Interview: OFF!


Speaking to the men of OFF! is much like listening to their music. They’re loud, entertaining, rambling, and just plain fun to listen to. Collectively the band has more experience in the music business than any band out there. Only true veterans could pull off an 18-song, 16-minute EP like First Four and make it one of the most well put together albums of 2010. We spoke to Keith Morris, Dimitri Coats, and Mario Rubalcaba about OFF! and how to properly listen to First Four.

Heave: You guys debuted OFF! at SXSW and since then have really taken off.

Keith Morris: We played right up the street at Beerland. Their legal capacity is like, 75 people.

Heave: And of course there was more right?

KM: Um, actually it wasn’t that well-attended because we had another show immediately afterwards at Emo’s in the small indoor room. For us that was probably the turning point. That was when all the really important people saw us rather than just the beer drinkers and the Hell-raisers and the partiers and the Klingons and the wanna-be getting in for frees.

Heave: How has it felt skyrocketing to this point in a little more than a year? I mean obviously this isn’t all your first time in a band.

Mario Rubalcaba: Well we’re all use to it, you know. We’ve all been in all kinds of different bands. Keith is three for three, he’s been in three awesome bands.

KM: I was in another band that was offered millions of dollars by Warner Brothers and Geffen. So I’m like eight for forty two or whatever.

Heave: (laughs) That’s some nice numbers.

KM: The thing that happened at Emo’s was like all the right people saw us and every thing was just falling into place. There was a flow to our universe, getting all hippy-dippy.

MR: When your lead singer has a bobble-head doll you’re not just coming out of nowhere, you know what I mean? (laughs)

Heave: Good point.

KM: No, you’re coming out of the mens’ room or the snack bar, coming out of the closet. All the guys in this band, they’re all married, they’ve got kids, they’ve got girlfriends but they’re all coming out of the closet.

Heave: Collectively you’ve guys have been in a lot of different bands that performed in a lot of different genres. How did you solidify a style for OFF!?

Dimitri Coats: We drank so much coffee that the songs just wrote themselves, pretty much. We’d throw things at each other…it’s love and anger all wrapped up in one.

KM: That sounds like an Elvis Costello song, love and anger.

Heave: If you had the opportunity to tell a person how to experience your band, would you tell them to watch your live show or listen to your album?

KM: I’d say skip it all and watch old episodes of Beverly Hills 90210. Or the OC, that could be pretty good. Or Law & Order, I like the old Law & Orders. It’s a toss-up., you know. You might be at the party, and we obviously can’t go to play at everybody’s party. So they’d play the pre-recorded music and people would be like, ripping of their clothes and jumping into the swimming pool and toilet papering all of the trees and rolling into the keg and hanging out with all of their friends. But you get your party going. You get a metal tub. You fill the metal tub with ice. You put the keg in the metal tub. All the people line up that haven’t brought drinks with them because sometimes the party is BYOB, bring your own booze. You’ve got to have like a four level birthday cake with a Barbie and Ken on top or some dinosaurs or some racing cars. And you’ve got to have a big bowl of guacamole. And then you throw our music onto the stereo. Now when I say stereo I mean a turntable. You can’t have a real party unless you’ve got a stereo system with a turntable. So you go directly to the vinyl and once everybody’s at the party turn the volume up, drop the needle, and everybody starts twisting and they’re doing the pony…

DC: Morricone?

Heave: He said doing the pony.

KM: Doing the Batman….did you hear Orchestra Maneuvers in the Dark?

Heave: No I didn’t, I missed them.

KM: They played at Stubb’s, they were really cool.

Heave: Hearing your EP is such a refreshing experience because a lot of hardcore or punk bands have gotten too poppy or aren’t very good to begin with. What about playing in OFF! is the most satisfying experience for you, after playing in all your respective bands?

KM: Letting my head explode. Being a part of this situation is very frustrating so in the depression and the frustration and the anger we get to have our joyous, happy, festive half hour on stage and just let it go. Just like, boom! It’s like, going back to the party, with the little poppers when you pull it and all the confetti shoots up? That’s kind of what our experience is like. Welcome to the party.

DC: Is your recorder digital?

Heave: Yeah it’s all mp3.

DC: I have weird feelings about digital and analog, you know. Who knows if you captured the essence of the interview right now?

Heave: I know, I use to have a tape recorder but playing it backwards and forwards got on my nerves.

(Mario imitates the sound of a whirring tape)

Heave: (laughs) Yeah exactly, it just ends up ruining the tape and by the time I do it 5 or 10 times I can’t even hear what I was trying to hear. It has it’s up and it has it’s down.

KM: And it’s in betweens.

OFF! is playing at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge Saturday, April 2 with Trash Talk. Get more details on the show and purchase tickets on Do312.