Emerge Impact + Music is created and produced by ABP Media’s parent company, A Beautiful Perspective.
LAS VEGAS — “It’s coming down, babe.”
After dissecting a decade of OK Go videos with the band, you read into a single piece of aqua confetti twirling from the ceiling during “All Is Not Lost.” Impossibly slow in its trip to the stage, it’s also impossibly the same toothpaste shade as the jumpsuits in this onscreen wonder of human kaleidoscopery. Feels like their brand of intentional madness.
It fit perfectly into the crush of ideas presented at the inaugural Emerge Impact + Music in Las Vegas, especially because OK Go’s latest live show is about imagination and discovery. Playing more than a dozen hits, they took all manner of audience questions. They mirrored their viral dance in “A Million Ways.” They bell-choired the shit out of “Shooting the Moon,” backed by people using the band’s app to transform their phones into tiny keyboards.
And when guitars stopped working, frontman Damian Kulash asked if the crowd wanted an unplugged song or a scene from Les Miserables. The latter won out, so he and bass player Tim Nordwind broke into “The Confrontation” from the Broadway behemoth.
“As you may be able to tell, Tim and I were obsessed with Les Miserables when we were 11 years old, and whenever there’s a broken string or something we can’t deal with, we go right back to Jean Valjean,” Kulash said.
Because OK Go’s videos are so sick and enveloping, you might pay slightly less attention to their skills as musicians. But watching them in tandem with the visuals and learning how it all coalesces made both that much more impressive.
What was the inspiration?
Tim Nordwind: Since we’re such bad dancers we thought, well maybe we have something that can move us. Then we won’t have to dance so much.
Damian Kulash: It was one day of figuring out how you can get that many treadmills in a room and not have it look like a giant bunch of machines, then eight-ish days of hurling ourselves at them to see what happened. And then two days of trying to repeat the few things we’d done that didn’t injure us. … After that we knew we had become ‘that treadmill band’ … so we figured, why not embrace it? Let’s just make more videos about moving weirdly.
What’s with the goose?
Kulash: That goose, some people called it Bill and other people called it Maria, and there’s still a big debate about that. We called it Bill. It lives in that park, and it fell in love with Andy. We had to spend about two weeks in that park choreographing, and the whole time the goose just wanted to be with Andy.
Andy Ross: I had to learn how to love.
Do you own all those puppies?
Kulash: I own one of those puppies—the little brown one that sits on the table—and she’s an extraordinarily bad dog. But she’s really food-oriented, so as long as you hold up a tennis ball with a bunch of Cheez Whiz on it she’ll do anything. … The first day of filming after six weeks of training those dogs, our best take was No. 72. And that’s the one that you actually see right there, because we had a whole second day of filming and my dog ruined it. The night before, she decided to go swimming in a swamp, the most disgusting, funk-of-40,000-years type of smell I have ever smelled. … None of the other dogs would work.
How much did it cost?
Kulash: A ton. A huge ton. That video is something we’ve wanted to do for many, many years. But as it turns out, to be weightless you need an airplane, and airplanes cost a lot. So every time a company would come to us and be like, we should do a project together, we’d be like, ‘Of course, Pepsi! Pepsi’s a liquid. Only looks good in one place: zero gravity!’ Pepsi did not fall for this trick. … Finally a Russian airline came to us and was like, hey do you want to do something with our planes? And we were like, YES! I actually don’t know the full cost of that video because part of the deal (and this is so crazy and Russian) was that the airline had to show up every day with a tank of jet fuel as part of the payment. It was partially paid for in money and partially in jet fuel.
ABOUT THAT BAND NAME …
Where did it come from?
Kulash: Tim and I met when we were 11 years old, in 1987. We were at an arts camp in Michigan called Interlochen. We had this super-awesome art teacher, and she had this super-weird, spaced-out assistant. Let’s say we were 45 minutes into a class and I’m drawing this fan. And I’m sitting there, I’m just drawing the fan, and Kirk would come and lean over my shoulder and go: ‘Hey Damian man, you gotta like, touch the fan with your mind and touch the paper with your hand and draw the difference.’ And I kind of wanted to be like, ‘Dude, I’m 11.’ But instead I just kept on drawing the fan, and then he would sit and sort of hover over you for awhile and be like, ‘You know what I mean, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK go! And that is the moment I think we were supposed to have an astral deflowering. (Laughs) … Tim and I started making home videos together maybe that year, and one of our favorite things to do was try to imagine what it was like in Kirk’s universe, and all that anyone could say was, ‘OK go.’
ABOUT WHAT’S NEXT …
Do you have any other ideas?
Kulash: I always think I’m not gonna have any more ideas. This is the weird thing, that everybody always thinks they’re never gonna have another good idea again. Then somehow, you just do. So at the current moment, I have no future ideas. But I’m starting to have some faith that I will have some.
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