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This Too Is OK Go

Recorded in the small town of Fredonia, New York, OK Go’s latest album, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, snagged its first media attention with more of the band’s innovative, uber-clever music videos, most notably the pair that they constructed (the second one, literally constructed – with the assistance of none other than scientists from the MIT Media Lab and NASA.) These, of course – which you’ve likely seen unless you’ve been living under a media blackout – would be the marching-band festooned “This Too Will Pass” and the colorful, award-winning Rube-Goldberg inspired one-take video for the same song.

But don’t get this band wrong – as enthused as they are about the multi-media possibilities – and as talented they are at organizing and rendering the same – the focus, in the end, is always on the music, which is perhaps some of the wittiest, sharpest pop you’ll find anywhere.

“The album was recorded at producer Dave Fridmann’s (Mercury Rev) Tarbox Studios,” OK Go’s drummer Dan Konopka explains, “and honestly, the session was one of the more positive recording experiences I’ve ever had. Dave really allows you to be as fearless as you want to be. It’s a very musically-freeing environment.”

Well… as long as you have enough breakfast food, that is.

“My least favorite part was the last half of the session when the drums were finished,” Konopka laughs, “I basically ran out of things to do. So my new job was to make sure that the studio refrigerator was stocked all the time. There were lots of drives to downtown Fredonia in blizzard-like conditions to get milk and eggs for my bandmates.”

In addition to Konopka, Kulash, and Nordwind, OK Go also includes Andy Ross, forming a craftily talented quartet whose music-vid dossier includes YouTube hits “A Million Ways” and “Here It Goes Again,” both featuring the band dancing carefully choreographed routines. Kulash, in a recent interview, said that the reason he thinks people wind up in rock bands is simply because “you want to make stuff, to do creative things for a living.”  The ‘stuff’ that OK Go makes is both modern and also a throwback, of sorts, to what indie pop music should be, including the strong hooks that the band is known for and their latest experiments with funk and dance music.

“On this album, we made the decision to move away from the ultra-focused guitar driven sound of our other records,” Konopka explains.

Konopka also says that the album was recorded via a couple of different processes- “it was all recorded to Pro|Tools, although some songs were whole band performances, and other songs were chopped and pieced together from different times in the session” – and that he definitely preferred playing through the songs live as a band, something that the bandmates have learned to value after spending several years with half of the band on the West Coast, and the other half still in the flyover states.

“For three or four years, Damian (Kulash) and Tim (Nordwind) were living in Los Angeles, and I was still living in Chicago,” Konopka explains. “We’d be lucky to see each other at all if we weren’t on tour. So to stay on top of things, they would FedEx me CDs of new music that I would learn before recording.”

“As far as recording the songs for this album live, the effect you get is immediate, and the feel is authentic,” he continues, “there is definitely a catharsis playing with other musicians that I think you can hear in the recordings. Those songs are definitely my favorite songs on the album.”

On a deeper level, behind those danceable beats are indeed often personal yet sly messages that filter through to the fan upon repeated listenings. The current album title and theme, for instance, wasn’t a mere bit of poetry, but was inspired by Kulash’s discovery of a book by General Alfred J. Pleasonton in which the General extols the virtues of blue light for good health and the development of vegetable and animal life. The book was surprisingly new-agey for its time – the late 1800s.

“Damian discovered that book and was heavily moved by it,” Konopka explains. “I remember him proposing the whole name of the book – The Influence of the Blue Ray of the Sunlight and of the Blue Colour of the Sky – as the title of our record! Obviously, we had to shorten that down a tad – but what was fascinating to me were the parallels between the themes in the book and themes that were emerging out of the songs we had just written. It was a little spooky and a little hilarious. I wouldn’t subscribe to General Pleasonton’s theories in this book literally, though – in other words, if you’re sick, go see a doctor – don’t expect blue light to cure you.”

The panaceas that keep OK Go, erhm, going, on the road are simple but definitive, according to Konopka. The band’s not touring at the moment, but the stage isn’t something they can stay away from for long – as long as they have their travel necessities with them.

“Well, we definitely need our Apple products on tour,” he says. “Macs, iPhone and iPods – that’s a given, so I think we can count on those as one. Then there are all the seasons of the shows Lost and The Wire. And last, I think we will always need the most concise and explicit directions to the nearest coffee shop. Yep. That’ll do it.” – Kristi Kates

Find out more about OK Go on their official website.

originally published on Groupee.com, reprinted with permission.