OK Go danced their way into an international following in 2009 with their viral music video “Here It Goes Again”. With four treadmills, a single camera and a whole lot of creativity, the band performed a one-take dance sequence that featured moves that would make any jazzerciser jealous. 20 years and a plethora of mind-bending music videos later, OK Go is still pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a musician.
“Back then in the 90s art and music were functionally separate things—like if you were making visual art or films you were doing one type of product and if you did music it was a different kind of art. Musicians made CDs and filmmakers made rolls of acetate. But now that everybody makes ones and zeros there's no functional difference between the two. I mean YouTube is the biggest music streaming service on the planet, so every musician is also a filmmaker,” says lead singer Damian Kulash.
Every musician may be a filmmaker but not many could follow in OK Go’s ambitious footsteps. A hallmark of the band’s music videos is that no matter how complex the choreography is, it must be done in a single take. Granted, it can take over 200 single takes to get it just right.
“In the videos in particular, we're usually looking for this specific feeling which is wonder. And there's always a component of surprise to wonder, so we're not just looking for good ideas, we're looking for good ideas that surprise us in some way…So what we do is we try to identify some place where there might just be a ton of those untried ideas. We try to find a sandbox and then we gamble a whole bunch of our resources on getting in that sandbox and playing,” explains Kulash in a 2017 TED Talk.
While the visual component is an important part of what drives OK Go, Kulash says that the music plays an equally important role.
“I definitely don't write with the visual concepts in mind,” says Kulash. “Mostly just because a good song is hard to write and it's elusive—the world's best songs look the same on paper as the world's worst song.”
So, how does OK Go combine their music with a visually elaborate display for their live shows? Well, they create something entirely new.
“The thing that you always have to get around is in a rock show you don't want people staring at a screen the whole time—like can you put the videos on a giant screen or people will just be watching TV for two hours and not get the show. So, for years, we were making these really complicated visual shows to support the rock show. But now, were taking on videos on tour and making them into a performance,” explains Kulash.
Without giving away the element of surprise, Kulash says that fans who see their live show will be treated to an interactive show that is one-part video, two-parts music and a whole lot of fun.