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April 2-8, 2009Shut your lips
Everyone has an opinion about 3OH!3
but the popular duo isn’t listening
by Christian Arcand
Come outside! Sean from 3OH!3 just walked by,” announces an excited Boulder Café patron to her group of friends during a chilly happy hour.
“No way,” one of her friends retorts. “They are on tour in Africa right now or something.”
“I swear, he just walked by,” the girl insists.
Her friends, swayed by the opportunity, put their drinks down and make their way towards the door. In their wake, a conversation starts up at the bar about 3OH!3. What begins as a modest dialogue about “I like that ‘Don’t Trust Me’ song they always play on 93.3” “What? That songs sucks” becomes a heated bar-wide contention, with strangers blindly telling each other that their taste in music is bullshit, or that they’re too old and lame to “get” 3OH!3.
The girls return, and the arguments die down as now everyone wants to know what happened. It was, in fact, Sean Foreman, the Pharrell to Nat Motte’s Chad Hugo. But just as they caught up to him, he disappeared into a waiting car, and they were not able to chat.
This is 3OH!3 in a nutshell, really. By now everyone has heard of them, and what’s more, everyone has an opinion. Not just an opinion, but a strong opinion, an opinion that may or may not completely define their entire musical identity. An opinion that reaches beyond teenage gripes, such as: “I liked them when they were underground,” or “They were better when they were just about the music and not about being famous.” The funny thing about it is that the two gentlemen comprising 3OH!3 have cultivated a very real “I don’t give a shit” attitude towards such critiques, and with the daring chances they have taken since they started making music together three years ago, the thick skin has turned into almost a force field. By selling out venues and spreading the buzz more and more with each tour date, 3OH!3 have already “made it” and are now on the verge of being full-fledged superstars.
The most interesting aspect of 3OH!3 is the almost complete inability to define their music. Many well-read Colorado publications would have you believing that they are a hip-hop act. I am here today to tell you that they are not. Calling them a hip-hop act is a gross miscarriage of both logic and reality. Don’t get me wrong, there is no denying that there is a hip-hop influence in their music, but it is merely one of several. There is some country in there, some punk, some techno, some jazz, even some (gasp) adult contemporary. There are really only two genres that come close to encompassing exactly what it is these guys are doing.
The first would be “electronica,” although that is a limiting term which conjures up early ’90s images of Orbital, Moby and The Prodigy. However, 3OH!3 could most certainly be considered a new wave of electronica, in much the same way that the Beastie Boys were considered the reluctant new wave of hip hop, while the purists still clung to Run-DMC and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. Despite a lot of similarities, the more appropriate genre to put 3OH!3 in is, wait for it… “pop music.”
These two Boulderites may very well represent the future of pop music as we know it. In an age where music is so readily accessible, it is becoming more and more impossible to surprise audiences. But it seems 3OH!3 have already figured it out. They are not simply a craze geared towards kids like the Disney sensations Hannah Montana or the Jonas Brothers. And they are not appealing just to teenage ravers, hoody-sporting hip-hop onlookers or tattooed “Misfits” T-shirt-wearing rebels either. They are appealing to everybody. From elementary school kids happily singing along to their catchy hooks (and then no doubt having an awkward conversation with their parents about Helen Keller) to high school and college kids enjoying Foreman’s lyrics, which despite his range and vastly underrated singing ability are so accessible and well-delivered that everyone thinks they can sing them even though nobody can.
Foreman’s everyman observations and smartest-goofball-in-the-room style make for a blend of lyrics that grab your attention and keep it, and when he pauses to catch his breath or defer to the chorus, Motte’s beats take over like a WWF tag team jumping in over the top rope. Motte’s beats run from hilarious to confusing to intense to even plain old beautiful. It is always a surprise, and as the world turns and the music industry continues its long, bizarre transformation, it is going to be the ones who keep surprising us that stick around.
So if you haven’t heard much from 3OH!3 yet, there is no need to rush, really — they’re not going anywhere. Their latest single “Starstrukk” can be heard on advertisements for the E! program Candy Girls; they just recently finished recording an MTV Spring Break 2009 performance in Panama City that will air shortly; they taped a performance for next season’s Real World in Cancun (for which they will also be penning the show’s new theme song); they are headlining the Alternative Press Tour, which will hit the Fox Theatre on April 8 (good luck finding a ticket); and they are already signed on for this summer’s Warped Tour.
Fans will recall their last-minute addition to the 2008 Warped Tour, of which they were initially only supposed to play the early Mile High date, but whipped the crowd into such a frenzy that they were signed on for the tour’s remaining 39 stops. That’s a hell of a grind right there, and the aloof public persona of the duo may lead one to believe that all the success and praise that has been showered upon them may have just happened by accident. Some might say they are a fluke, or a one-in-a-million power ball jackpot-style aligning of the planets and stars.
And the carefree music and image don’t do much to dispute such accusations. However, despite the image, these guys did not just come down with yesterday’s rain.
Both Motte and Foreman graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Colorado, and likely never would have even met if not for a chance lab partnership in an advanced physics class. Motte also spent some time at the CU campus station Radio 1190 volunteering with the hip-hop program Basementalism — a show that, coincidentally, once regularly featured the lyrical stylings of Foreman’s older brother, Spencer (aka Hannibal Hef, which is what most sucka MCs knew him by after he left them crumpled in a heap on stage). Finding the local underground hip-hop scene to be too limiting for what they had in mind, Motte and Foreman kicked off their careers the old fashioned way: by blazing their own trail into the murky rainforest that has become popular music.
And with all the demand they have created for themselves, 3OH!3 seem poised to conquer the jungle with one hit album in the bag, multiple singles spanning the globe and tour dates lined up until nearly 2010.
No one can say for certain what the future holds for 3OH!3, but the forecast is most certainly bright. So be ready, folks, because when people hear you are from Boulder and ask if you are down with 3OH!3, you had better have your story straight. Also, to the group of girls who attempted to run down Brian as he left Pearl Street that afternoon might I add: “better luck next time.”
On the Bill
3OH!3 performs with Family Force 5, The Main, Hit the Lights and A Rocket to the Moon at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8, at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.