I first saw OK Go when they pulled into San Diego State's Open Air Theatre in 2007 with Snow Patrol and the Silversun Pickups. It was a perfect evening: The sun had burned out, a chilled wind casually weaved through the outdoor venue, and stars began to flicker in the sky. As far as indie-pop rock goes, the sounds emanating from the stage couldn't have mirrored the surroundings any better.
"That is actually my fondest memory [of playing San Diego]," OK Go's bassist, Tim Norwind, told SoundDiego. "We were on tour with a particularly fun group of people -- and great bands. Sometimes you tour with bands and they keep to themselves more, and you gotta respect that and let people have their privacy. But that tour, and that show -- it was like summer camp."
I distinctly remember when the band (who headline the Belly Up on July 24) launched into "Oh Lately It's So Quiet" -- my favorite tune from 2007's "OK No" album -- I squeezed the hand of the girl next to me (it was my girlfriend at the time; calm down, folks) and soaked it in. OK, as you've probably gathered, I'm kind of a sap. I'm a sucker for melody, harmony and all the gooey stuff that goes into catchy music. Not always, mind you, but enough to know that OK Go make stellar pop music (as well as videos -- you may have seen "Here It Goes Again" on MTV) and have been traversing that road since their 2001 self-titled debut record.
Unsurprisingly, Norwind shared the same enthusiasm for the craft.
"We're lovers of pop music -- we're really into melody and harmony," Norwind said. "We're also big fans of production and get obsessed with the sonic character of the music in the studio. I think we could write things that don't have a ton of melody and harmony, but we've always liked pop music as a broad definition."
While a lot of their songs are undeniably catchy, the group (which also counts guitarist/singer Damien Kulash, guitarist Andy Ross and drummer Dan Konopka as members) don't exactly fit into the mainstream version of pop music. You probably won't find OK Go sandwiched between Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake on the radio. But they're also too big to get relegated to independent radio stations that cater to college crowds, etc. So where do they fit in?
"I can't spend too much time wondering [about it]," Norwind said. "As far as our career is concerned, we've paved a path that's the most interesting to us and feels best at the moment. If you look at all of the albums, there's definitely a bit of different styles and production -- but, at the core, it's us. Damian's voice helps to tie the style-jumping together. That's really the most constant thing. But I think, if we ever cared about it all, it was during the early days. We were a little self-conscious. We were four guys, and it was like, 'OK, you play bass, you play guitar, you play guitar, you play drums,' and you write songs based around that setup. That whole thing started falling apart by the second record -- we got less conscious and started writing songs that just felt right in the moment. We dropped the idea that it had to sound like something that four guys could pull off onstage. We'll figure out how to pull [the music] off live later."
OK Go will get the chance to do just that when the quartet pulls into the Belly Up on Thursday in support of its new four-song "Upside Down" EP. As a precursor to a proper full-length, "Hungry Ghosts," due out this fall via their own Paracadute label, the new funk/pop/dance songs fall right in line with the musical evolution the band started in 2001 -- but they also sound familiar enough to feel right at home.
In other words, they sound great. But enough talking about it -- just go, OK?