A graduate of Brown University who spent his time in the Ivy League studying semiotics, Damian Kulash of OK Go is one of the more articulate shaggy-haired rock frontmen you're likely to meet.
Yet over dinner recently at a Los Angeles restaurant, the singer is experiencing an uncharacteristic case of ineloquence. He and OK Go bassist Tim Nordwind are discussing the band's announcement earlier this month that it's leaving EMI, its label of nearly a decade, and starting up its own company, Paracadute Recordings. (In a dig at what the band considers a tailspinning record industry, "paracadute" is Italian for "parachute.") And though he's talked to a few media outlets about the decision in the past week, Kulash is having trouble explaining how precisely it is that OK Go-a band less famous for its albums than for its elaborately produced, free-to-stream YouTube clips-intends to fund its future adventures.
"We just sort of figure," the 34-year-old singer/guitarist says with a "What, me worry?" shrug, "that if we put out a big ball of creative ideas, one of them's going to spit back some money."
Video Above: Watch Ok-Go cavort for the cameras behind-the-scenes at the Billboard cover shoot.
In truth, Kulash is pretty clear-eyed on the subject of Paracadute-more on that later-but in a way his sudden verbal clumsiness reflects the excitement with which he and his bandmates are thinking about their new endeavor.
"What we're doing may fall outside the bounds of what people traditionally want to call 'rock'n'roll,' " Kulash says in reference to the band's nonmusical pursuits, "but it's working. We're chasing our craziest ideas-that's always been the source of the bond between me and Tim." (OK Go also includes guitarist/keyboardist Andy Ross and drummer Dan Konopka.) "And it starts musically, but it goes in lots of other directions, and as the whole system changes, we've found all sorts of new ways to let that creativity out into the world.
"There's nothing more exciting than doing things that are basically uncategorizable and then sharing them with people," he continues. "It's such a huge thrill to watch that explode across the world." Kulash thinks for a second, presumably about the band's Rube Goldberg-inspired video for its song "This Too Shall Pass," which premiered on YouTube in early March and racked up more than 6 million views in its first six days online. "It's hard to describe what it's like to sit in your backyard hitting 'Refresh' over and over again, trying to see whether or not you've hit 7 million yet."