Ready … Set … Go!

Joe Shearer

Damian Kulash of FlashFest headliner OK Go talks rock ‘n’ roll, clothes and oh yeah, those crazy music videos

Courtesy Capital Records

Credit: Ron Soltys


Playing with Bloodcat Love, NJs and the Jeff, Winslow and Earthbound

Today at FlashFest

It’s Tuesday.

When I first speak with OK Go frontman Damian Kulash, he’s in his Iowa hotel room working on a commentary piece for National Public Radio. Well, trying to anyway. He’s “doing a really bad job of it so far.” I’m probably not helping, but ah well. Writer’s block: It happens to the best of us.

This isn’t the first time Kulash has written for a major outlet. Nearly three weeks ago, he wrote an opinion column for The New York Times regarding Internet neutrality.

Kulash and OK Go know a thing or two about the Internet. For one, they might not be here without it. “Here” meaning in existence as we know them, not here at Kent State today playing FlashFest. The band is best known for its eccentric music videos in an age where “reality” (yeah, I know) TV has muted the “music” in music television.

So, just how did those quirky, choreographed videos — most notably the “Here it Goes Again” video with all the treadmills — get so freaking popular? Thirty-three million plus views puts the aforementioned video in the top 30 most-viewed clips on YouTube.

“The reason you wind up in a rock band is ’cause you just wanna make cool shit,” Kulash says. “Music videos are just another one of the things that we made. I think we were just really lucky to sort of be in the right place at the right time with music videos and the Internet. As the Internet was just becoming capable of really sustaining wide distribution of videos, we came out with some videos, which were unlike anything anyone had ever seen before.”

It’s strange to think of a rock band and have homemade music videos be the first thought that pops into your head, especially without the aid of MTV or a big-time director. But the power-pop-rock quartet is also known for its colorful, retro wardrobe.

One could get the impression OK Go cares more about image than music, but to Kulash, videos, music and choice of clothes are all essential to the band.

“I don’t really think of them as in competition,” he says regarding the band’s music and look. “When you’re on stage, and you’re doing something that’s inherently performative, it’s nice actually to have things that augment it.”

Speaking of performing, many are probably wondering what the band has in store for today. For a better experience, Kulash suggests you don’t sit back and do the whole statue thing, which has become a bit of an epidemic as of late.

“Our show is pretty collaborative,” he explains. “I think our show is as good as the audience. We’re kind of just trying to make a big party out of it. There are some surprise elements, I think, but mostly we just kind of try to whip up a frenzy.”

Make no mistake. The “show” is literally what keeps these guys — and most modern bands — going, which is why years pass before artists release new records. Touring equals income. Albums . not so much. In fact, Kulash says at one point, the band toured for 31 months straight.

Fortunately for fans, OK Go plans to finish recording its next album toward the end of summer. An early 2009 release is realistic, Kulash says.

OK Go will perform at Manchester Field at 8 p.m., preceded by retro indie band Bloodcat Love at 7 p.m. Local favorites will include spine-blowing NJs and the Jeff, Winslow (formerly 1959) and many others. Earthbound, the Battle of the Bands winner and surprisingly good classic-meets-modern-rock band, will also perform.

Contact all reporter Joe Shearer at [email protected].