OK Go’s Tim Nordwind talks optical illusions, new album, upcoming tour

If you’ve been on YouTube anytime in the last decade, you’ve probably experienced the artistic endeavors of alternative rock

Ok Go kicks off their first tour in three years July 15 in Sacramento.

band OK Go. This Grammy-award winning group is known for their quirky-creative music videos, like the treadmill-choreographed “Here It Goes Again” and the puppy-dominated “White Knuckles”, as well as their innovative dance-inducing alt-rock sound.

OK Go recently released their first single “The Writings on the Wall” from their highly-anticipated album, Hungry Ghosts, which is set to drop October 2014. The music video which was released with the song garnered more than one million views within the first day.

The band is set to kick off their first tour in three years at Assembly Music Hall in Sacramento on July 15. MUSE spoke with OK Go co-founder and bassist Tim Nordwind about the upcoming tour, Hungry Ghosts and the band’s creative pursuits.

MUSE: What kind of sound were you going for with “The Writings on the Wall” and can we expect the same feeling with the rest of the album?

Tim: “The Writings on the Wall” has a somewhat romantic feel to it and I think that kind of energy definitely runs through our record. The song also has a melancholic feel to it that some (but not all) of the other songs have. But the record as a whole is sort of an electronic dance/rock album with a lot of surreal moments. I think “The Writings on the Wall” is a good lead-off song because it gives you a little bit of everything we do on the record. We sometimes go heavier [thematically] than “The Writings on the Wall” and sometimes we go lighter, but I feel like it’s a good combination of everything on the album.

MUSE: Why the melancholic feel?

Tim: If I was going to very generally explain Hungry Ghosts, I would say it’s a record about relationships and the ups and downs of those relationships. “The Writings on the Wall” is a song about breaking up with somebody but wanting to have one final night together. It’s an experience that’s very relatable. If you date and fall in love then you’ve probably had this feeling before. We just wanted to write a song about it. The song is documenting that weird and crazy feeling you get when you have a last moment with someone that you know you have to let go. It’s just celebrating the fact that we all go through these difficult times.

MUSE: How is Hungry Ghosts unique from any of OK Go’s past records? What are you most excited about with this upcoming album?

Tim: This is definitely our most modern-sounding record we’ve put out. Saying it “sounds modern” may be obvious to people because it’s our newest album, but I think we delve a lot more into electronic production – a lot more so than we have on any other of our past records. It’s modern and surreal but also emotionally nostalgic feeling in a way; it plays with that mix of energies. I’m excited for people to hear it, it’s the most immediate sounding record we’ve ever made and possibly some of the most easily digestible songs we’ve ever written. I’m really excited to see people’s reactions to it.

MUSE: The music video for “The Writings on the Wall” is awesome – love the optical illusions and multiple perspectives. Who comes up with this stuff and how?

Tim: Each of our videos comes together differently. In the case of “Writings on the Wall” our singer Damian saw an advertisement for BBC4. The ad [was a film of a] bunch of objects, but you couldn’t tell what the the objects were supposed to be. When the camera changed to a certain perspective [the objects] came together and turned into a shape – like a circle or a square – and he was really excited about that. As we got to talking about it, we thought if we did this on a massive level it would make a really good, fun video. That’s how “The Writings on the Wall” came together. But sometimes our videos are more of a collaborative process; one of us will have an idea and the rest of us will kind of follow them, you know? Our videos have gotten more and more complicated and we’ve collaborated with a lot of different people. For the case of “The Writings on the Wall” we collaborated with a production company in New York called 1stAveMachine and specifically with [creative heads from 1stAveMachine and Special Guest] Aaron Duffy and Bob Partington. They really understood perspective tricks and optical illusions and they helped get our vision across.

MUSE: You guys pay close attention to the artistry and aesthetics of your music videos. Do the video concepts connect directly to the songs they’re paired with or is the video and the song two separate entities?

Tim: When we write a song we don’t generally have a video in mind and when we come up with ideas for videos we aren’t necessarily sure what song’s going to go with it. I think in a lot of cases videos, music, playing live and anything else that you can think of that could be centered around the four of us doing something creatively – we enjoy all those things. We met through music fifteen years ago and I think music is always going to be our common bond, but we’ve always been into art, technology, film, theatre, literature – you name it, we’re interested in all of it. So I think in general the creative project of OK Go is under a pretty large umbrella.

MUSE: You guys will be kicking off your live tour this month in Sacramento. What can fans expect from your concert? Are your live performances anything like your video performances?

Tim: Our live performances carry over the wonderment and joy that you get from our videos, but the live show is its own project unto itself. The kind of spirit people enjoy in our videos is the same type of energy they can expect live, but playing live is really unique from watching a video because we’re all in the same room together and we can all experience the music with one another. We’re really trying to put on a show that plays to the fact that we were all there together. I mean, it’s awesome so many people watch the videos and we’re super excited about that. The one thing about it, though, is that we can’t see people watching our work and listening to our music, so this is a nice opportunity to be in the same place and connect with everyone. For us, we haven’t really been out touring in three or four years so it’s going to be nice to be in front of people again.

MUSE: Can we expect anymore video projects in the near future?

Tim: At the end of the month we’re going to be in Japan trying to work out the plans for another music video. We’re not really sure what song it’s for, but we have an idea that we’re going to play with a little bit and see if it’s worth doing. There should be something new in the fall or early 2015.

Hungry Ghosts is set to drop October 2014. Tickets for OK Go’s upcoming show in Sacramento can be purchased online at aosconcerts.queueapp.com. Tickets for all tour locations and concert dates including the Sacramento show can be purchased on the band’s website at okgo.net.

 Akira Olivia Kumamoto can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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