Since !!! (Chk Chk Chk) formed in 1996, the Sacramento outfit has been giving crowds something they’ve never heard before.
The band has toured the world with groups such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and has become a favorite on the festival circuit—and !!! will be performing a can’t-miss show at Pappy and Harriet’s on Sunday, July 20.
Of course, the story of how the band’s name came to be has been discussed before at great length, so let’s get that out of the way: !!! (Chk Chk Chk) was inspired by the subtitles displayed during the clicking sounds of the Khoisan language in the 1980 comedy film The Gods Must Be Crazy.
The !!! sound has been defined as “dance-punk,” and the group has been known for putting psychedelic guitar sounds to funk rhythms and dance music. Song lyrics tend to be on the punk-rock side.
Lead singer Nic Offer said the “dollar records” the members used to listen to helped shape the band’s sound and development.
“It was Chic, Hamilton Bohannon, Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, Prince and things like that,” Offer said. “We were also really into Sonic Youth and Stereolab. We were into something weird, and we felt there were so many strange, weird connections in funk music. We kind of wanted to highlight those aspects of it. There are always these strange psychedelic connotations in funk music, because they’re trance-inducing.”
!!! came up at a time when Sacramento’s music scene was known for bands such as The Deftones, Club Nouveau and Cake.
“Sacramento was unique in that we were playing the $3 shows in basements,” Offer said. “It was a real DIY kind of scene. At the same time, it was … close to Oakland and San Francisco. We knew what was cool, but most of the cool bands sort of skipped Sacramento. We were kind of left to do our own thing. When we started playing disco in Sacramento, it wasn’t really weird, because that’s what we all listened to. When we went to the Bay Area, people would really turn their noses up at us. So we kind of defined what cool was in Sacramento.”
While the group has been living in New York for the past 13 years, Offer said he’s still fond of their hometown crowd.
“We never had to leave. Moving to New York was important for our development, but I think being able to start our own sound back there was really important for us,” he said.
While !!! has won over audiences and gained a solid reputation for live shows, it wasn’t easy at the beginning: People didn’t know what to make of this group that had punk appeal—and was playing disco.
“It was a good limits test,” Offer said. “We were definitely punks, so we were hanging with punks. There were punks who were definitely not cool with it at all. Then there were punks who were just blown away thinking, ‘This is the band we’ve been waiting to see. This is what has to happen.’ Right from the start, there were people who just loved us, and there were people who just fucking hated it. I remember we played this punk show, and there were, like, 20 people at the show when we started. I’m not joking; about 16 or 17 people just turned around and walked out once we started. They were just like, ‘Oh, fuck this!’ and walked out. But we played to three people who loved it; it wasn’t good numbers, three out of 20,” he said with a laugh.
“But once we got a few people on our side, we realized we weren’t crazy, and that this was cool.”
The band has five studio albums under its belt, starting with the 2001 self-titled debut. !!! has spent the majority of its recording career on Warp Records with EDM figures such as Aphex Twin and Flying Lotus, and bands like Grizzly Bear and the recently dissolved Death Grips. The band has pushed the bar higher with each album release, and the no-boundaries approach gives !!! a vast amount of freedom.
“From my understanding and our involvement in post-punk, it’s about pushing forward,” Offer said. “For us, to make the same record twice in a row, that’s never part of the game plan, and not what we are ever going to do. … It should be about growing and changing. When we finish a record, we’ve already learned how to make a better one. It’s something we feel excited about each time we make a record. We’re already working on the new one right now, and I’m tremendously excited.”
While recordings have proven to be ground-breaking for the group, !!!’s live shows continue to gain the band notoriety. Offer said it’s all about the crowd and the energy.
“There have been nights where we thought we were going to suck, but the audience was fantastic to where they carried us over,” Offer said. “We’re completely dependent on the audience. We can do it without them, but we’re completely dependent on them for a good show.”
He also said that the freedom that performing gives the group makes every live show work.
“There’s a lot that can happen,” he said. “There are chances for chaos. There are certain things that are going to happen where you’re going to go without a net for a while to where you’re open and free. We’re not new to the whole festival thing at this point, so we know how to get in there and rock ’em and sock ’em for an hour, and that’s what we really like to do.”
!!! (Chk Chk Chk) will play at 8 p.m., Sunday, July 20, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $17. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.