Wednesday, September 22, 2010

OK Go bringing its music back to Chicago




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Ever since the members of former Chicago band OK Go demonstrated their agility
on treadmills in the 2006 video for "Here It Goes Again," the band has become
more known for its inventive videos than its music.

OK Go frontman Damian Kulash doesn't mind. He believes that the band's videos are
as important as their music.

The band is touring in support of its latest album, "Of the Blue Colour of the
Sky," and returns to Chicago when it performs Oct. 10 at the House of Blues, 329
N. Dearborn Ave., Chicago.

Company of Thieves and Summer Darling also are on the bill. The show starts at
6:30 p.m., and advance tickets are $18, $20.50 the day of the show, available at www.livenation.com.

I talked to Kulash about OK Go's do-it-yourself approach to making
music.

Q - The video for "White Knuckles" premiered this week on The Ellen Degeneres
Show. What was the concept behind the video?

When we started working on videos for this record, we were thinking about what
it was we liked so much about the videos for our last record, the dance videos.
We looked at how we could continue that without it seeming like four
guys dancing.

In the case of music, you take sounds and turn them into emotions. We're trying
to make videos that do a similar thing.

Q - Are you ever afraid that someday the band will be known more for its videos
than its music? Is that a worry?

It's not a worry. It's definitely the case. I guess it doesn't particularly
bother me. The notion that our videos is somehow undoing the success of our
music is really weird.

Let me put it this way. Ten years ago, videos could only exist as commercials,
essentially. A video was an advertisement for CDs that generally were put out by
a major label.

Our videos aren't that. Our videos are projects that we make ourselves. I
recognize that people want to have solid ways about thinking about things, sort
of conceptualizing the world as stable. People want to think music is music and
video is video and art is art.

But from the perspective of someone who likes making things, the boundaries are
less clear. It seems that people have an idea that bands are supposed to be
people who make leads and chords and lyrics, and not other things.

Q - It seems like you guys saw the potential of YouTube and ran with it. Do you
think that especially these days a band has to be marketing savvy?

That's precisely what I am saying. The notion that music is the recording of the
music and everything else is promotion is how the major labels taught us to
think over the past eight years, that creativity is the recording of a song.

So a live show is not art or music, that's just promotion for your CD. Or the
songwriting itself, that's just the work you have to do to get a CD. While that
whole structure may work to make people money, it's not very representative
of how art and creativity actually work.

It's not that bands have to do anything, it's that our lives are becoming
increasingly digital. All our communication is done online. All of our business
is done online. The TV shows we watch, the movies we watch, the music we listen
to. For me at least, all of that is online.

We live in this digital stage, so it totally stands to reason that the art we
make lives in this digital stage. It's where bands most effectively operate.

Q - "Here It Goes Again" was so amazingly successful. More than one million
people saw the video on YouTube in the first six days it was released. Did that
even surprise you?

I was in total shock. With the new one, we're two days in, and it's at 2.5
million already.

Q - You've written several opinion pieces about the importance of net
neutrality, and EMI was blocking viral distribution of your music videos. Is
that why OK Go decided to start its own label?

We were just going in different directions. They have to come up with a business
model that works with every artist. Our whole creative process is making stuff
we like, and trying to figure out ways to get it out to the world and also keep
our bills paid.

Q - What do you guys miss about Chicago?

I love performing, but touring is a strange and lonely bubble, cruising around the world doing the same thing every day. What was great about Chicago is that the music scene was so incredibly vibrant. It is a real creative environment.

Q - With this new record label, do you have future goals for it? Would you like to sign other artists to it?

That's not in the plans now. The great thing about the label is that you don't have to have plans. The label is sort of a business arm of what we do. It exists solely to allow us to chase whatever ideas we feel like chasing.

Right now, trying to spread that out to other bands and make it into a profitable enterprise for lots of people is not particularly attractive, but it might be. If I saw the right bands play somewhere, I'd be really excited.

What I'm excited about is that it doesn't really have to be a record label. It could be an anything label. We make videos obviously, we make records. There's a lot of creative projects we have, and we don't feel the need to operate in what people traditionally think is the music industry.

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