On dance-punk outfit !!!'s "Californiyeah" a standout track on the band's new album "Thr!!!er" lead singer Nic Offer waxes nostalgic about the Pacific and scoffs at the Golden State's 2 a.m. last call for alcohol.
It's a song that speaks to the band's bicoastal existence. Offer left Sacramento for Brooklyn to further his artistic ambitions and feed off the borough's creative energy, but a part of him remains tied to the place he called home for 20 years.
"We still have a practice place (in Sacramento) and portions of all of our records were written there," Offer said. "So it's still a good base for us (and) it's good to get back."
That sentiment will likely come across loud and clear when !!! (spoken as "Chk Chk Chk") headlines tonight's Concerts in the Park at Cesar Chavez Plaza, a bill that includes the indie rock band Exquisite Corps, electro rock upstart Paper Pistols and DJ Sam I Jam.
Frequently mentioned alongside LCD Soundsystem as masterminds of a genre that interweaves punk and rock hooks into electronic dance music, !!! which originated in Sacramento but now counts members on both coasts felt they had "nothing to lose" in naming their new record "Thr!!!er," a nod to Michael Jackson's record, Offer said.
The title came from !!! members freestyling about different landmark albums (i.e. Soundgarden's "Superunknown" being "the grunge 'Thriller' "), and then running with the concept.
It's fitting that !!!'s fifth full-length record, which name-checks the King of Pop's magnum opus, may also prove to be some of the band's best work. It brims with melodic, funky hooks that evoke both disco nostalgia and a modern urban edge, but also a willingness to go a little nuts.
"I think we felt like the last record (2010's "Strange Weather, Isn't It?") wasn't as successful as we'd wanted it to be," Offer said. "We felt like, 'If we're here, there really needs to be a reason for us to be here, and we need to come in with all guns blazing.' "
Offer said this sense of urgent purpose served them well in the recording studio.
"I think our best records we've made thinking, 'Maybe this is the last one,' " he explained. "We definitely tried to make it like that, and put everything into it every time there was a chance to take the hard road or just chicken out, we took the hard road."
Helping !!! to navigate the "hard road" was producer and Spoon drummer Jim Eno, who worked the boards on a collection of songs that will appeal to and potentially even shake the hips of listeners who don't necessarily have an affinity for electronic music.
Offer described the recording process as a "creative conversation" and the versatile Eno as "like a coach."
Also joining the album is what Offer jokingly called a "gaggle" of backing vocalists, including Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards, Teresa Eggers and Sonia Moore, who is famous for providing the "hey heys" on MC Hammer's inescapable '90s finger workout "2 Legit 2 Quit."
(In a "six degrees of Sacramento separation" moment, Eggers, also a Brooklyn resident, was once a vocalist for defunct Sacramento act the Evening Episode, which included Ira Skinner, now the mastermind of Paper Pistols, which shares Friday's Concerts in the Park stage with !!!.)
The backing singers gave Offer a chance to experiment and stretch his vocals.
"I've always been conscious of things like, 'Here's the 17th R.E.M. record and there's Michael Stipe again,' " Offer said. "Guitar players get to use effects, why should my voice always be exactly the same?"
Offer performs a collaboration with Moore on "One Girl/One Boy," the first single from "Thr!!!er."
Since Moore does not tour with the band, !!! offers the stuff that rock 'n' roll dreams are made of: a chance for a fan from each town on the tour to take the stage with the band and sing Moore's part in the song.
According to Offer, the online contest (www.chkchkchk.net) is working pretty well so far. But before any Sacramentans get too excited about their potential big break, it's worth noting that the band has already have tapped their friend Amber Era McGarvey to sing with them tonight.
This shouldn't come as a surprise, considering how many friends !!! has in town. And many of them will be at Cesar Chavez Plaza to hear (and dance to) "Thr!!!er" songs performed live.
"Nothing gets me more excited than when my friends like the (new) record," Offer said. "That means a lot."
(with Exquisite Corps, Paper Pistols and Sam I Jam)
What: Friday Night Concerts in the Park
Where: Cesar Chavez Plaza, 910 I St., Sacramento
When: 5-9 p.m.