THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 09, 2010 |
The implications of naming your band !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk) tend to be spontaneity and intensity, two things Nic Offer and his roving band of insanity often epitomize. !!! have spent fourteen years developing their dance-punk, and considering the "strange weather" of lineup changes and moving towards a more and more jam based writing process (coupled with members scattering across the continent and beyond), their latest album may be the best embodiment of their namesake.
Strange Weather, Isn't It? is only the fourth official studio album from the band, but it feels like the tenth in terms of forward momentum. "It feels different to me" Offer said. "You can tell it's not our first time out the gate... we know what we're doing with it more at this point. We really wanted it to rip you the whole time." Weather does just that, pushing the boundaries of the band's music, and often obscuring the "p" in "punk" to make it look more like an "f". The progressive noise is not a mistake, in fact, it's been a process. "Each record has more lyrical depth, each one is catchier, each is funkier. It's all working towards what we want the sound to be". And that sound is as complicated as they come, especially on Strange Weather. "On a record from a whole two and a half years and a band of seven guys... there's so much that creeps in."
Strange Weather, Isn't It? comes from multiple places and multiple perspectives. When Offer went out to California to start work on the record, he was met with one member (Mario Andreoni) and his new drum machine. Offer would wait for Mario to get off work, and then they'd jam for a few hours and do some writing. Then Offer flew to Berlin to get together with the whole band, and they'd jam and write. Strange Weather was then polished on both ends of the coasts (recorded in New York and Sacamento, back and forth). So, a lot of travel, a lot of improvisation.
Offer said, "we've always been kind of jammy", but he cited the distance between members, coupled with trying out different combinations of band members, as the source of the innovation to the sound. The distance and rehashing allowed the band to take new perspectives, "instead of using the same old tricks on every song". Of course this led to a large amount of work pulling the whole thing together. The ad hoc, fragmented roots of the album manifested in a repeated desire to adjust and expand. "We finished in December. And then we finished it again in January. And then we finished it again in February."
!!! have experienced a few lineup swaps in their day, and the shifts have played a part in the vibe of the record. Thus the name... Offer told the story of discovering the phrase in a movie titled In The Mood For Love, during a scene when two lovers are attempting to address their tumultuous relationship while standing in a downpour. Instead of being blunt, one character simply says 'Strange weather, isn't it?' Offer likens their deflection/acknowledgement to the band's own attitude towards alterations. "With all the changes in the group and stuff, we've been avoiding the question but at the same time addressing it."
Strange Weather, Isn't It? sounds like the band at their most adventurous, despites the hurdles. This makes sense, considering some of their more obscure misadventures are based on the sheer will to do things. Nic told me one of their stories from the road, a time in Knoxville when immediately following a show, the band really wanted to see Al Green perform at a church service in Memphis the following morning, but their 1970s era van was broken. With a little ingenuity, and buckets of determination, they made it happen. "We opened up the engine" he told me, "and you had to hold down the throttle while driving the car to make it work. We drove all the way to Memphis that way, and made it in time to church". He couldn't believe it, even after all this time. "It was really him sitting up there! It looked just like the cover of "I'm Still In Love With You!"
That kind of enthusiasm goes beyond a few exclamation points. But they certainly help label a band that needs at least three after every sentence. -joe puglisi
Strange Weather, Isn't It? is out now.