Cat, how was it? A good crowd I hope?
Nic: Yeah that’s right. DC crowds are always fantastic for us.
Have you ever had just an unforgettable crowd?
Definitely it seems like when we play Spain post 2:00 am… I mean they’re on the kind of drugs…right there with us, you can feel them riding the crest of the wave, the climaxes… it’s a pretty awesome feeling to feel that connected. We usually connect with most audiences in ways that non-dance music bands can’t. I mean we experience incredible things all the times with our audiences. I don’t mean to put Spain on that much on a pedestal but asking for the highest point, definitely those shows.
I hear that you tend to embrace the idea of your shows as dance parties, but on this new album I definitely sense a kind of space-out feel. What motivated this turn to more ambient sounds?
To us it’s been a long journey through dance music. We’re always searching for what else can inspire us. In some ways it’s always the same thing…I think we’ve always gone through something spaced out-I mean even if you look at “Me and Giuliani,” in the middle it goes into an ambient part. I think at the time we were trying to do a Sonic Youth Washing Machine kind of thing…with a beat underneath it. But to me it’s that saying..; put a beat under it and you and can put an ambient track on top of it and it’ll sound good. It’s just further along the journey of dance music for us.
Vocalist Shannon Funchess stepped in on this album and joined you on this tour. How did you guys meet, and how has it been working with her?
She met Tyler, they were both playing a show, they were both in Telepathe, I think they met like five minutes before they went on stage and Tyler heard her singing and thought she was really incredible. I had mentioned that I wanted a kind of diva singer for “Heart of Hearts,” and they were like ‘why don’t you call this girl?’ She’s been with the band for a while. It’s been great working with her. She’s really coming into her own as an artist. From the first time she stepped on stage. She’s raw talent-an extraordinary talent.
Some of my favorites off of your new album Strange Weather, Isn’t It? are “The Hammer,” and “Jump Back,” they seem to be a little darker, than some of the songs off of your earlier albums. Could you tell me a little about theses songs?
It’s tough to say, those are both more influenced by techno, and the melodic safe zone for that type of music does seem to be in a darker arena. ”Jump Back” is from a late-night Berlin jam session. It’s kind of one of those things, when we hit it, we knew we had something, it was a special groove. With “Hammer,” it was something that we started playing live, a jam off of a riff from “Bend Over Beethoven.” It was definitely one we wrote with the audience in mind. We had seen it really affect the audience. As far as why they came out darker…it’s hard to say, sometimes you just go there.
Some of your song titles and lyrics are simple yet very mysterious. What does it mean to feel “strangely free?”
It was a feeling that I got when I was traveling by myself. When I’m traveling by myself in a strange country, I am just completely free. I’ll just decide things by coin toss. You know if you end up in a town you stay for a few days…and you start to get comfortable, then you get on a bus and there’s a struggle to catch that one at the right time… You feel that relief when you sit down and it’s going to some place you don’t know. It feels good and a little scary, you know strangely free. That’s what the song’s supposed to be about you in charge of how you end up…that free fall.
“All My Heroes are Weirdoes” too. Who are some of your favorite weirdoes?
Heh…I mean Prince is fuckin’ weird…He embodies that. He is one of my ultimate heroes. In the art he made…he was one of the biggest pop stars of the 80’s and was always really weird. From “Erotic City” to 1999, just everything about it is weird. But I guess the thought for me was all my heroes are the ones who took chances, who weren’t afraid to see things differently. They always expose rock stars as ‘oh look they were actually nerds in high school…’ I mean Little John’s high school graduation picture or something… But that’s how it goes. Usually if a rock star makes it, it’s because they sat at home being a nerd working on music!
In a lot of your songs I hear an Afrobeat/African influence (“Even Judas Gave Jesus a Kiss”) and of course in your band’s name. (a name inspired by the movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy) What is your connection to Africa?
Africa just kind of feels a bit mysterious to the rest of the world. It holds a lot to discover for us. There’s all this music made there that never saw its way out. That’s enticing. We’ve always tried to bring something new and fresh to the music. It was kind of cool when we started seeing African music become more chic and en vogue; we were attracted to it as something new and fresh and foreign to us. And it also comes with a rhythmic melodic sense to it.
Do you feel that Place really influences your sound. You recorded this new album in several different cites, Berlin, Sacramento, and New York, if I’m not mistaken. Did certain songs on the album come from the experience of being in specific cities?
I think that our attitude of being influenced by other cities was always just to try it to see if it helps at all. You honestly can’t really tell if it helps, you just kind of hope that it did. For us it’s about keeping ourselves interested and excited, and going to Berlin, at the end of the day, it was really just fun. It was the same kind of feeling you get form traveling. It’s about putting yourself in a strange environment so that you feel fresh and we absolutely did. It was really fun. There are things that I can point to in the record that were influenced by being in another place…but maybe they weren’t. Some of the things that sound the most un-Berlin were the things that maybe came from being in Berlin. It’s hard to say. You just have to give yourself a fresh perspective and hope that it affects it in a positive way. I mean if it affects even you even just one percent then it’s worth it.
I gotta ask you that East Coast/ West Coast question…You guys have really done the unthinkable and have become kind of a West Coast and East Coast band. Where do your truuue loyalties lie…?
It is a bit weird honestly you feel a loyalty to both. We’ve lived in New York now for ten years. It’s where we go after tours and it begins to feel like home. But at the same time there are definitely some things that I can get on the West Coast that I can’t get over here. Having just spent a few weeks there, I think I want to stay here for a while. I think you have to kind of let it settle in. I’m glad I’ve made it ten years. I see a lot of people move to New York, spend a year and then take off. It doesn’t really sink in enough over here. You really have to do it a while.
I hear that a lot about New York, you have to give it a shot, a few years shot…Anything you wanna add?
Nah…I’m good. I’ve done about a hundred interviews in the last two months…so I feel fully expressed
Heh, aw well good! Thank you so much for letting me take a few seconds to talk to you. I’m looking forward to your show here!
Thanks so much Nic!
Yeah thanks for your questions, they were interesting.