When Tim Nordwind and Damian Kulash of the pop rock band OK Go walk into a room, one wouldn't expect they have performed perfect choreography on exercise equipment as they did in the 2006 career launching video "Here It Goes Again"; have executed scrupulous stunts while floating in zero gravity as documented in this year's video for "Upside Down & Inside Out"; or have triggered 325 events to occur in a matter of 4.2 seconds as they have now done on the newly unveiled video "The One Moment," which the band has shared on Facebook today (Nov. 23). Though, the plain-clothed and unassuming band members have dared to accomplish all these feats, and more.
"Since the videos started getting popular 10 years ago, it's become more and more of a Trojan horse for us to chase whatever we think is fun," Kulash tells Billboard. He compares the fusion of sonic and visual elements to wine pairings -- "the food and the wine are both distinct ideas..." he begins. Nordwind then finishes the thought, "You don't make the wine thinking what food will this go well with," alluding to the fact that an OK Go song has never been written around a concept for a video. Rather, Kulash says the songs themselves require much attention and that the writing process "takes everything."
"The One Moment" is a particularly emotional and earnest song, Kulash adds. "It was important that we make something where the sense of wonder and joy don't paint that in too pastel or bright a brush. Our videos can be very joyful, but in a buoyant kind of way, and this song needed something with a little more heart to it."
While he originally wrote the song's chorus as an uplifting declaration, it has since shifted by way of the current cultural and political landscape. Kulash glances to his left, addressing Nordwind: "You said the other day, 'It's crazy that we wrote this whole album (2014's Hungry Ghosts) about this moment and we didn't even know it.'" Kulash adds that the record underlines the sentiment of, "Oh my god, what just happened," and that considering recent events "it [now] feels strangely like a premonition." While the lyrical intention of "The One Moment" may have slightly shifted over the past couple years, one thing that always remains ever present and positive is the impact of the band's videos on themselves, the crew, and their fans.
"I've noticed, just because of the untraditional nature of our process and our sets and the way that the videos usually go down, we tend to attract the craziest of the industries," Nordwind says of the crews they work with to help bring their visions to life. "They're looking for adventure... We're always asking people to look at what they're doing in a slightly skewed or different way. I think people enjoy that challenge."
Since first forming in the late 90s in Chicago, OK Go has clearly continuously evolved; from sharing their homemade breakthrough video "Here It Goes Again," which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year -- "it feels like that was yesterday, and also it feels like that was 100 years ago," Kulash says -- to delivering stunning visual elements that continue to push boundaries.
Thinking back to 2006 when the groundbreaking treadmill video first went viral (before going viral was even commonplace) Kulash recalls "an immediate explosion of interest" where "suddenly the traditional part of the music industry really cared about us." He also vividly remembers how after riding the wave fo success for a couple of months, they all realized, "'Oh s--t, this is what bands worry about when they have a big success,' in that it's going to be a one-hit wonder and they're going to disappear now." He says not only did the band then have to consider how to follow up a hit single, but they also had to ask themselves, "What happens when your hit is a stunt on a homemade video?"
Fortunately, not only has OK Go continued to find success but the band has also discovered the key to longevity: following intuition and forging your own path. After publicly going independent in 2010, Kulash acknowledges the group is "a weird satellite from the music industry right now," and admits it's "weird to be off on this limb that no one else is on." Though he quickly adds, "it's working for us." It has proven to work so well, in fact, that OK Go has won a 2016 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in the visual arts. "It's not something we thought 20 years ago we were on a trajectory for," Nordwind says.
Considering the OK Go enterprise is so largely linked with the inventive videos they continue to craft ("I don't think any other musician's career is as much about videos as ours," Kulash suggests), the band is well aware of their music's breadth. "These songs have a much fuller life to us than to other people before the video," Kulash says. "They change so much that when we put them into a visual world it's the final layer, not the core."