Living la vida viral

OK Go makes the best out of a digital situation

Dave Kirby | Boulder Weekly


The day started with a press release chirping gleefully in our inbox that OK Go’s new video for “White Knuckles” was in its last hours of labor and heading for its cyber C-section.


Before long, The Atlantic writer Andrew Sullivan had embedded the video in his “Daily Dish” blog, with a bonus link to Gizmodo’s behind-the-scenes column. Huffington Post linked it off its secondary sidebar by mid-afternoon. In a day or two, it was front and center at, elbowing its way alongside Boehner’s Pledge to America and Lindsay’s perp-walk du jour.

The Chicago-bred, L.A.-hostaged power pop quartet’s assault on the YouTube empire pinged and slammed its way through the New Frontier like a crazy marble aimed at smashing TVs and fluttering umbrellas and bounding mannequins, and in less time than it took Facebook to put the mouse back in the wheel, the whole friggin’ world was enraptured by dogs and white buckets and standard issue OK Go weird-ass choreography.

And a goat, says Gizmodo? “It’s a little past three quarters of the way through the video,” explains band co-founder Tim Nordwind. “Damian [Kulash] and I are doing this walk-and-heel move with two German Shepherds … and if you watch closely, you see Andy, our guitarist, come out with a goat basically dragging him across the screen.”

This piece of video madness, of course, comes as the follow-up to the Rube Goldberg machine mix of “This Too Shall Pass,” released late last winter, a frenetic bit of (ostensibly) one-take, domino-effect, collapsing machine madness, one of the most engagingly ambitious music videos of all time. “White Knuckles,” by comparison, features the band doing synchronized choreography over buckets and cheesy swiveling lounge chairs with a dozen or so canines, all of whom are brilliantly
trained and eerily in on the joke. And one of the band’s favorite causes
is rescued dog adoption.

“They were two very different experiences and two very different challenges,” Nordwind says. “The Rube Goldberg machine video took six months to make, and that was six straight months. The dog video, we had the concept for it five years ago, and we finally met some animal trainers who understood the vision and the sort of guerilla-style, DIY ethic that we make things with, about a year ago. And it took about six weeks to make over the course of a year.”

It’s been said that the band, now in its 13th year of tenure, is re-inventing the craft of the music video by chisels and wallops, in part due to its endearingly flow-charted geekiness, but also in its direct-to-tape DIY authenticity.

They eschew the sales-pitch commercial veneer gloss that has weighed down the art form since its adolescence and coax the art form past the big-studio/ MTV paradigm into the living-room (or treadmill room) YouTube paradigm.

Consistent with this crusade, consciously applied or not, singer Kulash recently published an op-ed in the Washington Post in support of net neutrality, agitating for action on the part of FCC Commissioner Julius Genachowski to essentially declare, as a third and final vote, the Internet a public utility, legislating away Google and Verizon’s plans for a “tiered” Internet highway, where the big players — like movie studios, news orgs, Proctor and Gamble — would presumably have the fast lane to themselves, and little guys like power pop trios making dog videos are relegated to bumping along with three bad tires on the low-bandwidth shoulder.

“While he was writing it, I would sort of read drafts of it and we’d talk about it,” says Nordwind of the piece. “It’s something we all feel strongly about. … I think the Internet is in real danger of becoming like cable TV or something, where people have to pay to have their content on there. Which sort of goes against what I believe the Internet is all about. … I think it should be left as a free and public space.”

And fair enough, these are the guys whose official videos, Nordwind estimates, boast easily more than 100 million views on YouTube.

We agree. We also wonder: Do you ever have to remind people you’re actually a band?

“What propels us out of bed every morning is the love of making things. …We’ve always had the tendency to kind of have these art projects that are spawned by the music we’re making, and that’s followed us our entire career,” Norwind answers. “And the music has always been the foundation to create the world around us.”

On the Bill

OK Go plays
the Fox Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 6. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Company of
Thieves and Summer Darling open. Tickets are $16 in advance, $20 day of
show. 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.