OK Go’s popularity has risen greatly following their choreographed treadmill routine to their song “Here It Goes Again.” With 29,433,633 views on YouTube, the band may have some bragging rights, but it’s their involvement in community service after Hurricane Katrina that’s worth bragging about.
The Chronicle spoke with Damian Kulash, the 32-year-old singer and guitarist for the band, about Hurricane Katrina, politics, and what makes the band so unique.
OK Go recently teamed up with the trombone group Bonerama and collaborated on the album, “You’re Not Alone,” available exclusively on iTunes. Profits from the sale of the album will go toward Sweet Home New Orleans, a non-profit organization that helps musical and cultural communities within New Orleans access resources and obtain affordable housing after Hurricane Katrina. Proceeds from the record will also go toward building a house for Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, a New Orleans legend who lost everything after the hurricane.
OK Go first connected with Bonerama at a benefit show in New Orleans. The band thought they were playing alone but soon realized that there were other artists on the bill as well. They were offered to play with Bonerama that day.
“That sounded like an awesome opportunity to me,” Kulash said. “We didn’t really have a chance to practice or anything, we just got up on stage and did it.”
Performing with Bonerama was also a nice change of pace for Kulash, who had been used to playing their normal songs. “I had been on tour for two years, playing the same songs,” he said.
Kulash has since become smitten with the musical scene found in New Orleans, stating that New Orleans is “one of the greatest music towns in the world.” “In New Orleans, people do still parade in the streets, dancing and playing songs,” Kulash said. “Every Sunday people are out in the streets playing music together, it’s an incredible thing. It’s shocking to behold actually and it’s actually sort of in danger because the people that keep that tradition alive are stuck in temporary housing.”
With a need for change and the 2008 election approaching, OK Go has made their choice clear by playing a show in NYC the night before Super Tuesday in support of democratic candidate Barack Obama.
Even if fans aren’t in agreement over the bands choice in candidates, the band still urges everyone to get out and vote.
“Follow your gut, politics and government are sort of like anything else. They are best done by people who can,” Kulash said. “If you look at the last eight years it is fairly evident to me that when you have someone who people view as a bullheaded moron, you get results from a bullheaded moron.”
So what makes an ideal candidate for Kulash? “People who can bring people together and bridge gaps and find strategic compromises will get good results as oppose to people who will try to bash through the idealistic agenda,” he said.
OK Go doesn’t exactly fit into one specific mold when it comes to classifying the type of music they make. Kulash wasn’t able to classify the band himself but said, “Music has just gotten a lot more exciting. There’s a new breed of bands that succeed mostly because they make music that they like and that other people like.” He then added, “I’d like to think we’re among that group. People call it indie rock but it’s not really indie.”
With a musical style that’s hard to pinpoint, there are two things that OK Go is well known for: their unique fashion sense and outrageous dance moves. The band has put two videos on YouTube featuring choreographed dances for their songs “Here It Goes Again” and “A Million Ways”, both of which have garnered well over one million views each.
“Dancing is just great. I think it started years ago as a tongue-in-cheek prank. We were asked to be on a TV show where they couldn’t record live and we were snotty enough to feel like if they couldn’t record our music we were going to give them a boy band spectacular,” Kulash said. The famous treadmill choreography for “Here It Goes Again” only took the band eight days to learn. “Luckily nobody was hospitalized, ” Kulash said.
When it comes to their unique outfits, Kulash said the band eventually just got sick of wearing jeans and t-shirts. “We just started wearing these outlandish clashing pattern extravaganzas,” he said.
Kulash and the rest of the band are busy with working on a new album and several side projects. Kulash is unsure of when their next album will be released but said, “The material is starting to come together and we’re far from having a full length album recorded. We’re aiming for a fall release if possible.”
Aside from the album, Kulash is also one of the men featured in the book “Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me,” edited by the former executive producer of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Ben Karlin.
Along the way, OK Go has been able to experience some pretty amazing moments as a band, with achievements such as winning a Grammy, playing Times Square on New Years Eve and playing with Cheap Trick. Despite all that, it’s more about the time spent along the way.
“There’s been a lot of great moments. The honest answer is that there are very few points where you reach a moment where you say, ‘This is great.’ It’s usually the process that’s great,” Kulash said.