“Deviant and dangerous.” According to Tim Nordwind, bass player from the alternative-rock band OK Go, this is the only way to describe their new record “Oh No” released on Capitol Records.
Having already made a splash with their bouncy hit “Get Over It” in 2002, OK Go broke into the mainstream with their whimsical new music video “A Million Ways.” Their recent fame brought them to Times Square on New Year’s playing to thousands, but tomorrow they will return to their comfort zone of college campuses at Toad’s Place.
But OK Go aren’t just throw-away sugar-coated pop-rock — they’re an opinionated group of college grads trying to maintain the musical integrity as well as political awareness of modern music. Lead singer Damian Kulash recently wrote a scathing op-ed in The New York Times repudiating the underhanded maneuvering of music executives, and as a band they have used their music to attack political executives. However, for all their commentary, they’re never dogmatic. The only thing they demand of their audience is that they have fun, and maybe break a bottle or two. Or bring them presents. Your choice.
On January 21, scene was lucky enough to interview OK Go’s bassist Tim Nordwind — a man who has enough energy to fill a stage by himself, if it weren’t for that undying sense of loyalty.
scene: So Tim, after so much touring, do you have a favorite kind of venue to play?
Nordwind: In the UK, for some reason, Birmingham is the craziest place to play. People break things and just go bonkers when they watch us play. Here in the states, Austin, Texas is routinely an amazing place to play. I think one, because its kind of a college town. College kids break things too. And ya know, it’s preferred. We usually just enjoy playing to younger audiences. It’s really hard to find a venue that’s not 21 and over.
scene: Oh, so you don’t prefer playing strip clubs you mean?
Nordwind: Oh, don’t be crazy. Hopefully the next tour will be strip-club-only.
scene: I was getting background and the first article I read said that OK Go has “the raw sex appeal of the Backstreet Boys, the ebullient energy of Hanson, and the wacky alternative-rock vibe of Weezer.” How do you feel about that classification?
Nordwind: Oh wow. Well that’s an awful lot of genres they covered right there. Raw sex appeal? Yeah, well I don’t think I’d ever really describe the Backstreet Boys as “raw” per se. They seem like the most highly produced thing in the world. I’ll put it this way: I’m a short, bald Jewish kid. The last thing I think when I look in the mirror is, “Wow, I’ve got sex appeal.” But if people think that the Backstreet Boys or us are raw sexy, that’s awesome, I guess.
scene: Speaking of being “raw” or “produced”, I noticed that you changed producers to Tore Johanson, Franz Ferdinand’s producer. How does the production differ from your debut?
Nordwind: Well the first record was a lot more of a demo project. The songs were written over a much longer period of time, starting from way back. When we finally got in the studio we felt like kids in a candy store. After 5 years and a bunch of touring, we just didn’t relate too much to the production value anymore. We had really just kinda honed in that live energy and wanted to try and catch that “rawer” feel that we developed. Tore helped us by recording every track on the album live in-studio and made sure we didn’t mess with the extra stuff.
scene: I’m actually recording the interview on Garage Band. How’s that for raw?
Nordwind: I love Garage Band, actually. I am well versed in the ways of Garage Band. I use it actually for this audioblog on our website. I’ll use pretty much just all the cheesy sound samples and sound effects they’ve got on there. I’ve been on the Mac for quite some time.
scene: Oh you’re on the Mac? That’s awesome, you make it kinda sound like being on the pill though.
Nordwind: Yeah yeah, you know, its been making me feel kinda bloated actually. But yeah, the record company had asked us to do a blog and I found these effects to really spice things up. So I started using the “Dreamy Shimmer” effect … and trying to hypnotize people. I would tell people to bring me presents. Pretty soon people did and I got all sorts of weird shit.
scene: What was the weirdest thing that anybody ever brought you to a show?
Nordwind: Well, I once asked for sculptures made out of candy, which was weird in itself I guess. We got one person who brought portraits, or like busts, of the band members made with peppermint, and somebody made the band logo using just Sweet Tarts. It was pretty sweet. But then I got kinda bored with [hypnotizing] and started making audio plays [short serial scenes for the blog]. We actually got our first break with Ira Glass and his show “This American Life,” so it’s kind of an offshoot of that. Our next thing is going to be podcasts; we actually interviewed [Glass] for the first podcast. Its kinda funny — you try to interview him and he turns it around and interviews you.
scene: It sounds like you have a bit of a soft spot for Apple. How do you feel about the iTunes effect on music purchasing?
Nordwind: As a musician, sure, of course I would love it if they bought the whole record. But I understand that desire to just download a single song. If it’s one song that gets them to the show then that’s great too. Sometimes that can be a gateway to the rest of the record. I think it used to be more like that anyway, in the ’50s and ’60s it would be single by single. One song and then a B-side basically.
scene: You’ve got a pretty huge hot spot stop on your tour coming up: Toad’s New Haven. Probably one of the classier joints you’ll stop at.
Nordwind: Yeah, I like that place a lot actually. We’ve played there a few times at least. The only thing that’s strange about it is that they fence off the drinkers. Really just like keep them in a cage. It reminds me of like those old heavy metal videos where the band will play behind a linked fence in a club and the fans are like swinging from the chain-linked fence and whatever. Safety first, I guess.