Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
There are still five or six scraps of confetti clinging to the dirty carpeting that runs up the staircase from the street entrance and our studio door. It belongs to OK Go, these pieces of fluorescent-colored tissue paper, but we're pretty sure that they've got a deep supply of those shards. The ones left behind serve as a reminder of the lengthy evening that this session was taped on a few months ago. The day also happened to be lead singer Damian Kulash's birthday, and we had a bottle of good scotch waiting for him, as a gift. They broke that out half-way through the seven hours that we were at the studio, perfecting these two songs, with the band rewriting them and giving the freedom to experiment as much as was desired. Listens begat more listens, takes turned into the dozens and with each, there was a call to do it again, a different way - the mad workings of a bunch of creators, not necessarily perfectionists. The thought behind the session - one that was years and years in the making - was that it needed to be nothing like anything the Los Angeles band had ever done before, to take their pop songs into different territories for the first time. It was what led the night to be dragged right on into the midnight hour, even as it started with burger baskets at dinnertime. The band, which began years ago in Chicago, Illinois, has grown into its own unlikely version of fame and fortune, making a name for itself through its imaginative and award-winning viral videos involving fairly technical choreography, treadmills and more. The band won a Grammy award for its first viral video and even so, it's the infectious, hooky music that drives everything the group does. No matter how many millions of views its videos gather, OK Go is a hit-making pop band without any gimmicky asides. Kulash writes songs that are nipped and tucked in all the right places, released out into the world as fully formed nuggets of melody, harmony and insightfully quirky observations on the ways that we interact with each other. He has many takes on the desirous degrees of the human heart and mind and plays all of the right cards when he sings about them, making them feel as if they're as silly and whimsical as they actually are, without demeaning them or reducing them into comic strip form - situations with a punch-line. He frames us as the impetuous and irrational creatures that we recognize ourselves as, if we're going to be truly honest, and he plays that up as a chance to have fun with it all - to shoot confetti cannons, to wear suits and British boots at all times, to drink and be merry. He sings on "I Want You So Bad I Can't Breathe, "So wontcha say yes/So wontcha give in/I can't breathe/I wantcha/Yeah I wantcha so bad I can't breathe," giving the open-ended thought, that uncontrollable urge to get the feelings out, the appropriate punch, that exasperated kick that makes us all feel as if we're on the end of the unrequited. Somehow, it all still feels like a party, a great, great party. We're going to let the confetti lie where it lies for as long as it wants, just as a reminder of the birthday, the visit and the night of scotch.