On the outside Ok Go are known for their paisley wearing, amazing dancing videos and progressive angle on rock music. But if you take a look inside you see the heart that beats and it's beating a healthy rhythm on the path to what can only be music's version of self actualisation. They make great music, have a great connection with their fans (especially with perpetual releases of online videos, podcasts, competitions etc) and have a strong focus on what it takes to succeed.
Contactmusic got the chance to hook up with Damien just before their set at the Secret Garden Party.
Contactmusic: So welcome or maybe I should be saying Hola! You've just come from Spain, how was that?
Ok Go: It was awesome. The Spanish are strangely super into Ok Go. I guess it's not that strange, but we had never played there before up to a month or two ago and the first time we went over there and headlined a festival and we didn't know whether the Spanish had heard of Ok Go and there was 6-8000 people there and they went nuts. So last night we were there with the Yeah Yeah Yeah's and again it was a totally great crowd and I didn't get the sense that they all already knew us. Apparently we are directly what the Spanish want right now, great crowds it was awesome.
CM: Is there a noticeable difference from country to country and city to city?
Ok Go: There is certainly a big difference from country to country, sometimes city to city. Although trying to figure out the difference between cities is sometimes stymied by the fact that you're playing different cities on different nights with different conditions and stuff like that. One thing that's always true is that if you don't know it's a Friday or Saturday you will know once you see the crowd as they are way drunker than the rest of the time. But if you spend a week in a variety of countries you definitely sort of see different responses and a lot of times it doesn't have to do with the culture or anything it's just how much you've been promoted and how well your record is doing and stuff like that.
CM: Now a days we live in such an MTV and music video age and a lot of people are coming directly into listening to your music via your videos and even not just on MTV but on the internet with places like Youtube. What are your thoughts on that? Isn't it right that you've got like one of youtube's all time top 10 video downloads?
Ok Go: Yeah, we're loving YouTube these days. We put up are new video and within three days it was the most viewed clip of the whole month and within a couple of weeks it had been viewed 3 million times and one day it was apparently the most linked thing on the internet. Do you know Technorati? Well on there we were like the most linked thing period. Trying to figure out what that means. I mean, I wonder how it was in 1985 and they'd be like "Prince you've got a hit" and supposedly it's before my time but Bruce Springsteen supposedly put out 2 or 3 records and let it slowly build up to making this bona fide hit and that was in the age of big promotion and very careful 5 and 10 year programmes by record labels, now obviously now -a -days they don't have the money or the attention span to do that anymore. But you wonder what it would of felt like when you were like "Springsteen, we're gonna get you on all the big radio stations!" Because what apparently constitutes a hit or one version of a hit is like you put something on the internet and it's downloaded 3 million times in a week.
We weren't on tour at the time and we'd actually just come back from a festival in Moscow of all places, and it was the first week we'd had off in a year and half and we were sitting at home like "Arrggh", then we put this video on the internet and the next thing you know our phones are ringing off the hook but it's just the internet. It's just this weird space less thing you don't see a million people, just see a whole bunch of comments on blogs it's such a weird weird experience.
CM: Regarding your videos, do you have a lot of input on what you're going to do?
Ok Go: Yeah, the video we put on the internet are label didn't even know we had made it. We made it with my sister at her house in Orlando, it was just something we wanted to make. It's hard in the rear view mirror to analyse the promotion value of something like this as it was just something we wanted to make and it was this awesome idea and my sister was like "I've got this great idea, you've gotta dance on treadmills" and we're like "That's a great idea!" and we had a week off and this was a year ago now and we were in the area for a show; we'll stay your house and we'll make this video. You know, your luckiest when you don't have to involve your label or you don't have to involve distribution, promotion and logistics and all that kinda shit. Because the only reason you join a band in the first place aside from drugs and girls is because you want to make shit you just want to make cool stuff. So when someone has a great idea and you go do it without involving all the bullshit, that's the best kind of idea entirely. The sad fact is that usually you have to go ask someone for money and you have to like find someone to distribute your record and all this kind of stuff and all those logistics they're the shitty part of it, but if you make things without all that it's even better.
CM: So moving onto your album, I really love the progression from the first to the second record and it's tough for a lot of artists to make that leap. How hard was it to make that progression?
