It seems as though !!! has cracked the code to band longevity. First, invent a musical genre (even if it does wind up being called disco punk). Don’t ever take yourselves too seriously. Start with lots of band members—more than you need—so you can weed out the ones you don’t like hanging out with on tour. Finally, continue to evolve your sound and put out worthwhile music without placing too much emphasis on commercial success. Simple. Out this week on Warp, Thr!!!er, !!!’s latest record in their sixteen-year saga, goes a poppier route as the name might suggest. But don’t fret, they haven’t shed the devil may care attitude and their name is spectacularly un-Googleable, meaning the guys are far from selling out. They’ve just made a catchy record that’s a real fun listen and that’s fine by us. We caught up with singer Nic Offer who, while enjoying lunch in his hometown of Sacramento, chatted with us about the new album, pop music and being in a band that’s been around for sixteen years.
How are you?
I’m good. I’m just trying to wolf down a chicken sandwich.
How is it?
You know, it’s not bad. I’m back in Sacramento right now and I always eat at the supermarket. I think they have one of the better delis in down but everyone else thinks I’m crazy.
You’re famous for being a pioneer of disco punk. Do you still identify with that genre?
The way I look at it is we’re never asked about any other genre. At first it was disturbing to the guys because for the first few years it was kind of like people didn’t know what to call us, and then all of a sudden it was a stamp: it’s disco punk. It was kind of frustrating to think we were creating this completely new music and then it was just this fad that can be shrugged off. But I think every band ends up being tied to some genre, and it’s your job to push the limits of that genre. I always use the example of glam. T. Rex is different from Roxy Music is different from Sparks is different from Bowie. They all push to different extremes but it all came under the blanket of glam, so I like to think we pushed it out too.
That said, THR!!!ER is a bit of a departure. What compelled you to take a poppier route this time around?
The pop thing just happened, I think it’s just been a natural progression, I think it’s just what bands do. Look at the example of Sonic Youth. In a way they probably kind of chased some sort of commercial success, but it’s just a matter of honing what you do. The hook is right there for you and you just kind of focus in on that part that people get excited about. For us, pop has always been something that’s intrigued us but we just couldn’t do it right. I think each album has moved closer to that. Especially the last album, there’s really poppy stuff on it. I just think we got better at nailing it with this one. I don’t like it when a band obviously shoots for the money but I don’t think there’s any danger of that with us.
So you can relax, there’s no chance you’re making money.
Oh yeah, we’re not getting any sort of commercial success at this point in the game [laughs]. But it feels like a comfortable suit for me, it feels like it works.
The name is a Michael Jackson reference, but can you elaborate on that a bit?
It was just a joke we had where we’d try to think of the different Thrillers for different genres. Each genre has it, you know? Like The Flaming Lips Soft Bulletin was kind of like the indie ’90s Thriller. George Michael’s Safe was the white man’s Thriller. Rumors by Fleetwood Mac was the original Thriller. It’s just a joke we had. It’s kind of what we always try to do with the titles is involving you in the jokes that goes on in the band. And it fit the album, which is what we hope is an album full of hits.
You guys have been a band for a long, long time. What is your secret?
There’s going to be tough breaks for any band and we’ve been able to weather it. We started with seven members and there’s only four original members, but that’s as much as your average band. Maybe if every band started with seven? The initial idea of the band was that we wanted to tour and we’d been in other bands with people that weren’t that fun to tour with. So everyone was someone that you wanted to sit next to in the van, and that was back when we had to sit in very close quarters. At the end of the day we’re just really still friends and just glad to be together, backstage, hanging out.
What’s the best mispronunciation of your name that you’ve ever gotten?
At about our fifth show, we were playing with some straight-edge band to probably fifteen people and the straight-edge band referred to us onstage as “PFT-PFT-PFT” and made the jack-off motion.
You guys aren’t easy to Google.
We are one of the few bands that are literally pre-Google. It’s never been a regret because I’ve never heard a better band name. As far as I’m concerned, the only other one is Born Against, and that one was taken.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing professionally?
The only thing I have any training for is babysitting.
You guys are headed on tour soon, correct?
We work hard on making the record and once it’s done the tour is like the afterparty. We’ve got a bunch of new songs and we’re psyched to get out and play them and hang out backstage.