OK Go’s singer Damian Kulash is tired of his band just being known for their videos. Here he presents his case… and why they can be compared to The Beatles
Hey. You may remember me as ‘the guy in the treadmill video’ (our famed ‘Here It Goes Again’ promo). But I’m also ‘the guy in the Heath Robinson contraption video’ (for ‘This Too Shall Pass’).
And now, ‘the guy in the dog acrobatics video’. Yup, at the time of writing, the OK Go video for our latest single, ‘White Knuckles’, has had over five million YouTube views, making it the most successful yet in our run of very successful videos.
I guess to some degree, we do feel the stigma of being an ‘internet meme’ band. There are always those who will carp at you for being sellouts, or one-trick ponies, or somehow degrading the music by making it all about the video. Then again, we’d agree with them on the last point. For us, the music isn’t the sum of who we are as a band.
Let’s put this in context. If The Beatles were making music today, do you think they’d be locked into this narrow model that was agreed in the ’60s and ’70s? No! They’d be doing all kinds of new things – even with Apple Corp they were already expressing their creativity in fresh ways.
The whole point is that the sum total of the things a ‘band’ can be doesn’t conform to the old way of monetising the music industry – the whole process was geared towards a) recording the songs, and then b) charging people money for that. Now, bands like us are finding new things to do – the creativity of the band is not limited by nor delimited to recording the songs.
Don’t get me wrong – our new record is one of the best things we’ve ever done, but there’s so much more we can channel our energies into. We did laser-guitars with a British designer recently. We’re curating a remix competition with the deluxe version of our new album. I’ve got a new thing I’m scouting gallery space for. Lots of stuff.
The exciting thing is that, as a result of having found new ways of reaching audiences, we no longer have what you might call a ‘typical’ audience for a band like us. It’s not exactly your nuts-and-bolts indie-rock people.
We have three new core constituencies at our gigs: there are the internet-watchers; then there’s the nerds, who like the whole things-to-make-and-do geeky aspect; then there are, like, knitting groups… people who’ve had our videos forwarded to them, or come into contact with us in ways that defy the traditional single-to-radio streaming of audiences.
It’s bizarre, but it’s fantastically exciting to be capturing hearts in obscure coves. Our record sales over the past six years have gone up – slightly. But when you weight that against how sales have gone for the industry as a whole, then they’re way up.
If being ‘the meme band’ is how we do it, then fine. It’s a new medium, and we’re just using it to its fullest potential.
This article originally appeared in the October 2 issue of NME