!!!, which can be pronounced by repeating any one-syllable percussive sound three times (e.g., "chk chk chk"), formed in 1996 after the demise of the Yah Mos; while on tour, members of that post-hardcore act envisioned forming a band oriented toward danceable music, and once they returned to their native Sacramento, California, they turned the concept into an actual group. The band quickly became an eight-member ensemble: Nic Offer on vocals, Mario Andreoni on guitar, Justin van der Volgen on bass, Dan Gorman on trumpet and percussion, Tyler Pope on guitar, Allan Wilson on saxophone and percussion, Mikel Gius on drums, and Jason Racine on percussion.
!!! spent their first few years developing their groove-oriented, post-punk-indebted sound while playing local house parties. At the same time, Offer, Pope, and van der Volgen were in a dub-inflected instrumental outfit called Out Hud. After releasing a 7" on Hopscotch and a split single with Out Hud in 1998, the two bands issued a split full-length, a 1999 release jointly sponsored by Gold Standards Laboratories (a Sacramento label) and Zum (a San Francisco zine). After extensive touring of the States, !!! released a self-titled album on GSL in December 2000. Soon after, the band reentered the studio and recorded enough material for a follow-up. Some members moved to New York, but the group remained intact and active as it booked regional tours. In 2003, the band issued Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story), its first release -- a ringing, hypnotic single nine minutes in length -- for Touch & Go. It set the tone for 2004's politically charged Louden Up Now, mixed to bold effect by Maurice Fulton. The relatively lighthearted Myth Takes and Strange Weather, Isn't It? (their first for new label Warp) were the band's third and fourth albums, released respectively in March 2007 and August 2010.
Before their next album, there were some major personnel shifts, as longtime member Pope departed and was replaced by bassist Rafael Cohen, and drummer Paul Quattrone joined. The group's fifth album, Thr!!!er, was released in April of 2013 and featured production by Spoon's Jim Eno and vocals from Sonia Moore, a onetime backing vocalist for MC Hammer. They followed it up with an EP of remixes, R!M!X!S, later that year. To prep for the next album, Offer retreated to his N.Y.C. bedroom studio, working with Cohen and eventually finishing 40 songs. They cut it down to the best 30 and hit studios in N.Y.C., Los Angeles, and Austin to record them with help from Eno again, as well as Chris Coady and Patrick Ford, though most of the album was self-produced by the band. As If was released by Warp in October of 2015.
!!!'s next album was hatched in a practice space in Barcelona, where they began working out songs during lengthy recorded jam sessions before heading back to their N.Y.C. studio with Patrick Ford, where the core group of Offer, Cohen, Quattrone, Andreoni, and Gorman was augmented by a host of guest artists like Lea Lea, Meah Pace, Nicole Fayu, Cameron Mesirow, and Molly Schnick. The songs began to come together in late 2016 when the band, unnerved and inspired by the political climate, decided to head back to the studio, strip the nearly finished tracks down to the basics, and essentially start over. They recorded 17 songs in four days, then sent them to producers Joakim, Phil Moffa, and Matt Wiggins to give them extra dancefloor punch. The resulting record, 2017's Shake the Shudder, was the band's slickest and most focused to date. ~ Josh Eppert
- New York, NY