OK Go bassist talks about new album, technology in music

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OK Go is an alternative rock band originally from Chicago but now based in Los Angeles. With the release of their new album, Hungry Ghosts, OK Go continues to push creative boundaries both through its music and music videos, which continue to go viral. After it made the decision to split from their record label after its last album, this DIY band seems to be thriving under their own leadership. The Daily Texan spoke with Tim Nordwind, the band’s bassist, about the new album and its innovative developments. 

The Daily Texan: It’s been four years since OK Go has released its last album. What’s changed for you since then, and how can you hear that in your new album, Hungry Ghosts?

Tim Nordwind: This new record is a lot more electronic; it’s the choppiest record to date. The songs are very immediate, very focused. Within the first five seconds, you know exactly what you’re getting into. It’s definitely a party record, I think. There are some songs about heartbreak and struggling within relationships, but I think the lyrical content is over the backdrop of music that feels joyful. At the end of the day, it’s a record that celebrates the full spectrum of human emotion. It celebrates the highs and lows of life and love. 

DT: I’ve heard you describe the album as “modern and futuristic” and full of “synthetic rhythms and beats.” Knowing that, can you tell me about the role technology has had on the development of your album?

TN: We’ve been mostly away from home the last five years, so we’ve only really had our computers to make music with, so we became better programmers. Pretty much everyone was playing things from computers, things that were meant to be stand-ins for things like real guitars, but the stand-ins ended up sounding more interesting. I don’t think we meant to go down that road, but ultimately, taking our record, we ended up mixing 20th-century techniques with 21st-century techniques, and mixing different eras of technology.

DT: What do you think of the increasing developments and use of technology in music? 

TN: I think a lot of the music that I tend to listen to these days is probably more along the lines of hip-hop and EDM — mostly because I find the production values are more forward thinking. Making music these days, almost anyone can make a record in their bedroom, and it can sound amazing thanks to how advanced technology has gotten. 

DT: Do you think there are any downsides to that?

TN: I don’t see too many downsides to technology in music. Music has always sort of benefitted from technology. I feel like, when the acoustic guitar became the electric, music just became that much more exciting. The great thing about technology is it’s there if you want it, but we live in a time where you can choose to decide how you want to make the art you make. At the end of the day, though, the important part is whether you’re able to communicate emotion and feeling. 

DT: You guys have worked really hard to make your shows more interactive and chose to include some really unique elements, can you tell me how the band goes about designing their shows?

TN: We’ve kind of created a whole new show; we’re kind of building it as we go. We wanted to create something way more interactive, so we sample the audience to make songs, we do question and answer sessions, Damian [Kulash] goes out and plays with the audience. We tried to create a show that allows us to connect and communicate with the audience as much
as possible.

DT: Speaking of interacting with your audience, can you talk about the band’s decision to work with PledgeMusic, the “Direct-to-Fan”
music platform?

TN: We wanted to do something to create a place for people to go and listen to our record, but we also thought it would be a good place to feature some of the more crazier and interactive ideas we have, so if they felt like delving further, they could purchase access to a soundcheck or have us pick them up on our tour bus, Damian could do a caricature drawing of them, or one of the things they could purchase could be a fake documentary on their life. It ended up being a cool way to have a platform for some weird and cool ideas and a way to interact with
our fans.