Great Exclamations

12 December 2013 | 10:26 am | Cam Findlay

"You know, we didn’t sell as many copies as Michael Jackson’s Thriller, but it’s been good."

More !!! (Chk Chk Chk) More !!! (Chk Chk Chk)

Michael Jackson's Thriller would arguably be seen as one of the most successful albums ever. One million copies a week sold; that's a pretty staggering number. So it was, when contemporary “dance punks” and festival favourites !!! (aka Chk Chk Chk) released their album, Th!!!er, earlier this year, a few people raised their eyebrows in mild consternation. Did they expect it to sell a bajillion copies as well? Well, obviously not. There were a few things going on with the title – a healthy respect for MJ, a little bit of tongue-in-cheek poking but not much else. If the last four months are anything to go by, Th!!!er actually stands on its own, mostly because of the well-oiled dance party machine !!! have become over the last 17 years.

Want proof? The Music catches up with frontman Nic Offer, just as he's making his way into one of the biggest electronic festivals in Japan. “I'm just showing up to this soundcheck in Tokyo. We're playing tonight at the Electraglide Festival,” he explains. The Electraglide Festival with James Blake and Machinedrum on the same bill? “Uh, yeah, I'm definitely walking into a huge arena right now, yes. It's... it's pretty big.”

It's pretty rare to not catch Offer and his compadres in the middle of setting up or travelling at the moment. Since Th!!!er's release, they've pretty much travelled the globe, playing gigs and festivals throughout Europe, the US, Asia and over here. It's gotta be exhausting. “Uh, yeah, sure, I guess it is a bit,” Offer says. “But I mean, we love it. It doesn't bother us at all. I mean, yeah jet-lag's a bitch for sure, but it's fun. We're glad to be here, y'know? It's like I say all the time: we're not getting paid to just play, we're getting paid to be jet-lagged and show up at soundcheck ridiculously early in the morning. That's the part that's the job that's the pain. All the other stuff – the playing, the recording, everything – that stuff is fun.”

It helps to be pretty proud of the work you've done too. Those who know !!!'s previous work will know their mode of operations. In much the same style as LCD Soundsystem and other DFA contemporaries, their sound is one of grooving, heaving bass lines, chunked out guitars, glowing synths and Offer's powerful voice. On top of that, they have a notorious stage presence. The life of !!! seems like a long, free-flowing jam, their Sacramento roots clearly on their sleeves. Th!!ler has been no exception, but there are a few new vibes in there, with a club music platform subtly coming through the jangly guitar lines.

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“It's been really good. You know, we didn't sell as many copies as Michael Jackson's Thriller, but it's been good,” Offer chuckles when asked how it feels to blast the album out live on stage at the moment. “We've definitely kinda noticed that the audience has really changed since it came out. There's obviously a lot of songs on the album that girls like, because the audiences have had more girls in them. That's pretty interesting and exciting, because that's always a good sign; if girls like it, then it's good, y'know? You don't just want all guys there; you want both sides to be into it.

“It was a pretty different vision, what we had when we started getting everything together for the album. We were talking about this the other day, like the bands that have a definite idea of what they want to make, and then they make it. With us it's always like we have no idea what the record's going to sound like at the end. You're going along in a journey; it's not where you're going, but how you get there, to sound a bit cliché.

“That said the idea was from a lot of the stuff we were listening to, which was club music and things like that. We really thought we wanted to make a club record, and that was opening a lot of things up for us creatively. But, in a way, when we finished it, it had come out completely different. But that to us was a success in itself, y'know? We didn't want it to come out sounding exactly like the club music we had been listening to. We wanted something that sounded weird and different, something that was us. And I'm pretty happy that's what we got with the album.”

!!! make it back here for Falls and Southbound. “It's pretty good that we're on, like, early afternoon,” Offer says on their slot. “We can just kind of get into the music, and you can join in and dance up the front of the stage or make out up the back. It's up to you.”