Veteran rockers !!! talk inspirations, longevity and REM ahead of Glasgow show

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Channelling the dance-punk and rock energy of their latest album, Let It Be Blue, !!! (pronounced Chk-Chk-Chk), hit the stage on Thursday 6 October, at the Centre of Contemporary Arts, Glasgow.

By Jhanvi Vipin (She/her)

Chk-Chk-Chk has been around since 1996. Do you mind telling me about the band and how it was formed for those who might be unfamiliar?

Originating from Sacramento, California, Chk-Chk-Chk are American music veterans, featuring vocalists Nic Offer and Meah Pace, guitarist Mario Andreoni, percussionist Dan Gorman, bassist Rafael Cohen, and drummer Chris Egan – all of whom have been in the industry for around 25 years. I had the pleasure of interviewing Offer himself before Chk-Chk-Chk’s performance and asked him a few questions regarding their new album and their music process.

“Well, basically, Mario was in a group called Pope Smashers, and they were on tour with a disco cover band that I was in called Black Liquorice, and it was a kind of just a lark that it happened and when we came home from the tour, like – it was so fun to play the disco songs, and we were like wow, we kinda understand how to play this now so let’s try to write music that fuses the intense punk energy of Mario’s band and they were kinda doing Sonic Youth-y type things, so it was strange too,” said Offer.

“So we’d melt that with these disco songs and just kinda see what we’d come up with. So we met to jam one night, and it was like bam. This is it. This is the sound. I think we wrote like a song and a half that night, and we were like, this is it, this is gonna happen. It felt really easy from there.”

Every artist begins by listening to another. Who were your muses in terms of sound?

“I mean, you know, it’s always something new for me. I treat music like other people treat literature. Like I have to be consuming something new, always. I like contemporary music and old music. The influences have changed throughout the years. There were certainly the ones we started with – James Brown, Chic, Sonic Youth, and CAN, and now it’s completely different, and now it’s like Taylor Swift, Shane, and Jockstrap. Always something new that comes along.”

Your newest album, Let It Be Blue, was released early this year in May. Tell me about it, and the inspiration behind it.

“Well, it was definitely born of the 2020 times, and we kind of set it up where we put up our Ableton sessions online and so we could each open each other’s sessions and work off them. Usually, we do a lot more jamming together with the group and writing from there, but this was one where it was very much done in our homes on the computer, away from each other. It was a really different kind of work, but honestly, it was an exciting time too. There was an ability to focus, and we want the parameters for each record to be different so that the records will be different.”

Your album has a cover of REM’s ‘Man on the Moon,’ Are there any songs you’d like to cover in the future?

“This is always a fun question on one hand. But on the other hand, the covers that we’ve done always happen very naturally. There are a lot of covers where you’d be like, ‘this would be a cool idea,’ but they always have to happen very naturally. And certainly with the Tracy Chapman and REM songs, if you had told me ten years ago that I would be covering those, I would have been like, ‘those songs?’ It’s certainly not my favourite song and not even my favourite REM song. But we saw a path with them.”

“Early in our career, we covered Grace Jones’ ‘Pull Up to the Bumper.’ We probably didn’t play it very well, but we certainly learned a lot from it. With these songs, we felt like we were able to contribute to the conversation with them. So either contribute to the conversation or learn something.”

Your band is known for exploring various genres like rock, punk, etc. Are there any genres of music you’d like to experiment with later on?

“To be honest, I’ve been writing more on the guitar, and I started this other band called Off Pink, and we do rock music. I’ve never done rock music proper, and it’s more Glasgow-inspired. It’s kinda Pastels-y; it’s not like Led Zeppelin or anything and more like Sonic Youth. It’s also punky, and we’ve specifically tried to not make dance music.”

“It has been interesting; we definitely came from the era where everything was 120 bpm, and it seems like everyone’s dancing at 140 bpm, which honestly sucks to perform live cause I have to build up my lungs to sing and dance and run around at 140 bpm which is difficult. But one of the things I’ve always liked about dance music is that it’s always in my corner. We’re always trying to check up on the latest dance music. I’ve also had my Bollywood phase. I like to think of it as a healthy diet; if everything is balanced, the music will just come out.”

What can the UK audience expect from your performance today and the next ones you have in your tour?

“It’s a varied set from mostly our records from the last ten years. And we have heard several times on this tour from people that we’re the best that people have seen us. It’s a dynamite, energetic show, and it’s rare that I hear people are disappointed. Sometimes people come up to us and say it’s the best show they’ve ever seen, now this is tricky. I can’t be sure if they’re saying it to the next band who plays tomorrow night, but they do say it, so we must be okay, right?”

Any final words for your fans in Glasgow and the rest of the UK?

“Just, if they see we’re playing on the bill, they can expect that we’re still trying, and they can show up and see a good show. We’re not about to give up yet. They know that they can show up and see something good.”

And they did not disappoint. Chk-Chk-Chk were truly splendid live. The vibe is seamlessly matched by the efforts of each bandmate. Offer is known for his endless energy while dancing. He glides across the stage, even coming down into the audience to spark the audience with his wild dance moves. And once Meah Pace bounds on stage and joins him, there’s an even louder cheer – the spectators know the show is only starting.

There were also drum, guitar and bass solos by Egan, Andreoni and Cohen, respectively, which only excited the audience further. The band played several of their hits, ranging from songs in their newest album, like ‘Panama Canal’ and ‘Un Puente,’ to songs from previous releases, including ‘Freedom! ’15’.

From young teens to middle-aged individuals, the concertgoers were lively – nodding, clapping and shuffling to the beat. The audience also did as they were told – when Offer and Pace asked them to wave their hands, they joined in unison. And when they requested an encore chanting, “One more tune! One more tune!”, Offer jokingly replied: “Well, we were planning to play two more tunes, but if only one is enough….” All in all, a terrific performance from !!!.

Pitch given by Danny Munro
Edited by Theerada Moonsiri