OK Go's frontman on making viral videos
OK Go had an Internet sensation with ''A Million Ways'' -- now the band's frontman, Damian Kulash, tells EW's Michael Endelman about their new, treadmill-dancing clip
The Chicago power-pop band OK Go were merely rehearsing a gag for their live show when they taped a slickly choreographed dance routine to their swaggering single, ”A Million Ways.” But when the clip leaked onto the Web, it went seriously viral. Now it’s been viewed millions upon millions of times, there are homemade tributes to it, the band has seen a big surge in ticket sales, and they’ve just filmed a follow-up video. Set to the neck-snapping ”Here It Goes Again,” this one involves eight treadmills and some tricky moves worthy of the late Bob Fosse. OK Go’s lead singer Damian Kulash talked to EW.com about their new attempt to boost their Internet fame.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you guys decide to make another dancing clip?
DAMIAN KULASH: It was such a perverse challenge to try to top the first one. It seemed so undoable that we had to try. The ”Million Ways” clip was a mistake, more or less… It was just a practice tape that got on the Internet. So we wanted to see if we could succeed when we actually intended it to be a video.
Why do people like it so much?
This sounds ridiculously pretentious, but I think that it’s all in the fact that they aren’t edited. It’s a single long shot of something that clearly took a lot of preparation. I think that’s why people are so fascinated with lo-fi clips on YouTube in general, because they are ostensibly documents of people’s lives, as opposed to the edited slickness of promo videos on MTV…. I guess it’s just refreshing to people who are used to high-budget, high-production entertainment.
You made the first one for $4.99 in a backyard. Tell me how and where you made this one.
This one was made in my sister’s house in Orlando. As for the budget, we did have to buy and then return those treadmills — and they wouldn’t take them back at face value, so it cost us a few thousand bucks.
You bought all the treadmills?
We bought eight of them. We found a guy who sells used treadmills, with the condition that we could return them a few weeks later if we didn’t significantly break them. We didn’t, so he took them back at a reduced cost. Then we bought my sister dinner a lot. We stayed at her house for 10 days. It was eight days of choreography, then we shot it in an afternoon.
I have to admit, it looks kind of dangerous. Anyone get hurt?
Oh, yeah. A lot. No one got irreparably damaged; it was mostly just bruises and scrapes. Obviously, you could totally break a bone doing this. The treadmills tend to suck you into the middle — so you’ve got one chewing up your ass and one chewing up your back; you get chewed up from all sides. We got pretty scraped up.
How many takes did you do?
I think it was 15 or 20 takes; if I recall correctly, this [final version] was the 14th. I think we only got through the entire routine twice.
Does having these kind of gimmicky viral clips distract from the music, from the fact that you’re a band?
Yes, it does. I worry about that a lot. I know that one day I’ll look back on this and say, ”What the f— were we thinking?!” We certainly are in real danger of becoming that dancing band…. I was in the studio this morning working on this really morose ballad and I started thinking, ”How is the world gonna accept a morose ballad from the band they think of as treadmill hoppers?”
Has the ”Million Ways” clip helped OK Go’s career in any concrete ways?
Oh, yeah. Lots and lots of more people have heard our music now, people are buying more of our records, we’re selling more concert tickets, we’re just a bigger band than before… We played in Moscow last week, where our CD isn’t even released. That’s only because of the video.
MTV and VH1 didn’t put ”A Million Ways” into rotation. Will they catch on with the new one?
I think so. VH1 seems super into it. Our label wasn’t really behind the last one, in the sense that they thought people would think it was stupid joke. ”A Million Ways’ took six months to become a phenomenon, and it took a month for it to reach a million views. The new clip got viewed a million times in the first 24 hours. So the label can see that this is something worth getting behind.