They may have been around since the 90s, but OK Go’s sound is as fresh and exciting as ever. You’ll remember them from their hits and viral videos for “A Million Ways” and “Here It Goes Again,” but it’s time for an update. In October, they released their latest record, “Hungry Ghosts.” The band is currently on tour in support of the album, complete with a stop in San Antonio on April 20. Before you catch the band’s show, check out this conversation with Tim Nordwind, bassist, who sounds off on viral videos, evolving sounds and interactive experience.
After over a decade of producing music, how do you think the group’s sound has evolved? How has that worked out?
I feel like our sound has evolved quite a bit. We’ve been a band since the 1990s; I think in the early days we very much thought about music from the perspective of “I play guitar, you play bass, you play drums: what can we do with these instruments?”
So I think our sound back then was pretty traditional indie rock, basically, with a little bit of “˜70s and “˜80s stadium rock, like The Cars and Cheap Trick and Queen. But I think as time has gone by, in the context of pop music we’ve become more experimental with production.
These days, I think we try to put less rules on ourselves and be a little bit more experimental and exploratory. When we sit down these days, we feel it out more than we think about it. And because of that, we’ve also got different types of instrumentation. “Hungry Ghosts” is a lot more electronic with a lot more programming involved, a lot more synthesizers. I think that comes from this place of curiosity for feeling around until you hit these moments of magic.
We’ve gone from being a traditional rock band to being much more experimental and exploratory.
How would you say that more electronic tendency meshes with your original sound?
It’s all sort of within a pop/rock context. At the core of everything we make, there’s always a sense of melody, of song structure, but what we fill in with is the experimental part. But a lot of the reason we’ve gone down the electronic path is a little bit out of circumstance. We’ve been touring so much over the last several years, and if we’re not touring then we’re on set making videos and things like that.
A lot of times we don’t have our guitars with us, or a drum set with us, but we have our computers and our computer software. So a lot of our demos started as us just programming in the hotel room.
But when we sat down to make this record, we started playing demos to each other on the speakers, and we realized we actually liked what we’d been programming. So we decided that was unique and unlike anything we had done before, and the rest just followed.
I know it’s hard, but what would you say is your favorite song on “Hungry Ghosts”?
It’s hard to say, but I really like “The Writing’s on the Wall”; I like “I Won’t Let You Down.” I think the song “Obsession” works really well live””I mean, I like the recording too””but that one’s been a really fun one to play. “Another Set of Issues” is one I really like a lot; in some ways it’s the most obvious look at the electronic side of what we did on this record.
How have you updated your live show for this tour?
When we think about the live show experience, we know we have access to rooms every night that can hold 1000 or 2000 people. What can you do with a room full of people? Of course we can play music, because we’re a band and that’s what we do. But besides that, we tend to look at what we can do from a film or lighting or interactive perspective.
This show is the most interactive show we’ve ever had””it’s sort of “new media”””and there really is a sense of being larger than life. But we also bring it down to a point where we have literally nothing but human interaction and conversation. It’s a wide spectrum of experiences, and we just try to tie it all together in a way that makes sense to us.
Your videos tend to go incredibly viral. Do you all worry that they might overshadow the music itself? Has it been difficult to find a balance between being visual artists and being musicians?
We get asked that question a lot. We personally don’t worry about it too much. At the end of the day, these are all things we make, and this is just part of the project. If that doesn’t make us a band, then ok”¦but we feel very much like a band, because we started very much as a band, and the music is really at the core of everything we do.
But it is true that we are an interesting 21st century hybrid of a bunch of different things. We’ve always come to find that, usually, when we chase the ideas that interest us the most, that’s when we seem to have the most love and success come back to us, so that’s what we do. If it’s in the form of a video or a song on an album or a live show or an experimental art project, that’s cool. We make all this stuff and it all feels like it comes from us.
What was it like to film the video for “I Won’t Let You Down” in Japan?
That was a really cool process, just to have the opportunity to go live somewhere for months. It was very exciting, and it’s such a wonderful country”¦you know, even just the food alone [laughs].
The process was really nice because we got to go down there and play a lot. We make our videos a lot like we make our records, where we allow ourselves time to really give ourselves some room and play around and make mistakes and find things we hadn’t thought of before.
To be able to have that play out in Japan, in Tokyo, with an amazing creative crew, was just really awesome. It was such a huge thing for us. And I’d love to go make more things there, with a lot of the same people. They’re such an amazingly gifted crew of people.
Given any choice, what song would you most like to cover?
Maybe “Bohemian Rhapsody”. It’d be rather challenging for us, but if we could pull it off it would be pretty impressive. If we could brag about that one, I’d be pretty proud of us.