Ok Go: Thank you. Second albums are tough because you've had like 20 years to write the first and 6 months to make the next one.
CM: So you've got that progression from the first to the second, have you got any plans for the future with the 3rd album?
Ok Go: Yeah, We actually just went home to start writing and then this video thing happened and now we're on tour for another 6 months. But we're really anxious to start writing on it and I think we have a pretty clear vision of what we want it to sound like, except its really contradictory this is always the problem. Before you start recording and when you're in the process of writing you can simultaneously agree that you want to make a slow acoustic thoughtful record that's also like an electronic dance record! So these ideas can co-exist within your mind until it like fleshes itself out and on the last record I sorta thought I knew what I wanted and once we started making the record, I definitely knew what I wanted you know the sound structures were falling in line.. On the second record I was scared like "Jesus what do we do now" and this time I feel like I know, I'm very excited by it.
CM: So what kind of timeline are we looking at?
Ok Go: Well the timeline as of 3 weeks ago that we're to write in October and November and start recording in January or February. But now it looks like we are on tour straight through February, so we'll probably write in April-May and record in June-July that kind of thing.
We're not good writers on the road we try. I mean you hear about bands that are really good at it and I think sometimes it's easier with more electronic and sample based stuff when you can do it with a computer, but we're terrible at it and I envy those who can do it. A friend of mine was touring with the Kings of Leon and he said they'd spend like 20 minutes every sound check just playing and these songs would just come out of them and I totally envy that. I think the way we write is different; it doesn't really come from us jamming its more idea based. But we have a load of little ideas and lots of half baked stuff and I think that in a couple of months we'll definitely solidify it.
CM: I can't interview Ok Go without mentioning your dress sense. I really love the paisley, where are you guys shopping? I want in on the action.
Ok Go: Mostly its thrift stores, just because for some reason anybody who makes those things these days seems to put their own signature and modern spin on it and it kind of falls apart then. There are a few, unfortunately the best stuff like that are really super fucking expensive. There are a lot of great Costume National suits if you've got Â£2000 to blow on a suit. This shirt is Paul Smith it's British, but it's mostly thrift stores.
I think the corner we turned when were like "wow, this could be so much fun!" was when we realised how cheap tailoring can be. I mean we were all punk rock thrift store kids in high school and then at some point you're like "I can't really sift through peoples old t-shirts anymore, cos none of them are quite right." Then you're like "Wait a second if I sieve through the whole lot and pay like $10-$15 to get it altered and then it's perfect." So you can go and find the most ridiculous clothes in the world and if they've got butterfly collars down to you nipples, just chop off the collars and if the sleeves aren't long enough, just add extra sleeves
CM: So have you done much thrift shop shopping whilst you've been over here?
Ok Go: A little bit, usually when we're over are here our schedule is so tight that we don't get much time, but we've done some. There are some good consignment shops in London, they're not really thrift stores cos they're really expensive and someone's already pre-picked all the good stuff, but there's always good stuff. We envy the Savile row tailors, everything you see in their windows is so gorgeous but it's usually out of our price range.
CM: So coming back to what we were talking about before about the internet, your website is really extensive and you've got loads of products on there, can you tell me about the disposable cameras?
Ok Go: When you look out at a show now, first of all you never see lighters anymore and most of the time at the biggest part of your set all you see is cell phones in the air. People experience everything in this meddle way now where if you want to process and experience a situation you are required to somehow document it. So every show there's always a sea of cameras and we sort of figured if everyone is gonna bring cameras we might as well give them cameras.
CM: You've got some which you've actually taken photos with, are there any hidden gems out there that people might buy?
Ok Go: There might be, it's hard to know. The guy who took most of the pictures was our merch guy for a long time, so while we were setting up stage and stuff he'd walk around and take pictures of us. There's definitely a few obscene moments and there are probably a lot of shitty weird pictures. I know we had to scrap a whole lot of them and get new ones because they went through an x-ray machine and everything came out grey, but they're funny. The flash on those things is way too bright, I'd always know when someone is using one of those cameras as it'd be like "Dchhh Ouch!"
CM: So you've got so much stuff on your site, you've got: Podcasts, a Ping Pong instructional - which is hilarious, magazine articles you've written etc. Have you got any more plans for anything in the future?
