There are platinum records, and then there’s true fame. Joining the likes of All Your Base Are Belong to Us, Bert Is Evil, Icy Hot Stuntaz and the Star Wars Kid isn’t what most rock bands aspire to, but OK Go will take it.
The Chicago band’s home-cooked video for “A Million Ways” — the first single from their second album, Oh No — has turned into the kind of widely traded Internet phenomenon a fleet of publicists couldn’t concoct. In the video, the earnest-faced band (singer Damian Kulash, bassist Tim Nordwind, drummer Dan Konopka and guitarist Andy Ross) pulls off a highly choreographed dance routine to the funky rock tune. The low-budget clip doesn’t feature any special effects or even any edits, but that hasn’t stopped it from being downloaded more than 500,000 times in less than a month and turning the lads into unlikely hoofer heroes.
“We basically practiced it at our house for a week. And my sister, who is a dancer, helped choreograph it for our live show,” said Kulash, 29. “We taped us doing it in the backyard — not to use as our own video, but because we wanted to show the dance to a video director for this other idea we had that involved choreography to prove to him we were the band to do it. It turns out the director never even got it.”
But someone leaked the clip onto the Internet and, in Kulash’s words, “It accidentally became the best thing we ever made.” Combining “Matrix”-like fighting moves, ballroom dancing, cheerleading pyramids and Kylie Minogue-esque robotic arm movements, the routine has become a staple of the band’s live show. At July’s Lollapalooza, they executed a flawless version of it to a backing tape in the mid-day heat. Despite their somewhat rumpled look, it has cemented OK Go’s new reputation as “that dancing band,” according to Kulash, who fears that they’ll one day live to regret their claim to fame.
In true Internet phenom fashion, though, it has already spawned its own unique legion of fans, including the one who sent the band the following creatively spelled comment: “In Veido music album there is only thing to see is dance. If people like the dance album become hit. So Coreograph is only one who can make this happen. So coreographer is the important personality for this.”
Oh No, due in stores Tuesday, was recorded in Malmö, Sweden, in late 2004 with Franz Ferdinand producer Tore Johansson, who was presented with what Kulash described as a “crazy mixed tape” of more than 30 songs, already edited down from a pile of more than 60 that had accumulated since the release of the band’s self-titled 2002 debut.
“To me this album seems more energetic and raw, with more space — unlike the first one, which was about stacking up 50 guitars and 80 backing vocals on each track,” said Kulash of their latest LP’s lean, new wave tracks such as “Here It Goes Again” and the spare, falsetto funk tune “Oh Lately It’s So Quiet.”
“This is more of what we sound like to me when I hear us in my brain. The first album was like a studio project that we made that was like a gleaming, plastic, synthetic thing, but we wanted to make something so teeth-rottingly sweet it feels claustrophobic because we crammed bells and whistles into every corner.”
Songs like the crunchy guitar rockers “Invincible,” “Do What You Want” and “It’s a Disaster” mix the downtown punch of the Strokes with an ear for pop hooks. And though it appears the band might have been angling for an opening slot on the A Bigger Bang tour, Kulash swears their “Sympathy for the Devil” answer song “A Good Idea at the Time” was not a cheap bid to get an audience with the Rolling Stones.
“It’s not like a challenge to the Stones, but more of a revision,” Kulash explained. “Tim was playing this riff and he needed it to feel sleazy and dark, and I was trying to figure out what it was about. I remembered the time Tim and I first made a concerted effort to write songs together five or six years ago when we took a week off and drove to New Hampshire. I remember on this 18-hour car ride, being way over-caffeinated and buzzing, I realized that I was trying to figure out if you would know if you were the devil. I got Tim to quit his job for a week and go to this cabin, which seemed like the sort of thing the devil would do.”
OK Go are about to test out their new dance skills on a late summer string of dates with fellow Chicago rockers the Redwalls. Following that tour, the band will hit Europe for a string of dates with Brendan Benson.
OK Go and the Redwalls’ tour dates, according to Capitol Records:
- 8/27 – Kansas City, MO @ Grand Emporium
- 8/28 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
- 8/29 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
- 8/31 – Seattle, WA @ Crocodile Café
- 9/1 – Portland, OR @ Dante’s
- 9/6 – San Francisco, CA @ Café Du Nord
- 9/7 – Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction
- 9/8 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah
- 9/9 – Hollywood, CA @ The Roxy Theatre
- 9/10 – Tempe, AZ @ Big Fish Sports Pub
- 9/12 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Beauty Bar
- 10/31 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
- 11/1 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre