!!! [Chk Chk Chk] - Biography
!!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk) occupy the space created by the collision of post-punk, funk, and dance music. Taking up the thread started by late 1970's and early '80's bands such as Gang of Four, The Clash, the Contortions, and The Pop Group, !!! combine the aggression and grittiness of punk with the danceability of funk. !!! truly are a postmodern band in that they freely absorb all manner of influences and spit them out in their own unique, highly danceable style.
The initial idea for !!! came when local Sacramento bands Black Licorice, The Yah Mos, and Popesmashers toured together in 1996. While on tour, the three bands discussed the possibility of putting together a group that would have all the energy of punk, producing heavy music that would still be fun. The group chose the unusual name of !!! (usually pronounced as “Chk Chk Chk,” but can be interpreted with any three monosyllabic sounds) both as a way to show their excitement about the new project and to show that they didn't necessarily have a connection with anything in particular.
Along with singer Nic Offer from the Yah Mos, original members included guitarist Mario Andreoni, bassist Justin Van Der Volgen, percussionist/trumpeter Dan Gorman, guitarist Tyler Pope, percussionist/saxophonist Allan Wilson, percussionist Jason Racine, and drummer John Pugh. They spent the first few years of the band's existence refining their dance-punk sound at gigs and house parties around the Sacramento area. Concurrent to performing in !!!, members Van Der Volgen, Pope, and Offer also played in the dub-influenced instrumental band Out Hud with additional members Phyllis Forbes and Molly Schnick. !!! Made their recording debut in 1998 with the single “The Dis-Ease/The Funky Branca” on Hopscotch Records. They also put out a split single with Out Hud that same year. The group followed up in 1999 with the split EPGSL26/LAB SERIES VOL. 2 on the Gold Standard Laboratories label with Out Hud, and then hit the road across the United States in a quest to expand and improvise on their songs in front of a live audience. With their reputation in the independent and underground scene growing, the group recorded and released their first proper album, !!! (GSL), in December of 2000. With long and angular funk workouts called “There's No Fucking Rules, Dude” and “Feel Good Hit of The Fall,” it was clear that they were determined not to take themselves too seriously. The album became something of a sensation in underground circles, and aligned !!! with other rising dance-punk bands like The Rapture and Radio 4.
Soon after the release of !!!, the group re-entered the studio to record new material. They ended up sitting on the new songs until they could figure out what was going to happen next with the band. Some band members moved to New York, but they all wanted the band to stay together. So tapes were traded in the mail, and rehearsals and regional tours were set up whenever the members schedules allowed. !!! didn't have another release until 2003, when they were signed to the Touch and Go label and recorded the single “Me And Giuliani Down By The School Yard (A True Story).” The long-form dance single furthered the bands marriage of house-like beats with prominent funk basslines, noisy guitar, simple lyrics, and ecclectic percussion. The following year, !!! released their a second full-length album, Louden Up Now (2004 Touch and Go). While maintaining the band's funky edge, Louden Up Now sharpened the band's lyrical focus; they became more political by honing in on opposition to the Iraq War, the Bush and Blair administrations, and Rudolph Giuliani.
After touring in support of Louden Up Now and appearing at the Coachella Festival in Indio, California, !!! released the EP Take Ecstasy with Me/Get Up (2005 Touch and Go), which includes covers of “Take Ecstasy With Me” by The Magnetic Fields and “Get Up” by Nate Dogg. After Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante caught one of !!!'s gigs in Los Angeles, he asked the band to be the openers for the Pepper's tour of the UK. in 2006, thus exposing them to a wider audience. The group returned again in 2007 with their third album, Myth Takes (Warp), which was not quite as heavy on the political invective as it was on the dance floor aesthetic. The album received positive reviews and sold well enough to break into the lower reaches of the Billboard Top 200 charts. After the album was released, it was announced that drummer John Pugh was leaving !!! to work on his new band, Free Blood. He was replaced on the group's 2007 tour with Shannon Funchess.
!!! remain one of the brightest and most inventive bands to make booties shake in the last decade and it will be interesting to see where they go next with their career.