In the music video for “WTF,” the first single from OK Go‘s upcoming album “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky,” the pop-rockers use a single take in front of a green screen to capture a dizzying palette of slow-fading colors. While the innovative clip recalls the hugely successful treadmill video for 2006’s “Here It Goes Again,” the song’s fuzzed-out funk and odd time signature hint at a more experimental approach for the act’s third full-length.
“There’s nothing more boring than making the same record over and over,” vocalist/guitarist Damian Kulash says.
“Sky,” due Jan. 12 on Capitol Records, is a collection of offbeat pop tracks that departs from the band’s catchy rock sound of past hits like “Get Over It” and “A Million Ways.” “[The album] is more melancholic, and I love it. I’m so much more proud of it than anything before it,” Kulash says.
For the follow-up to 2005’s “Oh No,” Kulash, bassist Tim Nordwind, keyboardist/guitarist Andy Ross and drummer Dan Konopka recruited producer Dave Fridmann (MGMT, Thursday) for a more “spacious, surreal” sound. The album was recorded in two-week intervals from October 2008 to May 2009, and OK Go traded off studio time with the Flaming Lips at Fridmann’s secluded Tarbox Road Studios, a converted Amish barn in upstate New York.
The band emerged with what Kulash describes as a “wintery, dark record,” with tracks like “Skyscrapers” and “All Is Not Lost” showcasing a slower, more falsetto-driven sound. Although the band is not expecting a radio push for “WTF,” a Nov. 10 iTunes-exclusive premiere of the song and video helped “warn people that something weirder is coming out,” as Kulash puts it.
OK Go plans to release multiple videos as a key part of the rollout for “Sky.” After the clip for “Here It Goes Again” pushed the song to No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100 and netted a Grammy Award for best short form music video, the band realized that videos could be an inventive-and inexpensive-means of promotion.
“Videos were understood as a medium of art and advertising, but the bottom fell out on the advertising side,” Kulash says. “But most artists still want to create something cool. If we have the opportunity to do something fun and crazy, we’ll do it.”
OK Go’s visual artistry will carry over to a performance at the Design Miami international fair in December, in which the band will use customized Gibson guitars that project laser lights on a video wall. The appearance of the new track “Shooting the Moon” in the “Twilight: New Moon” film and on its soundtrack rounds out a carefully planned marketing strategy.
“This is the band’s third record, so there’s not a lot of new-hot-thing stories. You have to find your fans and reintroduce yourself,” Capitol VP of marketing Meg Harkins says. “Coming out with a video for ‘WTF’ eight weeks before the release gives us the proper platform to reintegrate the band into the marketplace.”
With a European tour lined up for January and an Asian and U.S. trek soon to follow, OK Go is ready to change people’s perceptions of it. “We’re not going to duplicate ourselves in any way. There won’t be a video of us on elliptical trainers,” Kulash says. “We just want to be the band who does weird stuff.”