From Vomit to Sea Urchins

Nic Offer of !!! reflects on the lessons he's learned over the years.

!!! (Photo by Erez Avisser)

In the early 2000s, Nic Offer barfed on fans at Primavera Sound.

Just as his band, !!! — pronounced, and sometimes spelled, “Chk Chk Chk” — was about to take the stage at the Spanish festival, the frontman popped ecstasy, which he later vomited up mid-song.

“Honestly, I don’t know if I would ever do ecstasy again on stage,” he tells SF Weekly. “The only other time I did it on stage, I also started to barf. That time, I was able to actually catch it in my mouth. But I think with that much jumping around, I shouldn’t be doing ecstasy.”

Earlier this month, the dance-punk act returned to Spain, playing the same 4 a.m. Saturday slot they’d had years before. And this year was no less sensational, because Offer stepped on a sea urchin during a post-show dip in the ocean.

“I didn’t know if it was just one of those rocky beaches that kind of hurt, but then I was like, ‘No, this is an unusual bit of pain, and I’m drunk and should be numb,’ ” Offer says. “And then I got out [of the water] and kept on partying, which probably was kind of bad.”

Though he ended up getting the spines removed by the festival’s nurses, his feet — mainly his left — are still in pain, which does not bode well for the energetic frontman.

“I need my dancing feet,” Offer says. “I’ve got to dance on these feet for like a month now. So it was kind of a tough break.”

Chk Chk Chk formed in the late ’90s in Sacramento by leaching members from other local bands. They relocated to New York City soon after, and for the last 15 years, have been fighting eviction from “Taaffe,” their live-work space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “I’m officially one of those old New York people that’s been in a landlord dispute for years now,” Offer says.

During that time, !!! has also released half-a-dozen records filled with tunes that pull instrumentally from punk and stylistically from dance. Though frenetic and unhewn, !!!’s songs all share a common “groove base” that brings a cohesiveness to the band’s sound. The groove is front and center in the band’s seventh and newest album, Shake the Shudder, which also features smoother production, a distinct disco flair, and more vocalists than usual.

Thanks to a harsh Pitchfork review — “It said it was though I were the worst singer ever committed to vinyl,” Offer recalls — the band makes it a point to allow other voices onto an album, be it the drummer’s, bassist’s, or a featured singer’s.

“I feel like it’s kind of our sound now, that we have different singers and you don’t know whose voice is going to pop up,” Offer says, describing his voice as “kind of an anchor” in the music.

And though Offer would never branch out and do, say, a rock album, he’s a big proponent of experimenting and testing new things.

“We’re just trying to get better,” he says. “I don’t think we want to be one of those bands that makes more and more records at diminishing turns. You should get better at something the longer you do it.”

!!!
plays at 9 p.m., Saturday, June 24, at the Chapel. $22-$25; thechapelsf.com

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