Warp Records' !!! have started a new project that'll see them exploring "dancier" territories away from their band releases of recent. They'll release all this new material via a series of mixtapes, starting with today's, titled MEGAM!!!X VOL 1: SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE—which can be downloaded in full via the player below.
!!!, 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 for Touch & Go. It set the tone for 2004's politically charged Louden Up Now, mixed 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. 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 described as the band's "slickest and most focused to date."
Next, however, is a series of mixtapes aimed more directly at the dancefloor—tracks rather than songs in the more traditional sense. Over the past 24 months, they've been working on such material although none of it has seen the light of day until today, their first mixtape made entirely of this unreleased and unheard music. You can download the mixtape in full via WeTransfer below, with a Q&A available, too.
How was 2017 for you?
Fine, thanks. We put out Shake the Shudder, did a ton of touring and the sort of partying that comes with that, and at some point, we sat on a hotel balcony in a seaside town in Spain and put together this mix. We've had worse years!
So you’re aiming to further explore dance music realms. What’s inspired it? Why now?
Well, since day one, we've been exploring further dance music realms, but I guess we finally felt confident enough to share this side of ourselves. We've definitely erred more on the side of traditional pop songwriting in the past, but hopefully pushed things by informing those songs with the changes in dance and electronic music. But it started to feel like the real challenge for us would be to do something that was more "tracky" and less "songy." And to write the best songs, you have to take on those sorts of challenges. There's still some songs in here, so maybe we failed. But I think we thought they rounded everything out and kept it moving more.
The music in the mix is all unreleased, but when and where was it recorded?
Here and there, over the last two years. Our home studios in NY, a song in Paris. A lot of stuff was from a week off between festivals in Barcelona. We set up in a practice space and jammed a bunch of stuff that became songs for Shake the Shudder and other stuff we didn't really know what to do with. We kept making tracks and saying "this is great, but I don't know what the fuck we're gonna do with it," but we just kept making them because it was fun and you have to follow all creative impulses wherever they lead, even if it doesn't mean there's a song at the end of it. You’re just supposed to do stuff for the fuck of it, ya know? We felt like the Mood Hut records had a soulfulness and rawness we have in our music so we took a bunch of these and mixed them with Christopher Wang. He helped guide us in the aspects we didn't know about making more track-like music.
How did you choose the tracks to include within it?
We looked at what we had, and just kinda put together a narrative in our heads. The same way any DJ would with any of his tracks. We still had a lot of stuff we could've used, but we wanted it to hopefully feel like the songs were from different artists, and we wanted it to move along with a good pacing like any good mix.
How much more material from this “dance” realm do you have?
Honestly, we could put together another one of these this week, and quite possibly another one the week after. The week after that, then we might start to see a dip in quality. Maybe not tho, maybe that's where all the really weird stuff is.
How do the recording processes differ for this music compared to the “band” material?
Usually, we all go in the studio after playing the songs out a bunch live, but anytime this features the full band here, it's from a jam session. So these are a lot of those sessions chopped up and turned into things via the magic of Ableton. These songs have never been played live.
Why did you choose this mixtape format for sharing this music?
We had been listening to other mixes like this. The Galcher Lustwerk “Blowing up the Workshop” mix was one we listened to a bunch and we wanted to do our own.
What else does 2018 have in store for you?
Fuck. I dunno. Mostly just writing new stuff but we have a SpringUK tour and a few festivals.