The mind-bending band that gave us what is largely considered the decade’s most viewed music video (even the Simpsons parodied it), the treadmill-manned “Here It Goes Again” is back. Never content to rest on their laurels, OK Go is preparing to tread anything but familiar territory with their upcoming new album, Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky releasing on January 12, 2010 on Capitol Records.
The 13-track opus is the long-awaited follow-up to their acclaimed Oh No, which spawned the 2007 Grammy-award-winning video hit “Here It Goes Again” (setting numerous viewing records as it helped transform the then-fledgling YouTube into a household name).” Of the Blue Colour of the Sky is currently primed to kick off 2010 as one of the new year’s most buzzed-about releases. According to lead singer, Damian Kulash, the new album springs from a different departure point than previous OK Go releases. “It’s not so much that we headed in a new direction. I think we’ve just expended the guitar-rock ideas from our teens and we’re starting to get at more root-level influences. There’s a lot of Purple Rain on this record – an album I haven’t stopped listening to since I got it when I was eleven.”
Kulash added that record’s title comes from an 1876 book promoting the erroneous theory that blue light cures all ills. As fits a record influenced by Prince and crackpot 19th century arm-chair scientists, the record is both danceable and contemplative; it’s introspective, with a vein of surrealism running through it. There’s a song that considers the earth before it was round, one sung by a man who’s traded places with his reflection, and plenty of heartbreak and (attempts at) hope, mostly hung on a groovier backbone than we’ve heard from OK Go before. “We started these songs with a groove,” Damian says. “They started as base feelings, not chord progressions or lyrical ideas, and then we layered.” After 2005’s Oh No, recorded nearly live with minimal overdubs, and their swaggering 2008 EP You’re not Alone, backed by the trombone band Bonerama (a benefit for musicians displaced by hurricane Katrina), this new sound comes as something of a departure.
Funk-edged songs such as “Skyscrapers,” “All Is Lost,” “White Knuckles,” and the Prince-inspired, odd-time-signature hip shaker “WTF?” embody the album’s heady flow of adventurous undercurrents. “This album is the most layered production we’ve ever done,” says Damian. Produced by ex-Mercury Rev member David Fridmann (Flaming Lips, MGMT), Damian acknowledges that Fridmann’s singular production style and secluded studio environment in Fredonia, NY (‘you have to drive fifteen minutes for a cup of coffee’ he notes) added to the CDs emotive heft. “We were there to work, and for weeks on end it snowed and we just lived in the bubble with our songs.” Amazingly, the band’s original pool of song ideas numbered more than a hundred, with the group eventually narrowing the choices down to manageable double digits.
Kulash has also kept himself busy with an assortment of activist endeavors – he testified in support of internet neutrality before a Congressional Special Task Force. He and bandmate, Andy Ross, met with leaders on Capitol Hill in the spring of 2008 to advocate for the same. The band also met with then-candidate, Barack Obama, about the specter of access-limiting online practices, and other issues, with the group eventually appearing in ads in support of Obama. OK Go also took time from their non-stop touring regimen (31 consecutive months over five continents) to raise money in support of New Orleans’ music culture in the wake of Katrina. The band’s efforts with Bonerama raised more than half of the money for soul legend Al “Carnival Time” Johnson’s new home in New Orleans.
Damian and the rest of the band look forward to full-fan reaction to Of the Blue Colour of the Sky come January. “I think it sounds more like us than anything else we’ve done,” he says. “Its more like the music that’s in the back of my head, just out of reach, that I’ve been trying to get to for so long. And it embodies contradiction in a way I feel connected to. It’s both the saddest and the most hopeful music we’ve made, and both the danciest and most thoughtful.”