OK Go Prove That They Are More Than Just Clever Music Videos

OK Go | First Avenue | Thursday, April 2
It seems as if indie-rock quartet OK Go try to top themselves with every new form of media they come out with -- from doing a full instrumental video with sounds made from over a thousand instruments (and a Chevy), to the ambitious clip for "I Won't Let You Down" that involves numerous umbrellas and precise timing. Is there any concern that the visuals sometimes overshadow the music? Perhaps, but that thought doesn't concern the group too much.

Before their sold out show at First Ave on Thursday night, Gimme Noise caught up with bassist Tim Nordwind to chat about creating art in an independent world and where their next music video could possibly take place.

Gimme Noise: Let's start this off with something that's a little off-subject. The ruling for Net Neutrality came through this afternoon, and I saw you guys tweet about it. Why is it important for you to speak on a subject like this?

Tim Nordwind: We've had some very good luck artistically and in artistic spaces. We feel it's not fair to allow people with more money to have a faster track than others who can't afford access to those spaces. If that was the case, there would be a lot less innovation that we would know about in the world.

The internet has been a really successful place for people who create. As soon as you start making people pay for speed and access, you start to cut out a great deal of the population who shouldn't be cut out. So we've definitely been in favor of keeping the internet a free and equal place.

I guess it's safe to say that the band has benefited from the internet via your videos. Do you ever get tired of talking about them?

No, I don't get tired about talking about them. The videos, like the music, they're all a part of a grand project. I think it'd be different if we were only asked about our videos that other people made for us. We make the videos and we make the music and we do all of these projects. To us, it all feels like a part of the same project.

When you come up with the concepts, do they ever deviate far from what you imagined? Do you have to give up some creativity somewhere?

With us, it's generally a simple process. We ask, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could build a machine that would synchronize the music for us? Wouldn't it be cool if we made a music video that was all optical illusions?" That's usually where things start. How the final product comes out is never what it was expected to be.

Once we have our concept, we think about who we should collaborate with. We want to find people who know more about these subjects than we do, but then we also want to try to get them to look at it sideways -- look at them differently than we normally would. Then we schedule play time and go into a room with materials that we need and our collaborator for a week or two and just play.

That's usually where we decide whether or not these things and ideas will work. Almost always we figure out a way to make them work. We never really start with an idea of what it's going to look like, because we want to wait until we get to it and work out the real thing.

Things always change. We make happy mistakes all of the time and most often are better fitting for the song than we thought. Things are always changing at the last minute. We like to allow the flexibility to have good ideas at any given time in the process. We try not to get ourselves too locked in.

Were you all like this as kids? Always pushing limits?

I think the four of us have been fairly imaginative as kids. We have our own unique take on art, music, technology, life, and love. I would say everyone in the band does. As a group of four guys, we do a good job of pulling those things out of each other and inspiring each other.

We started this band 15 years ago, because as a group of friends we enjoy making things together, making each other laugh, or getting each other to say, "Oh, wow, that's so cool." Whatever it is. I am of the thought that most people are imaginative. I feel lucky that the four of us have found each other and keep fueling each other as the years go on.

15 years in band years is like dog years.

Yeah. We were talking about that. Most bands I know don't make it past five years -- some even less than that. In some cases it will be a very successful five years, but for one reason or another, it collapses. I think the fact that we're friends first helps the longevity of our band, but at the same time, you can't look too far into the future.

The important thing is to find ideas that get us excited. Do these ideas challenge us, and does it feel like we're not repeating ourselves? As long as those boxes are checked, then I think we're good to go.

So I shouldn't be surprised if your next music video takes place on Mars via Mars One?

No, I don't think you should be surprised.

I was reading Damien's AMA on Reddit, and am curious as to why you guys make yourself so accessible to fans?

If we're going to have relations with our fans, I think we want to have a creative one. I think we've done a fairly good job of building an intellectual jungle gym with a playground. To me, that's a fulfilling and satisfying relationship to have with our fans. We want questions to be more than "What's your favorite color?" Then you merely answer "Blue." I think what's cool is that we'll make a video and then we get back a video response from a fan who has either tried to do their version of it or they tried to do it exactly -- whatever it is. They bring their own unique flair to it.

That's been a really fun mode of communication. It goes both ways, and I think we have a creative relationship with our fans. Without Net Neutrality, we wouldn't have that. In our case, we wouldn't have that at all. I feel like we've got kids in Russia who are making awesome art who would not be able to get that to us.

The last time I saw you guys was with Snow Patrol in 2007. How do you think your live show has evolved since then? Are you integrating elements from your music videos, and how does it translate?

The show now is a lot more interactive than it was five or six years ago. It involves a lot more multimedia than when you last saw us. We feel so lucky that on a daily basis we get to go into a room of a thousand or two thousand people and get to share our music with them. 

In some cases, we try and play music with them. There's a stage to play on. You can play it in the audience, you can do it on film, you can add theatrical elements and lighting moments. There's so many things you can do. We've tried to explore those avenues in weird corners of live performance. That's the pinnacle for us.

Videos are fun, making records is fun, but the live show is what we live for. It's great when you figure out that people like it, but what's even more inspiring is being in a room with living, breathing human beings and having that kind of back and forth is the most exciting thing to me.

OK Go will perform at First Avenue on Thursday, April 2, 2015.
18+, $22 adv, $25 door, 7 p.m.
This show is sold out.