Ok Go: There's nothing specific. We're working with a friend and he's doing a book of short stories that are supposedly inspired by songs, but they're fictional songs that we are then gonna write. So that should be a lot of fun, although that could be way off.
Tim and Andy are starting a new, or claiming they are starting a new video blog. Although their reasoning which I find completely erroneous is that their written blogs were requiring too much effort out of them, so they thought they'd just do a video one. But that's just gonna mean all this editing time and bullshit that you don't want to deal with, but they say they're gonna do it. But you know, I'm not holding my breathe.
CM: Watch this space.
Ok Go: Exactly, watch this space, under construction for the next 2 years.
We try so hard to keep our website and our online existence fresh and always changing, we try to stay alive there but it can take so much effort sometimes; when you're on tour and in a different city every day, driving twelve hours a day and then to show up and all of a sudden be this ebullient guy and be like "Here's me for the world"...
Ok Go: [Damian to Tim] We were just discussing your video blogs, do you think it's gonna happen?
Ok Go: [Tim] Yeah, it's gonna happen. Probably the first one is gonna come out in a week and a half - two weeks.
CM: I look forward to it.
Ok Go: [Tim] Thank you.
Ok Go: [Damien] Nice, they said they're gonna turn in one a week and I love that the first one isn't gonnna be done for a few weeks.
Ok Go: [Tim] No No, We didn't promise that.
[Laughs all round]
CM: So as well on your site you've got fans covers, which is something you never see, especially on a bands official site.
Ok Go: Fan covers are so hilarious, they're so weird. It's such a trip to hear someone else playing your song and to hear what they think of it. A year ago we agreed to let a subsidiary of a beverage company use our song on a commercial as long as it was someone else's recording of it and we just heard it today and we completely forgot that it happened and it's so sooo bad and we don't know what to do about it.
CM: What track is it?
Ok Go: A Million ways. I think it's only for a US release so hopefully you guys won't be blighted with it here. You don't really know what to do, because at the time it was like "Yeah, sure use it", but what do you do when someone completely misinterprets something? At least the fan covers are all going for something, but this weird commercial version.we're like "What have we done?"
CM: Putting fan covers on your site shows that you've got a great connection with your fans and obviously that's important with any band, but is it something which you have at the forefront of your focus?
Ok Go: Yeah, the truth is its fun. It's our livelihood, it's what we do, the band is our lives it's everything we do. It's hard to describe but it's like feeding the machine that is the band, it feels like life and feels like it's what we are supposed to be doing. Looked at from more a marketing perspective; I'm still a crazy super fan of a lot of bands and when I was like 15 or 18 I was one of those Ã¼ber annoying kids who just lived and breathed the music they listened to and I remember the desperation when I'd finally bought every Pixies thing imaginable. Then you're like "What else can I look for? What else can I do?" and one great thing about the internet is that it gives this endless world for people to dive into. Now when you want to get enveloped in some idea you can just go and dive into the internet and live in that idea and if it's a band all the better. So as a band it's really fun for us to put out things and watch how people respond to them.
We made a bunch of public service announcement videos called the 'Truth in music project". We made these twelve videos and we didn't really tell anyone about them and we just watched; who discovered it, what they thought about it and just how those little things travelled around. The 'Here it goes' video with my sister was just one of those things, it's just fun to do and to see what people think about it and suddenly it just explodes. It's a weird weird world.
CM: It really is, anyway that's it.
Ok Go: Thank you so much for your time.
CM: Well thank you even more for yours.
Ok Go: Of course it's my pleasure.
Interview by Adam Adshead
Catch Ok Go on the VMA's, around Europe and the UK on the following dates:
September 12th Kato Berlin, Germany
September 13th Logo Hamburg, Germany
September 14th Prime Club Cologne, Germany
September 15th Batofar Paris, France
September 16th Melkweg Amsterdam, Holland
September 18th Bristol University, Bristol, UK
September 19th University Solus, Cardiff, UK
September 20th Wulfren Hall, Wolverhampton, UK
September 21st Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK
September 22nd Academy Manchester, UK
September 24th ABC Glasgow, UK
September 25th Met University, Leeds, UK
September 27th Pyramid Centre, Portsmouth, UK
September 28th Astoria London, UK
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