OK Go isn't just a pop band, even if that's certainly a headline on the quartet's resume. Since their choreographed dance video for single "A Million Ways" went viral in 2005 (it has more than 3 million views on YouTube), the band (Damian Kulash, Tim Nordwind, Dan Konopka, and Andy Ross) has hijacked the visual format, providing viewers with a vicarious thrill as they experimented with stop motion, treadmills, Rube Goldberg machines, and motorized chair dancing—often presented in a single take. Every video is an event, a wake-up call, and considering how quickly the way we consume pop music is changing, events are extremely welcome.
Although they say they're not setting out to up the ante with each release, the band may have done just that with their newest video for "Upside Down & Inside Out" (the first single from recently released album Hungry Ghosts), which was filmed during a zero gravity airplane ride.
As frontman Damian Kulash explains one beautiful afternoon in Los Angeles, where the band is based, space and its possibilities have always been a fascination—so much so that he and his sister/video co-director, Trish Sie, ponied up the several thousand dollars required for a commercial zero gravity flight, just to test out the idea.
"I realized if people—normal people, not trained astronauts—can have the possibility of getting into space, the next thing you know, there will be art in space," Kulash notes. His voice rises to an excited yell. "People are going to make art in space? I want to make art in space!"
But performing a floating version of the band's antics was out of reach until Russian commercial airline S7 approached them. Gifted with 20 flights, OK Go built a set in a large cargo craft, choreographed a series of dance moves to be executed while floating through the air, and conducted a series of splatter tests. ("If you squeeze a tube of toothpaste, are you going to get just a line?" Kulash says, illustrating the kind of questions they had to ask. "Or will that thing just hang in the air like a wire sculpture?") And after quite literally throwing several dozen ideas against the wall, they filmed the colorful free-for-all of dance moves, bouncing balls, piñatas, and paint balloon splatters, creating one of the most ambitious music videos in recent memory.
"People are going to make art in space? I want to make art in space!"
Kulash, who clearly enjoys chasing both non-narrative visual ideas and traditional pop songs, describes the unorthodox nature of his career to date as "weird." But there's a smile implied in his words.
"If I was like, 'Yeah, we're a performance art group,' or 'we make short, highly visual non-narrative films,' no one knows what to do with that," he says. "But because we're already a rock band, we stumbled across this opening for other types of creative ideas—it opens up the door for us to work with whatever we find fascinating."