Live music venues around the world are shuttered and everyone is adapting to a totally new creative process.
So, now what?
Well, to discuss the future of music and creativity I have the guys from OK Go, Damian Kulash and Tim Nordwind.
Thank you so much for joining me First of all, you've just released this amazing song All Together Now, it's got a sensational film clip as we would obviously expect from you guys.
You're making the rest of us look bad here.
Did you think that when you went into lockdown that you'd still be just as creatively productive?
I know, I went into lockdown early because I got because I got the virus early.
And so I was sick and I knew it and I didn't know what it was but it was time to be at.
At home and I have twin two year old.
So that was a full time job for a long time my wife was sick as well.
So it's very Intense and weird time.
But once once she was able to, to help with the kids again and there were any moments off.
I was I just wanted to like have a moment to play guitar and make some music and I'm surprised that it came out the way it did but it was That's pretty exciting
At the beginning it felt so scary and like and like, it felt like, for me at least I was like in some sort of grieving process.
So, you know, say for the first three or four weeks, it felt like it was a time to.
Be still more than a time to create.
But yeah, I think as Damian started getting better and as we I had some time to process it felt good to start to be creative again.
What was interesting from my perspective like I have a friend of mine referred to The punishment of the disease in my case as being a time serve situation, by the time I knew what I had, I was over most of the symptoms.
And so my sense of life.
Fear and anxiety and sort of like impending darkness was very different than other people's, because even though the darkness for the world was still the same, I just noticed that Tim and Andy, our guitarist, we were all.
Trying to, you know, stay in touch and check on each other and everything.
And I was sort of like, I had less vertigo because I was already at the bottom, if that makes sense.
So by the time I was feeling better, I, I was like excited to be able to work again.
Whereas I remember Tim and Andy feeling like, like we can't do anything right now.
It was It's interesting how like betting the disease actually was a little bit for you.
I mean it's a certainly a really interesting way to look at it.
I know that when you released your your post about actually coming down the COVID, and your family being so sick.
I think it probably, you know, anytime someone we know when we follow their pursuits and we care about them it's kind of scary to sort of realize it can it can hit anyone was your was your experience particularly bad i mean what was your experience like?
In comparison to the world, I there's no way my experience was that bad because I didn't lose any family members and everybody's fine.
And I haven't had trouble finding food, it's the world is going through really terrible things that I don't want to compare.
Our situation to the worst of it.
I will say that as I went through it, it was so the the the needs were so immediate.
When you have to.
Kids like to little toddlers like my kids didn't know what's going on they just knew that mommy needed to nap a lot and.
And, the pressing concerns of keeping them entertained and fed were, like, enough to.
Keep me focused all day long.
And it was only when it was when it sorta all passed that I was like, that was really, really close.
You know, and, and I don't know, like it's really hard to explain but there was, there were a lot of moments when I was really worried about my wife, but it was you just couldn't You can't stop and be like, what's going to happen now?
I have tried to explain this other people and it never comes out right.
So it probably won't hear either.
But I imagine the sort of terror of something like this in one of two camps.
One is like the movie pandemic, where like people are like, society breaks down and everybody's fighting with each other.
And the other is like someone who has a long slow death because of cancer or something.
And our experience wasn't like either one.
It was scary, but it wasn't violent.
It wasn't like this is never gonna end you wish it was like just a very weird bad dream and then you come out the other side.
I think yeah you it's a surreal time for everyone.
So I want to talk about this this film clip in this song.
It's a really beautiful song.
And when I watched the clip as I do with all of your work, it just blew me away.
How hard is it to be creative over a conference call?
Everyone's on zoom.
Right now everyone's on Skype and FaceTime but no one is doing anything creative with it.
You guys are quite impressive.
Is being creative is a weird thing for sure.
We've it's like, I think we use zoom to get like as much as we could discussed and then it was like alright now go off and be creative is I feel like it was Yeah, I still haven't gotten used to zoom.
But as you can probably tell by this interview
Yeah, I mean, we're we luckily we're not trying to do the music over zoom.
