OK Go to headline show

By Colin Shively

After Damian Kulash and Tim Nordwind met over a game of ping-pong at a summer camp in Michigan when they were 11 and 12, they quickly formed a friendship that would last for years to come. After attending the same summer camp for several summers and keeping in touch during their college years, Kulash and Nordwind began sending music recordings to each other, starting a habit that would lead to the formation of a band.

Ok Go

Keyboardist Andy Ross, drummer Dan Konopka, lead vocalist Damian Kulash and bassist Tim Nordwind make up the band OK Go, which will be performing at Columbia’s urban arts festival Manifest on May 16.

After graduation, the two friends decided it was time to form a band that suited their independent style of rock music. Calling on an old high school friend, Andy Duncan, to be the band’s lead guitarist, the trio moved to Chicago in pursuit of their fourth. Upon arriving in Chicago, Dan Konopka soon joined their ranks as drummer to complete the quartet OK Go. After seven years together, band member Andy Duncan left the band, and was replaced by Andy Ross.

OK Go became widely known after their short music video “Here It Goes Again” was leaked onto the Internet, creating a huge fan base for the band. With fans comparing OK Go to They Might Be Giants, the pop-rock fans quickly became fond of them.

After 10 years together, OK Go will return to Chicago to perform for Columbia students at the kick-off ceremony for the 2008 Manifest Urban Arts Festival on May 16. The Chronicle recently spoke with Nordwind on how their ingenuity helped their rise to fame, the band’s thoughts on the Chicago music scene, what it is like to be back in Chicago and advice he has for music


The Chronicle: Where did the name OK Go originate?

Tim Nordwind: The name comes from this stoner bohemian art teacher we had at summer camp. He would come in the middle of class while we were doing something and would give confusing Dungeon and Dragons-like advice: “Touch the tree, feel the paper, draw the difference.” It was funny because we would always make fun of him, and he would sit there all the time and just be like “OK … OK … OK, go.” So that saying pretty much stuck with us our entire lives. When it came time to name the band, we used it.

What genre do you consider your music to be?

That is a tough one. I can tell you what other people say. Other people put us in an indie-rock/pop genre, but it is always so hard to say with any certainty. It is funny because when we sit down to write a song it is purely about our mood; we never say “What type of genre is this song?” We are deep into the music scene. We listen to a lot of different types of music and I hope we will be [eclectic in our musical tastes one day]. Sometimes we want to sound like ’60s soul, and sometimes we want to sound like Daft Punk. We are an ever-changing genre.

How does it feel to return to Chicago for a couple of weeks?

It feels good, really good. Obviously Chicago really feels like home. Some of us grew up here, and some of us went to college here. So it is always nice to come back to where it all began. Without Chicago and its music scene, I really don’t think we would have developed the creativity that we have right now. Our “Here It Goes Again” music video would have never been thought of if it was not for the alternative style of thinking that Chicago possesses. It really is a great city.

How did the Chicago music scene help you form your band?

In a lot of ways there was a very DIY ethic in Chicago and I think there still is. I think that work ethic helped us a lot in the beginning, and we still hold on to that today, whether it is in the form of making homemade videos or creating our shows ourselves. It is the style of our music.

How did you come up with the idea to incorporate treadmills into the video for “Here it Goes Again”?

The concept came from [Kulash’s] sister, Trish Sie, and we had worked on a few projects with her in the past. We did another dance video with her [on the music video] “A Million Ways” so we knew what she was capable of. Actually, that first version of the treadmill video was kind of a mistake. It was a practice tape, really.

It somehow got leaked out onto the Internet, but when we saw how well it did online we decided to make another one a little more professional. We are all insane in the right ways.