Long-lauded for irresistibly crunchy hooks and tightly constructed music videos, OK Go has been known for smart, incisive pop backed by visual showmanship since their 2005 single “A Million Ways” from sophomore album Oh No. They are even more widely renowned for their Internet presence; Oh No single “Here It Goes Again” has racked up over 50 million views on YouTube and earned a Grammy for Best Short-Form Music Video. At this stage in their career, OK Go has found a refreshing way to market themselves as something more than a rock band. They are more like an audio-visual art collective, a label so esoteric as to be unimaginable in a commercially successful rock band even 10 years ago. They appear at Tipitina’s Uptown tonight in support of their new EP Of the Blue Color of the Sky.
The Internet has played a front-and-center role in OK Go’s rise to fame and subsequent marketing of their product. Their videos have unmistakable stylistic similarities– intricate choreography of dance or props, a continuous shot from start to finish, the tendency for bassist Tim Nordwind to lip-sync in place of actual singer Damian Kulash. (Dan Konopka on drums and Andy Ross on guitar and keyboards round out the group.) The long-shot technique is both unobtrusive and stunningly out of place in contemporary music videography. Nordwind takes the band’s videos as part of the whole of their project. “Major labels these days and for decades now have looked at one major thing of value, the single recording of the song. Everything around that is considered promotional or marketing or advertising,” Nordwind says. “Things like the video or the live show all point back to the sale of the recorded track. For us, all of that points at the other thing. We don’t look at music videos as marketing for our records; we look at it as their own separate creative project.”
Nordwind, speaking from upstate New York, says that the videos themselves could take anywhere from four days to a whopping six months for the intricate Rube Goldberg machine accompanying single “This Too Shall Pass.” “This stuff is just fun for us– we like to make things,” he says. “At the end of the day, the thing that propels us out of bed is our love for making things, period. Certainly this band started and is rooted very much in musical endeavors, but we all grew up doing a lot of different things, including music, but also film and art and theater and writing– and all these things find their way into what we do as a band.”
In 2007 the band recorded an EP with local brass-rock outfit Bonerama titled You’re Not Alone. “We wanted to help out some way,” says Nordwind. “We wanted to do something where we could see the product of our work, and got together with Bonerama with the intention of bringing back one of the culture bearers of New Orleans.” They succeeded in their mission. Proceeds from iTunes downloads and subsequent concerts went to the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home for Al “Carnival Time” Johnson. Continuous sales of the EP go to a variety of different charities for New Orleans musicians.
The band has a long history of political and social activism.The members appeared in a video supporting the Clean Air Act, and more recently singer Damian Kulash published a passionate editorial in defense of Net neutrality in The Washington Post. “I think it relates to us as human beings. We’re concerned in politics the way we feel any citizen should be,” says Nordwind. “I don’t think we’re in an overtly political band per se, but we’re human beings and we’re citizens and we care about certain things, and we’re not afraid to talk about the things we care about.”
OK Go will appear along with Those Darlins and Samuel at 9 p.m. Saturday, November 6 at Tipitina’s. Tickets are $15 and doors open at 8 p.m.