It's like we were all in touch on the same way that everybody else is in touch, but we're also used to making music.
By recording one thing at a time anyhow and so once we have a sort of basic structure of stuff all that everybody needed to do is be able to like play along with with an mp3 basically.
So you know, we got a basic structure for the song together.
And then it was just like everybody will record your parts you know It is.
And this time is just crazy in general like it makes you rethink the way you think.
And there was some of that, which was fun.
I mean, it was it was fun as well, but it's a It's sort of like a controlled test of something where you're like, having removed the ability to be in the same room I can still find these parts of creativity but not those ones.
And they're, they didn't they don't have names yet maybe it maybe these things will all Become like common knowledge once the world has all had to deal with this but we've never really had to separate out what types of communication are happening because like you you're because of somebody's body language in the room and what which types are happening because of just from here up, Usually video making for us is like, it's the social part of what we do.
It's like we like recording for us is somewhat of an insular experience since usually the four of us like a producer In like upstate New York or something like that, or is the two of us to four of us working on a demo here in Los Angeles or bank that yeah, in the room where Damien's sitting.
So, video time is usually like social time click like collaborate with a lot of people.
And this was a- This was the loneliest video I think we've ever made.
Well, it's also this is the only video we've made where we are.
This is the first recording of the song.
We've done some videos where we are making live performances of the song as we do the video, but this was.
Like this, this very, I mean, I felt like we were writing a song and then setting up a camera to record it as we went and it wasn't it.
Like it's interesting to hear you talk about it.The same way people talk about our other videos because to me this is like this feels like a very simple Document of us recording.
It's obviously edited such that you see each card like- I shouldn't say edited but it's laid out on screen such that you can see there's the guy clapping and there's the guy playing tambourine and so forth but Usually, we have a song that's been built so carefully in the studio and then we come up with a new visual idea that sort of matches it.
And this one was just like Alright, well, here's how the song goes.
So, I guess that's another question I have, you know, you've got these beautifully complex kind of shoots that you do to match these really fantastic songs does.
Does the form follow function or are you coming up with the songs first and always following with a film clip?
I find it so hard to believe that you just had a song about, Floating Away when you just happen to have access to the Zero-G aircraft and filming in microgravity.
But it just follows the song.
The clip comes after the song?
You wanna take that one, Tim?
Surprisingly, we've always made the records first.
We've always made the songs first.
And we might have some basic visual ideas In our files to go to once we're done recording but actually we did not write upside down, inside out for the Zero G idea just happened to be that there was a lot like.
If you think about the incredible Unlikeliness of getting access to that plane.
If we sat around, like if we wrote our songs to video ideas, we would have like thousands of songs because there's so many video ideas that never happen.
I mean, we wanted to do that.
That zero G experience since we learned about it in like 2003 or something like that something we've wanted to do forever, but you don't get access to one of those planes easily.
And so it was a shock when we did get access to that plane.
And honestly, we looked back at our music and we're like, what do we have that would fit this and it was kind of astounding that something
Matched so well.
And I thought about that a lot sense because many of our songs do look, it's like, this was clearly about this, this visual idea.
And all I can think is that the things that are We find exciting to consider or write about lyrically are pretty similar to the things that we wanna play with visually.
So this is like sort of reverse engineering, and I don't know if this is actually true, but It's, when I look back through our songs like there's actually a bunch of songs are sort of about being discombobulated and how that is is good for you in the end or there's a bunch of songs about The preciousness of a single moment, or there's a bunch of songs about how everything repeats itself.
And then you go, right, everything repeats itself is sort of a treadmill and the preciousness of a single moment is You just want to shoot that in in slow motion and like it looks like they've all been aimed for that.
But you could actually go back and find other songs that would do the same thing.
And so what's hardest than building an entire room of shame that you have to try and do in one shot or shooting in microgravity or not talking over each other in a zoom call which directions being the hottest one.
Zoom by a longshot.
Why is that what made the process of that so difficult and like I guess I want to know how you timed it all how you made sure you weren't clapping on someone else's, you know be talked me through the process of it.
