Earlier this summer, music video masterminds OK Go returned with a new creation: a series of optical illusions set to a new song, “The Writing’s on the Wall.” The song, part of a new EP called “Upside Out,” is the first new music from the band since their 2008 album, “Of the Blue Color of the Sky.” A full-length album, “Hungry Ghosts,” is due out Oct. 14.
Lead singer Damian Kulash says that’s pretty normal for the band, which generally takes about four years to make a new album. “We take so long making records in part because we’re not the fastest songwriters on the planet, but in part because we spend so much time touring and making videos.” It’s apparently pretty complicated to build and operate a massive Rube Goldberg device, as they did for “This Too Shall Pass.”
A few things have changed about the writing process over the years, though. Kulash pointed to the band’s desire to write more “undirectedly,” by which he means letting the music dictate what a song will be about, rather than starting with an idea and working backwards to it. The result is what Kulash calls a more “focused” album, despite the more relaxed songwriting method, which he thinks allows for music that’s more varied in scope.
Kulash admits, “I kind of hate writing lyrics,” saying, “I have so much fun playing with the sounds, and then you wind up with this music, where if things have gone right, it goes in five directions at once. It’s something that you can’t communicate, or at least I can’t communicate verbally.”
He points to the way writing the music itself can create a sound with “lust and fury and joy and melancholy all at once.” Setting all of that to actual words can mean letting go of some of that feeling.
“When something is both joyful and melancholic at the same time, do you write melancholic lyrics or do you write joyful lyrics?… Words are so specific. They always have to mean something so literal.”
Despite the songwriting challenges, he seems pretty happy with the result. For those who were big fans of “Of the Blue Color of the Sky,” Kulash says the new album “feels like it has a lot of the same sonic textures, but is a much more concise and to the point record.”
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