When OK GO uploaded a now wildly popular video (49 million and counting) for Here It Goes Again three-and-a-half years ago, they had no idea how popular it would become.
“It’s weird,” says frontman Damian Kulash, still sounding a bit surprised by the popularity of his treadmill-dancing clip.
The Los Angeles-based foursome didn’t set out to create one of the most talked about videos of the last decade, in fact, they don’t consider their music video a video at all.
“Music videos used to be commercials for rock bands and labels who were trying to sell stuff,” says Kulash. “Now that MTV is largely not playing videos, there’s no reason to think of the music video as we used to.”
For OK GO, making videos is “an opportunity to create the craziest ideas” says Kulash, something they can’t do in a more ridged recording environment. It also gives them the chance to play with the tunes. Unlike most videos, the band doesn’t necessarily perform to its original track. In the YouTube clip for This Too Shall Pass, a tune off the group’s new album Of the Blue Colour Of The Sky, the band incorporates an entire marching band and singing children — that’s not on the CD version of the song.
“Why does a music video have to look like a car commercial,” asks Kulash. “Why should it even be the same length as the song?”
Kulash says making his videos — most of which are even more creative and entertaining than Here It Goes Again — is when he can be at his most creatively ambitious. And while they do have to get financing for some of the videos (“not all can be for $5,” he says) for the most part the band is able to do what they want.
But, judging from the recent disc, there aren’t many restrictions on what they can record either. The group’s third record is an ambitious combination of soul, R&B, rock and pop — on opener WTF Kulash does a pretty good Prince impression. It’s a departure for the usually rock heavy group, but after years of touring with their amps turned up, it’s hard to blame them for wanting a change.
“Whatever engines we had in that direction burned out a bit,” Kulash explains. “I tried going into the garage and turning up my amps and impressing myself with a catharsis of volume, but it just wasn’t there.”
Kulash grew up listening to a lot of R&B and Prince, so when the rock ’n’ roll dried up, he turned to his other favourite genres for inspiration. “I got back to my influences that were older and deeper,” he says.
And that’s reinvigorated the band, says the singer. “It’s more alive for us because it doesn’t feel like we’re beating out songs again.”