By Stephan Boissonneault
VANCOUVER — When the members of OK Go first started off the band 16 years ago, they had no idea their creativity would have taken them this far. OK Go has certainly evolved greatly since their treadmill music video days. When we spoke to bassist/vocalist Tim Nordwind, he was just recovering from OK Go’s tour to Japan.
Japan is certainly held dear in the hearts of OK Go, having filmed their most recent disco-oriented music video “I Won’t Let You Down,” just outside of Tokyo. The video features the members of OK Go riding HONDA UNI-CUBS (personal mobility vehicles controlled by shifting the user’s weight) to choreographed music surrounded by dancers in traditional Japanese school uniforms, equipped with multi-coloured umbrellas.
“We have always loved Japan, but now having made something made there is an even deeper connection,” says Nordwind.
Having all come from artistic backgrounds of some kind, OK Go’s very experimental and elaborate music videos, definitely echo the band’s sound and have become a creative staple for the band.
“The fact that we fell into video making is not that surprising,” laughs Nordwind. “We have always had an insatiable desire to learn to create not matter what the medium.”
OK Go’s appetite for creation began with a choreographed dance routine that turned into the “accidental” music video for “A Million Ways.” The video went viral on an American website called iFilm (basically a pre-YouTube).
“When we saw how well that did, we thought ‘wow maybe we should try to do one on purpose and ratchet up the level of absurdity and see what happens,’” says Nordwind.
With that thought, OK Go forged its homemade treadmill-dancing Grammy award-winning music video “Here It Goes Again.”
Since then, they have been elevating the extravagant music video creation bar higher and higher. They have filmed videos like “White Knuckles,” which comprises of a choreographed dance with dogs, IKEA furniture, and a goat. As well as “This Too Shall Pass,” having a giant Rube Goldberg Machine that was built in a two-storey warehouse and follows along the accompanying music.
Most of OK Go’s videos are famously filmed with one take.
“I would compare our process to what it’s like to rehearse and produce a large-scale Broadway production,” says Nordwind. “It’s a highly collaborative process.”
All of these music videos take time and imagination to actually generate, and can be quite challenging to actually shape. Nordwind recalls that “Needing/Getting,” (a video that has OK Go driving in a Chevrolet Sonic with attached robotic arms across an outdoor, desert-made, musical obstacle course while striking over 2000 musical instruments that actually make up the music of the video,) was the most difficult to make. OK Go had to decide what instruments could withstand the outdoor desert climate and tune them appropriately.
“I think we had like 55 pianos and just finding 55 pianos is difficult already,” laughs Nordwind.
Another aspect that separates OK Go from other bands is its member’s fascination with colour. OK Go’s music videos are bursting with colour and the band members usually wear primary colour get ups when they perform live.
“In a world that is so black and white, we’ve not been afraid to work in colour,” says Nordwind. “Colour seems cool to us,” he laughs.
The band was featured in a Sesame Street educational music video and a game about colours as well. Nordwind remembers becoming “infinitely cooler in the eyes of his friends and their children,” after working with Sesame Street.
OK Go went a completely opposite route from their kiddish Sesame Street video with their song “You’re a Fucking Nerd and No One Likes You,” that they wrote for Hot Tub Machine 2.
“It’s written from the words of one of the characters who is a ridiculous over the top douche bag,” laughs Nordwind.
The live OK Go experience is a different colourful beast than the band’s videos and recordings. OK Go produces most of the effects and live tricks themselves. Nordwind calls the live experience “highly interactive.”
“For us, [playing live] is the pinnacle of what we do,” says Nordwind. “It’s all about throwing a party and there are a million things you can do and we try to do all a million of them.”
OK Go perform at the Commodore Ballroom on March 25.BC, British Columbia, Commodore Ballroom, OK Go