OK Go is Coming to Milwaukee. We Chatted with Them About What it Takes to Make Those Iconic Videos

OK Go is Coming to Milwaukee. We Chatted with Them About What it Takes to Make Those Iconic Videos

Go see them at the Pabst on April 27.

Since forming in 1998, indie pop/rock group OK Go (Damian Kulash, lead vocals, guitar; Tim Nordwind, vocals, bass; Dan Konopka, drums, percussion; and Andy Ross guitar, keyboards and vocals) has gained a stellar reputation for its innovative, low-budget videos.

OK Go’s clever and artistic videos, among them “Here It Goes Again,” and “White Knuckles,” (which features a number of adorable canines performing on cue) have received millions of YouTube views to date.

OK Go will perform their Live Video Tour, which will showcase a number of the band’s videos, Saturday, April 27, at the Pabst Theater. We recently interviewed lead singer Kulash via telephone, about the videomaking process, the tour and causes close to the band’s heart.

OK Go’s videos are so unique and fun. What are some of the band’s sources of inspiration?

Our inspiration is really external. We try to work with creative people, and our videos emerge through collaboration. Physics is a big influence. You can see it in videos like “This Too Shall Pass Rube Goldberg Machine” (in which a bunch of dominoes are knocked over, etc). Also, I love slow-motion footage. It’s always exciting to me.

What was your most technically challenging video to make?

“Upside Down and Inside Out” (released in February 2016 and filmed in a reduced gravity aircraft) was the most logistically challenging — and the most nauseating. It was difficult to keep my lunch.

When the band heard about parabolic flight (a flight in which a specially modified airplane follows the curve of a parabola, resulting in about 25 to 30 seconds of zero gravity) we thought, “wow, we could make art.” It took us ten years to pitch this video. Finally, we were approached by Russian airline S7.

What are some of your musical influences?

I am a very avid music consumer. As a kid, my biggest influences were Prince, Run DMC and Depeche Mode. I then discovered Jesus Lizard, the Pixies and Fugazi. OK Go doesn’t sound like most of our peers — our music is poppy art rock.

Could you tell us more about your Live Video Tour? How will your concert differ from other rock/pop shows?

We do lots of shows at performing arts venues, along with symphony and opera venues. Our concert will feature 20 videos with crowd Q&As. What’s exciting about this tour is that we are really kind of live scoring the videos people have seen on their computer screens — we have this giant film format. We didn’t just want (to give the audience) passive entertainment.

At the concert, we show videos in chronological order. We’ve been making videos for 15 years. To watch them change and grow is exciting. This homemade thing we created has grown into elaborate videos.

What are your audiences like?

Our concerts are family-friendly. Rock shows are great, and can be a sweaty, cathartic experience for guys 18-30. But many of our fans are kids, women and 70-year-olds. Our concerts are a great sit-down experience.

Q&As are enjoyable. Adults ask predictable questions, but kids have much more fascinating components to their questions. They ask, “how do you talk to girls?” Or, “my band is playing in a week. Do you have any advice?” This is what I want an OK Go show to be.

OK Go has been involved in a number of charitable causes, holding auctions to benefit animal shelters and so forth. What other causes are you passionate about?

The environment. Also, education. We have started Sandbox, a nonprofit, which provides a free learning lab for educators. Our videos are used in classrooms to foster learning, art and creativity, and teachers tell us how much they appreciate our work. We are humbled and inspired to help teachers facilitate learning. In classrooms, we are inspiring students to be creative, and look at math and science as basis of creativity.