Sorry, I thought you were talking about this zoom call.
That the video that video wasn't shot on zoom so we didn't like what we did with for that was Having passed back and forth of demo like we Tim works in Ableton more I work in Pro Tools more but we pass each other demos back and forth.
And like add tracks here and there.
Once we have something that we are happy with everybody basically like I was like okay, we're all gonna clap so everybody an mp3 and an earphone, you know and you just record yourself clapping along to the song and then I take all the tracks back at the end and mix them all together.
And then once we have that song together, we sort of like go back and what's missing and what do we need to add?
And and as long as you always had a phone set up recording yourself while you were making, while you were recording your audio tracks, we have a video to make with it.
The Edit, I mean that what you see in terms of us all happening simultaneously has been edited together by our friend Jeff.
So Jeff Shelton, who has worked with us on lots of videos, collected like we just sent him all of the footage that we had shot.
And over text and zoom calls he and I just sat there going like okay, what if this one goes here and that one goes there and that the editing of the video was was that was the choreography evolving>> and so as we kind of get used to having to stay indoors, stay at home isolate ourselves This probably isn't gonna change anytime in the near future, how do you think this social and physical distance is gonna affect creativity for yourselves, for other artistes, and creatives around the world?
Certainly pushes us to think about it differently, which, I don't know what we'll have to see what those are, you know, hope that its feels like something new and different is emerging in that way.
But I don't think we've spent enough time doing it to totally know.
Yeah, I think about it in two ways.
One is sort of like what is it that.
What is it that people want out of creativity as consumers and what is it that people?
Why is the people like make creative things in the first place and.
Why people like how and why people make things is shifted in subtle ways.
I think a lot of people are like, you know, most painters are working from the studio, most musicians are writing songs alone, you know, but the focus of how you make that will shift subtly.
And then what people actually want or what they can do with it changes a lot.
Because over the last 100 years or so, the music industry has built up over a very strict set of concerns about concerts and record promotion and radio stations and all this stuff that is really built in, all of which is changing so fast.
It's hard to know what type of thing people will want six months from now or a year from now.
And the first wave you see is people trying to recreate old ideas like let's have a concert where everybody pulls Pulls up in their car.
It's like a it's an interesting thing to try.
My suspicion is that's not gonna have the same immediacy or passion that sitting in a tiny jazz club did.
So what type of, emotional connection can we make?
Given these new constraints, some of it we already know it's like we've been listening to two people whispering into microphones and, and headphones for, you know, I don't know since the 60s, maybe like, think about Billy English.
Billy Eilish couldn't sing that way in front of a jazz band, she has to have a microphone right in front of her.
It's like that whispery sound that she has.
And so there's some parts of this we've already sort of figured out.
There's other parts we haven't and who knows, like we don't have any better guests than anyone else.>> And I guess the final question, what do you hope stays with us, you know, if we look Six months a year, two years longer down the track and things have returned to some sorta version of normal.
Is there something that you hope that we can bring with us from this time that will make for a better creative future I have great hope that we can bring all sorts of things from this time.
I don't know if it'll be about creativity that as much as it is about, about community and society, and it's, I'm enough of a of a realist and pessimists to worry that this won't happen.
But I have been- Pleased to see how quickly people can embrace change when they need to.
And there's it feels a little bit like a test run for the climate problems, that are facing us and a test run for all sorta Community connection, like, there's a kind of Western Ethos\g of like, every man for himself, that I think like, the sort of American ideal of the cowboy out there just doing things himself and In a world is as crowded and interdependent as ours that's not realistic and it's not sane and it's not moral.
And this is teaching us quickly that we are all really connected that like a single, fish stall in China can touch all of us in a matter of a half a year and It really makes you, realize that we have to, rethink the idea of, individualism and community.
So hopefully that will happen.
I agree with that, wholeheartedly.
Well, I think the ideas of community, and working together that's some.
Something we can all take away with us when we're sitting alone in our houses right now.
Guys, thanks so much for joining us.
Congrats on the new song and here's to many more creative projects.