!!! Thrills to It

Published April 29, 2013

Despite what you may have assumed about Nic Offer’s energy, it’s all generated naturally. His sweaty, memorable dance moves are what he’s known for—and if you’ve ever been to a !!! show (that’s pronounced “Chk Chk Chk,” for the uninitiated), it’s definitely something you’ll never forget. After more than 15 years, !!! is on its fifth full-length record, Thr!!!er, an impressively varied collection of electro-pop songs that bridge the gap between disco and New Wave: in one, you might hear traces of LCD Soundsystem; in another, Blondie or Death From Above 1979. We spoke with frontman Nic Offer about learning his dance moves, channeling Michael Jackson and the song he wrote for Madonna.

ILANA KAPLAN: I’ve seen you play quite a few times, and you put on a pretty kick-ass show.

NIC OFFER: It’s one of those things. I’ve done it on absolutely no sleep. It’s all from the adrenaline of the show and the music. I’m lucky enough that it’s always been there. I remember doing SXSW—we had to do three shows in 24 hours, and I couldn’t sleep the night before. So I had done nothing. I never have a drink before the show or anything.

KAPLAN: It’s amazing. Your dancing is pretty impressive. Who’s your dance inspiration?

OFFER: It kind of just happened. I picked it up here and there. I don’t know. I try not to steal anything, but I’ve learned a couple of things. I did specifically steal this one move that Prince did at the end of Purple Rain. I’m always looking. People will tell me on the dance floor, “I’m gonna steal your moves.” Well, I’m gonna to steal yours! If I see something good, I’ll do it. When you’re up there, there’s not a lot of thinking. You’re kind of just doing it. So, I’ll learn something, and then just forget it when I’m up there. I’m always trying to push forward and do something new with it. We’ve got a lot of touring to do this year, so I hope I’ll find some new ones.

KAPLAN: I think you’re bound to find some.

OFFER: Yeah. With the new songs, you always find new ones. I always find that I do better when I’m dancing at a club, because then it’s like I’m dancing to music I’ve never heard before. It’s like the music is pushing my body in different ways. I hope that with the new songs, new moves come.

KAPLAN: Your album is called Thr!!!er. Did you guys listen to a lot of Michael Jackson before recording it?

OFFER: We didn’t, actually. We listened to a couple of songs in the studio, just because late at night we would always play things on the speakers. It’s really good to watch speakers like you would watch television. It’s awesome. We listened to a couple of songs. Michael is in all of us. He’s in every record. This was more just about the concept of the album as Thriller. It was just a running joke we had as a band. Faith by George Michael is like the white man’s Thriller. The second Daft Punk is probably their Thriller. What’s Madonna’s Thriller? Like A Virgin is probably her Thriller. We were like, “What’s our Thriller?” Let’s let this be our Thriller.

KAPLAN: Are you originally from New York?

OFFER: No, I grew up in California. I’ve lived here for the last 12 years.

KAPLAN: Will you be playing some extra shows in New York?

OFFER: Yeah, you know. You kind of have to treat New York like all the other bands do, even if you do live here. You still work out a few more because it’s your hometown. We’re doing The Bowery Ballroom in May and House of Vans in July, I think.

KAPLAN: I have to catch the House of Vans show. I live right near there.

OFFER: Oh yeah? That’s a good one. Those are free, too.

KAPLAN: I can’t wait! The summer shows there are insane. Have you played there before?

OFFER: I’ve never played there before, but I’ve been to some of the shows. It’s a fun place.

KAPLAN: It’s the sweatiest place in the world. What was the composition process like for this record?

OFFER: We tried to have as many different techniques as possible. It was every which way. We wanted every song to sound different from each other. We wanted to have lots of different styles.  [In] the song credits from this record, no two are the same. It’s always some different combination of people, with the six of us and other people getting involved too. There are just lots of different ways to do it. There’s no one way to nail it down. You just try to get a good beat going and let inspiration come from there.

KAPLAN:  Who will you be working with in the future?

OFFER: [laughs] Well, the big thing for us, one of the reasons we had Jim Eno from Spoon produce the record is there’s always a temptation to get your hero to be on the record. Someone who hasn’t made a record in 20 years. I don’t want to do that. I was actually on East Village Radio today, and I performed as Drake. I guess I’d want to work with Drake and his producer Noah. I’m really intrigued by E40’s son. He produced some of his tracks. I think he’s really good, and I’d like to work with him. I would like E40 to sample our song “California” and use the hook. There is always that whole thing if one of your heroes does ask you to be on their record… It’s like with MIA, when Madonna asked her to be on that record. It’s like, what a piece of shit. If Madonna asked me, I would say yeah. It’s fucking Madonna. I fully understand why she did it. I just wonder. I’d like to see the thought bubble above MIA’s head when she heard that’s what she had to be on.

KAPLAN: [laughs] I mean, I’ve got to agree with you on that. I don’t understand it.

OFFER: I think she redeemed herself with the finger at the Super Bowl. The thing about Madonna too is that she’s had an incredibly long run. Her last really good song, she wrote too. Most people, if they’ve had a long run, they’re not writing their own songs by the end of the run. She went longer than anyone and she was still writing. The last few years have just been so embarrassing. As someone who grew up with her, I’m always a little bit on her side. When she does something embarrassing, it’s like, “Oh, god.” We actually wrote a song that didn’t end up on the album, but it’s about her. I want her to record it, actually. It’s about when she first came to New York. The legend or myth is that she had 35 bucks in her pocket, and she told the cab driver to take her to the center of it all. He left her in Times Square. The whole song is written from that perspective. It was a fun song to write from that perspective, but it didn’t make the record, because we’re saving it for Madonna.

!!!’S FIFTH STUDIO ALBUM, THR!!!ER, IS OUT TOMORROW, APRIL 30. THE BAND WILL TOUR NORTH AMERICA THROUGHOUT MAY AND JUNE. FOR MORE ON !!!, VISIT ITS WEBSITE.