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Interview: !!! aka Chk Chk Chk (w/ Nic Offer)

nic offerAural States: So you guys formed in 1996; that was a long time ago. Broadly speaking, how do you feel music has changed since then?

Nic Offer: Well I mean the scene has changed a lot. Different kinds of music have lived and died in that time. I always found it really interesting to watch. I was afraid I would be one of those old guys who doesn’t get new music anymore. But I can still enjoy new stuff that comes out.

AS: What died that you wish hadn’t?

NO: The Neptunes rise and fall, what they turned into, their influence on hip-hop. I mean for a while you could turn on radio and hear stuff that was exciting and fresh. When we started, we mostly listened to hip-hop. Now, things aren’t like that.

AS: When you started, you were basically fusing 2 bands together with a lot of different members. Was this at all difficult?

NO: No, actually, it came together easily and I feel like we were really lucky to find it. We really just found the right guys. I mean we all just had the way we jammed and it came together. Like Mario had the way he jammed with like early Sonic Youth and the Fall, dub and groove. Again, I always liked watching 88, 91-92, the years are kinda fuzzy, but that golden age of hip-hop where it seemed endless and boundless. In the beginning, it felt kinda like that.

AS: I was gonna ask if it was difficult since you guys are spread across coast to coast, but given your approach and how things just kind of gel, I guess it doesn’t really hurt?

NO: Yeah we just get together, start cracking jokes and start jamming. It usually works.

AS: Overall, describe your music in 2-3 sentences. You guys have such a wide range of influences and sounds that it’s difficult. I mean, a lot of people try to do it and end up using 18 adjectives, prefixes and genres, so I figure it’s better to get it straight from you, how you feel it sounds.

NO: I would just say we trekked into music that’s strange and funky, the most funky, weirdest sounding stuff we can turn out. And we are really into the hooks. Everybody works on hooks; hooks are the things that catch you. I mean what really makes a good hook, like even in pop, is the unpredictability. So we worked really hard on that.

AS: I always thought your first album was your darkest album, and especially with the fractured horn bursts, would make the perfect Hollywood soundtrack for like a dystopic, post-apocalyptic movie. So if you are ever in need of money…

NO: Hahah, yeah I mean we get offers from Hollywood all the time to use stuff, but really haven’t taken any. If the right one comes along…

AS: Did the darker tone of this album stem from anything brewing in the band at the time? Or was it just kind of what came out of the jams?

NO: Yeah, I mean it just kind of happened. I mean, the sound, it’s all the different things we like about music. The darkness, tracks that fill you with love, we try to bring all the aspects we like to the top.

AS: It’s probably partly just the nature of jams. When you get into extended jam sessions, I feel like things go more introspective.

NO: Yeah I definitely think that was part of it.

AS: Probably my top two favorite tracks are from this album…”Kookooka fuk-u” and “Intensify.” Could you just say a little about each of these.

NO: Well “Kookooka fuk-u” is probably the darkest track we’ve ever done. And one of the few where I regret the lyrics. Both were born of jams and influenced by Daft Punk. We were just listening to them and how effective it was when they just dropped the beat out.

AS: You regretted the lyrics? Something a little too personal?

NO: Yeah, you know, it’s just something like when you are angry and you just say it…

AS: Not expecting that…here you are 10+ years later and it’s on this album for good and you are still playing together.

NO: Yeah exactly.

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AS: Louden Up Now, your second album, felt a lot fuller, with more new wave, electro and club. It also felt more traditional in hooks and structure. Was this the direction you guys were heading, and reflective of what you were listening to?

NO: That was definitely when we were into like sprawling disco tracks and stuff so yes. It was definitely more club influenced, a club album. And I think we learned how to not play over each other so much.

AS: Any particular reason why you guys pulled back on the fractured horns?

NO: I think we felt…it just didn’t feel too fresh to us. You gotta make it so it’s exciting for you, you know? And we just got more into playing like percussion and it felt more exciting.

AS: Myth Takes opens with a rockabilly twist of Western tumbleweed music. Where did you guys get this from?

NO: It was actually just a loop of a jam. We just kept playing it and playing it and were kind of amazed by this, like “where did this come from? It’s so weird.” And I was just holding down that E minor chord and it had a rockabilly feel and just felt unexpected from us.

AS: Do you guys listen to a lot of rockabilly?

NO: Not really, I mean when I was young I was more into it. A lot of my early shows, like the Cramps.

AS: The songs on Myth Takes definitely feel more propulsive, less coming out of extended jams. And you feel a lot more soul than before. Where do you feel this came from?

NO: I think we just got better at writing songs and focusing on the hooks. With us, the hooks are always there, but before they were murky, jammed together, hidden under a lot of the other stuff going on. In Myth Takes things are just clearer.

AS: What is your approach to live shows? Is it like your approach to recording, just kind of like “Here we are, welcome to our jam session”?

NO: I mean yeah, in the early days, the first 7 years, we opened every show with a jam so there was definitely that feel. But after a while, like right now, we’ve got almost 7 months of touring behind us. You get into that feel of performing and that you are doing something more every night. But that’s why we have one of the best live shows. There’s that unpredictability of rock and roll and just jamming…there’s still that chance that anything crazy and strange can happen with us.

AS: What are the ups and downs of touring?

NO: I’m just happy to get to play music every night. Two favorites of mine are playing music and travelling so really, touring is perfect for me. The downsides are like anything with travel. I mean some days, you just spend like 12 hours sitting in an airport waiting, delayed.

AS: Favorite cities to play?

NO: Really anywhere we haven’t been. Lately that’s been kind of hard but this year, we just played Moscow, Warsaw. And I really like playing the big cities, LA, Tokyo, Paris…

AS: Best show you’ve played? And that you’ve seen?

NO: Really, I mean when we come on stage and start cracking jokes, we can’t play a bad show. This year we’ve been touring constantly so I haven’t been to many shows that we haven’t played at.

But Brightback Morning Light, I thought they were fantastic. I mean, like our shows, I feel like I need to yell at everyone to dance. But if I was singing for them, I think I’d yell at everyone to sit down! It’s just the kind of music that you don’t dance to. Everyone there was standing and kind of just fidgeting.

And I really liked Escort, this kinda like disco band, from Brooklyn. Check them out.

AS: What’s currently playing on the tour bus?

NO: We have the Field with us so there’s always this kind of minimal techno playing as we walk by. I just recently bought this 70s African guitar stuff, some Gus Van Sant.

AS: Plans for the rest of the year? Any work on the new album yet?

NO: We are gonna finish touring and then probably take some time off. I could see us start working on something next year, but we like to finish records when they’re done and not rush it. So we don’t really know how long til the next one.

AS: Great, thanks for your time and look forward to seeing the show at the Ottobar.

NO: No problem, it should be a good time so come on out.

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