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Checking Up On !!!

We chat to Nic Offer from the unGoogleable band about their feelings for each other

In the light of the new album by !!! (Chk Chk Chk), 'Strange Weather, Isn’t it?' coming out this 23rd of August, we talked to Nic Offer, singer and leader of the band – still sleepy from a transatlantic flight – about books, Berlin, dealing with musical boundaries and how !!! is not only a band, but a team, and a family.

Dazed Digital: How do you cope with the jet lag?! You’ve been coming to the UK back and forth a lot lately.
Nic Offer: Aah, I’ve got a few tricks here and there but taking something that will put you down on the flight for a bit works best. But maan, the weather is awesome right now so I must stay awake!

DD: And when you’re on the road, what do you do to kill time if sleeping is not an option?
Nic Offer: Ha. I read a lot. I bring a whole stack of books; some I buy, and some my friends recommend. I just started reading one on the plane that a friend suggested to check but I’m not liking it. I prefer the writing of Bolaño, like ‘The Savage Detectives’. He kind of transports me into my childhood and teenage years, because he writes under that perspective, like he reads my teenage mind. He’s great.

DD: You’ve recorded in Berlin and the sound you came up with on the record has been greatly influenced by the variety of music found in this city. Was incorporating this sound something you thought of from the moment you sat down to write a new record?
Nic Offer: Yes and no. It developed gradually. It wasn’t anything conscious or planned. We’d jam and bring in feelings and states of mind and suddenly, sometimes, it’d sort of come together and we’d be like ‘Yeah, this is Berlin’. New York has become pretty sterile in terms of dance music. It feels stale. In Berlin there is a lot of innovation and creativity going on. It feels so much more alive. We knew that subconsciously it would come out and flourish regardless of what we were trying to achieve at that moment.

DD: Considering that ‘carpe diem’ approach, was it difficult to convey the message to your producer Eric Broucek? How much did he suggest or decide?
Nic Offer: Yeah... hmm, well I always find it difficult to communicate between the engineers and us because they have their own ways of working, their lingo, their knowledge and you have to start by building a bridge… and then communicate as effectively as you can, which is not easy. I mean, sometimes I’d be like ‘This has to sound like you’re in a dream…’ (laughs), and they won’t accept that, so there’s always like a struggle.

DD: To compromise?
Nic Offer: Definitely. There are fights and discussions but it is all part of the process and that is what you need to bring the best out of you, you know?

DD: Strange Weather, Isn’t It? suggests a record of change. Is this also happening at a personal level? Change can be difficult to accept, specially for some music fans that may want to hear the ‘old, familiar’ !!!
Nic Offer: Ouch, tricky question (laughs). The way I always see it as a band is that we want to make the type of music that we would be a fan of, you know what I mean? Like, there are artists out there like David Bowie who do their own thing all the time and that is to me a proof that fans and people in general do embrace change.

DD: But how do you find the balance between the ‘Let’s go crazy, I feel like doing this’ and ‘This, however, is the type of music that people will probably dig more’?
Nic Offer: Well, I see what you mean; there is definitely some pressure but you have to be rational about it. Of course ultimately you want to make a record that people like… But it’s all part of the job, I guess.

DD: So it pretty much feels…
Nic Offer: Oh, totally free really, that’s what we aim for. We want it to sound fresh, with no rules at all… We’re also aware that what we start with leads us to a completely different thing so we just go with the flow, you know?

Dazed: I’m assuming not everyone reaches an understanding on the first draft of a song, though.
Nic Offer: No, no, of course. We’re all different. There were changes in the band, as you know. Sometimes you have to fight it out. It may feel nice for me but the others don’t like it and I have to let it go. It’s all team work. We do, however, know each other very well now so it is pretty clear when things are not getting anywhere. Solo artists coming from a band tend not to be so successful because the dynamics of the family are gone and it becomes difficult to judge or to take an overall perspective from another point of view. When you don’t have a strong collaborator, I think things don’t work that well.

DD: So you both bug each other and respect each other.
Nic Offer: Yes, we work well that way. We fight with each other like siblings but that’s a good sign, it works and that’s what’s most exciting.

DD: So, since we were talking about feelings before, what do you want a fan to feel when they hear your new album?
Nic Offer: Aah, well, I’d like them to get the same feeling we did when making it. We nurtured it, we fought, we felt ecstatic… is that a good answer? Wow, I’m very jetlagged.

DD: Do you find yourself in the position that you thought or expected to be when you were young?
Nic Offer: Hmm, I never thought of that. I lived in the present, to be perfectly honest. I mean, I had NO idea at the time of what I was doing or what I wanted, – and even less – what I would be doing in ten years time (laughs). I don’t even think like that right now. What I do know, though, is that I am pretty sure I will still like the records I made or will be making in the future because they come from within; it’s what I wanted to write at the moment.

DD: So what makes this record different from any other? What makes it stand out from the dance/rock/pop section of a music store?
Nic Offer: Waah, (long silence)… Er... Woah, (second long silence)…. that’s a difficult question! I need some time to give you a proper answer! This is terrible of me! Aah, (laughs)… Can I blame the ‘no answer this time’ to the jet lag?!