It's official: Nathaniel Motte and Sean Foreman, the pair of hooligans known collectively as 3OH!3, are no longer free agents. "We sent the contract in the other day," Motte confirms. "It's all said and done. We're excited." The act has been snapped up by Photo Finish Records, an offshoot of Atlantic Records — the imprint's setup sounds similar to Rob Stevenson's Stolen Transmission joint-venture deal with Island Def Jam — founded by famed Ellis Industries booking agent Matt Galle, who's handled tours for groups like My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday, among others.
I've gotta hand it to Motte and Foreman, his partner-in-rhyme who now lives in Brooklyn. The two have managed to parlay something that — on paper, at least — sounds like no more than a local phenomenon into a burgeoning national success. It's easy to see why these two wiseacres appeal to folks here at home: Representing our area code while spitting rudimentary rhymes over wheezy synth lines and homemade crunktastic beats, 3OH!3 is the guiltiest of pleasures for us. All the same, why the hell would that sort of thing appeal to kids in other states? Why would they give a rip about the C-O-3OH!3, my people?
Hard to say, exactly, but they do. In fact, on Sunday 3OH!3 performed at Bamboozle Left in Irvine, California, and according to Motte, the sound translated very well outside of Colorado. "Supposedly they say we had the biggest crowd of any of the side stages," he says of the Bamboozle gig. "It's cool. Everyone out here is super-excited about our stuff."
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And the push hasn't really even begun yet. That won't happen until the Warped Tour kicks off in a couple of months. Until then, aside from a show later this week at the Key Club in Los Angeles and a date at Bamboozle East in May, Motte and Foreman will be holed up in Washington, D.C., recording the new record with Matt Squire, who, prior to working with the guys in 3OH!3, produced records for Panic at the Disco and Boys Like Girls. With the exception of "Choke Chain" and "Holler Til You Pass Out," which may be re-recorded, the as-yet-untitled album will feature all new material and is tentatively slated for release in mid-June, which is around the time the duo will hit the road on Warped.
"It's incredible," says Motte, reflecting on 3OH!3's progression thus far. "It's like, when it just goes from you making your music, or even when I was just making music for friends, and then growing that into a performance at the Fox or the Gothic — that's amazing that people will come out and see you play. But then when it starts to happen on this scale and there are people who are actively involved in helping you reach different levels, it's really cool, man. It's awesome."
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The same can be said for the recent flurry of label activity in Denver. Word of 3OH!3's signing comes hard on the heels of the Flobots inking a multi-album deal with Universal Records a few weeks ago; in the six months before that, at least three other acts — Meese (Atlantic), Tickle Me Pink (Wind-Up) and DeVotchKa (Anti) — were picked up by either majors or sizable indies. And things don't look to be slowing. As I write this, Breathe Carolina is rumored to be working out an agreement with a well-known indie.
While it's heartening to see so much interest in the scene, the big news will be if one of these acts actually breaks through. Even though the business is changing, it's still a numbers game.