Video didn’t really kill the radio star. Really, it just marketed the radio star. But OK Go doesn’t really dig that idea.
“I think, especially with the kind of demise of the traditional record industry, the rules for what a video has to be have changed,” said Tim Nordwind, bassist of OK Go, a band known for its videos. “They no longer have to be marketing tools, they no longer have to be promotional items or advertisements for the record. They can kind of be their own separate art project that have their own value and stand alone.”
And that’s exactly what OK Go’s videos do. If you’re not one of the 50 million people who has seen the band’s infamous treadmill dance video on Youtube (which won the band a Grammy), you might be confused.
All of the videos produced by OK Go are dramatically original, intriguing and fun, from mind-blowingly complex Rube Goldberg machines to trained dogs. In no way are they the traditional big-name-director-tells-band-to-stand-on-beach-and-look-beautiful, and the mission behind them is far beyond just selling records.
“With record labels, the reason they wanna make a video is they want their bands to show up in the video looking like a shiny new car in a car commercial,” Nordwind said. “We’re mostly concerned with just good ideas and executing them well.”
But what is all this mess about videos — this is a band, right? What about the music?
To Nordwind, this is not a band that makes just videos or music or T-shirts. They make all of it. And they do it all really well. Well, their T-shirts kind of suck (just kidding).
“We’re sort of the mind — and this is a super-naïve business model — that if we make good things then more good opportunities will come to us,” Nordwind said.
The good things they have made, on top of Internet sweeping videos, include three dynamic rock albums. The sound they create, if all you’ve heard is 2005’s “Here It Goes Again,” is infectious and driving, almost obnoxiously catchy melodically but still somehow dangerously original.
Their newest record, “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky,” reaches into new depths, with a focus Nordwind describes as driven more by personal emotions and less by thematic goals.
“I think thematically it’s a record about trying to find hope in what felt like hopeless times,” Nordwind said. “A lot of the record was written at the end of the Bush administration and the downturn of the economy — it was really a sort of scary place to be and personally the band was going through a lot of turmoil.”
From that emerged a groove-based record that maintains its pop catchiness while pushing into more dissonant and melancholy realms. Funky dance beats and falsetto vocals are matched with lyrics about loss and pain.
“This time around we were definitely hunting much more in the dark for feeling, and we were trying to feel our way through it rather than think our way through it,” Nordwind said.
The idea that some people might be familiar with OK Go’s videos and not their music doesn’t bother Nordwind in the least. Everything that the band has created together is just another part of their creative expression.
“Some people are gonna like the videos, some people are gonna like the music, some people are gonna like the music and the videos, some people are only gonna like us live but don’t like our t-shirts,” Nordwind said. “But what’s nice is that there is a good percentage of people I think who see one thing and end up liking another thing that we make, and I’m proud of that.”