Many critics don’t know what to make of
The mishmash of genres and labels surrounding the hip hop duo are endless – there’s the guys’ crunked-out beats and aggro rapping mixed with electronica, catchy dance rhythms and some emo pop. And don’t forget the frat boy, tongue-in-cheek, sometimes risqué lyrics.
Some have wondered if these funky white boys, University of Colorado at Boulder summa cum laude graduates beatmaster Nathaniel Motte and MC Sean Foreman, are for real. Or is it all just a parody?
However you want to categorize their music, manager Michael Kaminksy explains that 3OH!3 is exactly the act he was looking for.
“I was surrounded by all these bands that wanted to be rock stars but were so safe and didn’t actually have that attitude,” Kaminsky told Pollstar. “And I was looking for a band that was going to be the next Kid Rock – someone who … was a badass and kind of the bad boys of rock music.
“I was looking for that band that had some edge or some excitement to it.”
After a friend recommended he check out 3OH!3, Kaminsky looked up one of the band’s YouTube performance clips and then flew out to meet the guys.
He describes Motte and Foreman as “the nicest, most down-to-earth, most intelligent people I think I’ve ever met in music.”
They quickly decided to work together and, in 2007, 3OH!3, named after their hometown of Boulder’s 303 area code, put out an independently released, self-titled debut album.
“Boulder is kind of known as a hippie mecca, for jam bands and stuff like that,” Foreman told Pollstar. “But it also gets a lot of diversity as far as music goes. … It’s a college town so it gets a lot of music coming through it.
“For us, that helped shape our musical careers when we were young. … I got to see such a wide range of independent artists, different underground acts.”
Motte and Foreman met in physics class at the UCB in 2003. As Motte told Pollstar, “I turned around and Sean was there. … He may or may not have purposely worn a band T-shirt he knew I would like.”
The duo bonded over their love of underground hip hop – Motte was deejaying for a radio show and Foreman was MC-ing in the local hip hop scene – and started making music together.
3OH!3 began playing shows in Boulder and Denver, building a buzz locally with the help of MySpace. In April 2007 the guys hooked up with their agent, The Agency Group’s Gabriel Apodaca.
“The first time I saw them the band basically said, ‘Hey, we have a show at some high school if you want to come down.’ … It was actually a prom where they couldn’t cuss,” Apodaca told Pollstar.
“It was really funny because they asked me to help them with the contract and it was in the clause that they couldn’t cuss or they couldn’t use any drinking or any [drug/sexual] references. So they changed all their lyrics from bad words to Star Wars references.”
Once their team was in place, 3OH!3 opened for artists like The Faint, Snoop Dogg and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Last July the duo released their sophomore album, Want, on Photo Finish Records and headed out on their first major trek, 2008’s Warped Tour.
“The first day they played, they had 300 people on their stage. By the end of Warped Tour, on the last date in L.A., there were probably 6,000 to 7,000 people by their stage,” Kaminsky said. “We worked the summer really, really hard to make sure that it was built on a show and on a presence, with music fans who all went back and told their friends, ‘Listen, if there’s a band to check out on Warped tour, it’s 3OH!3.’”
Although 3OH!3’s shows began with Motte and Foreman playing to backing tracks, during Warped tour members of other bands jumped in on bass or drums with them and some days Katy Perry and her band joined the guys on stage.
Current 3OH!3 tours now include a bassist and drummer along with a rotating guitar spot.
After wrapping up this year’s Warped Tour in late August, 3OH!3 is set to play the U.K.’s Reading and Leeds fests followed by shows in Australia and New Zealand. A European tour is in the works, as well as headlining dates in early 2010.
Oh, and for the record, Motte says 3OH!3 is definitely not a parody. Not that many have the guts to actually ask the guys.
“The vast majority of those questions that we get are from journalists who are asking if we get those questions,” Motte said. “No one really asks us if our music is a parody. It’s always like, ‘Do you guys get asked that?’ I mean, I think that most people are hip to it, they understand it. We are dead serious about our music.”