A Convo with !!!: The Weather is Just Fine, Actually
By Laura Jespersen on August 18, 2010
The band with the notoriously unpronounceable name, !!! (“Chk Chk Chk” comes from the subtitled Bushmen’s dialogue in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy), debuted its first record in 2001, and has since released an album every three years. Strange Weather, Isn’t It?, which gets its official release next week, is the band’s fourth studio album.
So what does a bitter, disco-punk Berlin record sound like? It sounds like !!!’s new release Strange Weather, Isn’t It? The eight-person band has suffered a break-up, re-built its line-up, recorded in Berlin and survived the tragic death of drummer Jerry Fuchs. Despite all this, !!! is back with an album that draws on modern Berlin-clubbing culture and Brian Eno-pop inspiration.
The album showcases the band’s wide range of influences—drawing from polyrhythmic African structures, elements of post-punk or rap—and most of the time, the combination results in a dance-inducing effect.
Nic Offer, lead singer and co-songwriter along with guitarist Mario Andreoni, is enjoying the weather in New York while he talks about Strange Weather in Berlin.
FILTER: You’re in N.Y. How’s the weather?
OFFER: It’s nice… I rode my bicycle today and I had to take of my shirt. So it’s good and hot.
FILTER: So, where is the strange weather coming from?
OFFER: I guess the strange weather is everything you don’t want to talk about. It was kind of like avoiding a question, but addressing it as well. … And quite literally, from a movie called In the Mood for Love. There was a point where the leading couple—everything has changed between them and is awkward—they run into each other and have so much they need to address. But it’s too much so he just says, “Strange weather, isn’t it?”
FILTER: So, what is it you don’t want to talk about?
OFFER: No comment.
FILTER: There have been some changes in the line-up since your last album—has that effected the new one?
OFFER: Sure, all of our records have been made up by the people in the group. I think it was good though, it gave us a new way of working, a new line-up was almost like a new fresh way of working that we had to find.
FILTER: How so?
OFFER: We had to split up into smaller groups. The record started just with me and Mario (Andreoni) hanging out together in California and writing every day, so that was almost like working as a two-piece—totally different than working as a seven-piece. It was kinda unique and it felt fresh and exciting to us. The idea just sounds differently with different people.
FILTER: You’ve made a quarter a ‘Berlin album’—why Berlin?
OFFER: Honestly, just because we live in different towns, so we needed to pick somewhere to be together. There is always going to be the romance of making a Berlin record, that’s always gonna exist, so we just wanted to try our hands at it and see what would happen.
FILTER: Why only a quarter then?
OFFER: Well, we have families and jobs, so we can’t just club it up all the time. We just got together for a couple of months and worked as hard as we could. I would have liked to have done the whole thing there, but that’s just not the reality of who we are.
FILTER: Which elements were recorded in Berlin?
OFFER: The main thing we were doing in Berlin was writing. The general way we write is through jamming and we jam straight to the computer. So anytime the jam gets really hot, then we have it. Most of the stuff you hear from Berlin on the record is stuff we couldn’t do again.
FILTER: How does a new environment affect the songwriting process?
OFFER: It’s tough to say. I think in the aspect of something like Berlin, it was just easy for it to be affected because we were going to the clubs whenever we could. There’s just something that clicks when you’re playing music all day, then you go and hear music from speakers bigger than anything you’ve ever seen before, and then go back the next day and play music. Something clicks in between that. I know that we were definitely influenced by New York just by moving here and being immersed in disco and house. There’s no denying that it really creeped in.
FILTER: Which particular elements from the Berlin music scene inspired you?
OFFER: The minimalism of it was inspiring and it’s always an important thing to remember when you’re jamming to keep it simple—especially when you’re playing with a full group of people. Keep it minimal and ultimately it’ll end up maximal. But it also just influences you because you’re there and, when you hit those points in the jam, it just sounds classical Berlin-sound.
FILTER: Classical Berlin-sound…
OFFER: Everyone always thinks of it as something dark and scary. Those Bowie and Iggy records were a dark turn; and all the bands that recorded there in the ‘80s, they all had that dark sound and the techno as well has that bleak sound.
FILTER: This record does seem darker and maybe more serious than we’ve seen from !!! before. What influences that and was it a collective music sensibility in the band?
OFFER: It’s not necessarily something that we knew we were doing as far as mood wise… You just find what’s there in the jam. Sometimes it’s darker and sometimes it’s lighter. It wasn’t something we chose, the songs kinda choose you.
FILTER: Does this album feel darker to you?
OFFER: [Long pause] Yes. It definitely feels like it came from a bleaker time. Myth Takes was sort of a breakup record. Does it get any darker than that? It was a breakup that was good and felt like a release… Maybe this is more of a bitter record.
FILTER: You have mentioned that Brian Eno was an inspiration for this album. What which records specifically inspired you?
OFFER: I think the records he produced that inspired me the most would probably be his own. I always thought his pop records are just some of my favorite records ever. Another Green World and Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy are to me really perfect and they are both pioneering pop records. It’s never gonna work mainstream, but to him it is pop and it’s strange and it’s how it should be.
FILTER: You guys have had to endure a lot of labeling, genre-wise. Can I persuade you into putting a label on it yourself?
OFFER: No problem… Disco-punk. When we first started, we felt like we were uncategorizable and we enjoyed that. Everyone started calling it dance-punk—which felt insulting for a while but when you think about it—it just makes sense.
FILTER: Will this be a Berlin-trilogy, and if not, which city would you like to go to next?
OFFER: We have said that we would like to go back. I was such a great time for us. We would love to go back and do it again—and it’s quite possible we would. As far as a different city… I guess we would like to go to Compass Point Studio in Nassau. That would be great.