Trainwreck: !!!

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Veteran dance-punk ensemble !!! is well-known for its raucous, dynamic live show, which it has converted over the years into a catalog of lively, eclectic records. These instincts have been toned down, or at least refined, on the band's latest album for Warp, Thr!!!er, thanks to a production turn from Spoon drummer Jim Eno and a more considered, studio-session-based approach. That live reputation still precedes the group, however, and it wasn't earned without a few mishaps. In this edition of Trainwreck, frontman Nic Offer recounts an instance of !!! being a little too confident in its onstage abilities.

We were playing in Cologne. It was in the middle of our last tour for the last album [2010's Strange Weather, Isn't It?]. It was a really good time for the band. The album hadn't done as well and the shows weren't as big, but we really felt strong about the band—we were just having a good time playing and a good time hanging out with each other. We had gotten really good. We had our tour legs, and we were just killing, every night. It was going really well. They took me down to a radio station to do an interview, and they're asking me about the tour and how it's going, and I pretty much made a pledge on the air. I was like, "We're doing great right now. We're killing it every night. In fact, if you come to the show tonight, and you don't think we absolutely killed—if you don't think we're the best thing you've seen this year, I will personally refund your money." I say this on the air, and I think you can pretty much tell where this is leading.

At this same moment, unbeknownst to me, our tour manager has taken all the guys to a very famous beer hall. I think it was like the beer hall where Hitler declared socialism or something like that—an old, famous one. The guys are all ordering these beers, like giant mugs, as big as your head. The tour manager has taken everyone back to soundcheck and left [Dan] Gorman and Paul [Quattrone] there, and he's like, "They're adults, they can take care of themselves." Well, they may be [adults], but they cannot take care of themselves, I guess, because they order like four of these beers in mugs that are as big as your head. I show up at the club, and we're soundchecking, and they're fucking wasted. Gorman sleeps it off, and that's fine. But Paul's meeting some girl there who he's hooking up with, so he just keeps a steady drink on instead of taking a nap and taking it easy before we hit the stage.

We hit the stage, and from the first song in, [there 's a problem]. It's one of those things, like—the drummer's behind you, so you're looking at the audience and trying to keep a face like, "Oh God. Oh jeez." You can feel it instantly behind you, that the power is not there. At [one] point in the set, we were playing a song from our last album called "Hollow," which is—the verses are just drums and vocals, so it's just me and him out there, and he drops his stick, drops the beat. He's been hanging out with this girl before the gig, and they're all drunk and playful, and she's wearing his stupid fucking hat. She's front row, looking at me like, "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" wearing his stupid fucking hat, and I'm just looking at her like, "Fuck you. This is 50 percent your fault." I'm having to watch this the whole show. But we get through it. It's pretty miserable.

Sometimes people scream for an encore cuz you're incredible and they want more, and sometimes people scream for an encore because they're not satisfied, and you didn't really give them what they wanted or needed. So, we're back there like, "Well, we've gotta do an encore. They are yelling for one." I say to Mario [Andreoni], completely joking, "Do you want to do one [song], or two?" And he's like, "Two." It was kind of like that thing where your dad catches you smoking, so he makes you smoke the whole pack. I go back to Paul and [tell him]. And he's like, "Two? You're making me do two?" Because he knows. He knows he's fucking us up. We lay into two, and as soon as we start the first one, Mario is like, "Fuck, that was a stupid idea." It was tough to know that you can give more and not have that power behind you. It would be like a DJ having to play with turntables that are playing seven bpm too slow, then 10, and then 15, and then too fast—it was all over the place. To Paul's credit, he's never done it again. And I learned the lesson to keep my fucking mouth shut and not go bragging on the radio. No one did demand their money back—it was one of those radio stations in the middle of the day, so who knows who was listening. But I certainly would have given it to them had they asked.