Bass player Tim Nordwind isn't the lead singer of OK Go, but he plays one in the band's gloriously low-budget viral videos for "A Million Ways" and "Here It Goes Again". A few days before their Jack Daniel's sponsored Studio 7 show at the High Noon Saloon, he took some time to explain to me how that came about, to reflect on special Madison memories, and to answer my most important question.
"It was just tradition," he told me when I asked why he was the one mouthing the words. The dance routines that close their live shows originated with their first record and the song "C-C-Cinnamon Lips," which Nordwind actually did sing. When Oh No was released in 2005, they chose "Million Ways" as their new finale. Even though he didn't sing that one, he just kept playing the part. With their legions of new fans, doesn't it cause some confusion when Damian Kulash actually does the singing? "It definitely can," he acknowledges, laughing, "but we sorta enjoy the confusion."
They must certainly enjoy the results of those videos, which may be the biggest success story yet to be wrought through YouTube. The backyard dance routine for "Million Ways" only hinted at the phenomenon of "Here It Goes Again," where they definitely took it to the next level. Despite the fact that OK Go have been playing ridiculously catchy pop music since 1998, it took eight treadmills and some dangerous looking moves to get them the attention they deserve. But Nordwind admits: "I don't really care how people get to the music as long as they get to the music."
"Some people like the song and really delve into OK Go-land," he continues, "and some people just leave it at the fact that they like the video." The band seems pretty happy with either type of person. They've recently scored opening gigs for bands like Death Cab for Cutie and current tourmates Snow Patrol, and they've found that the bigger crowds all seem very familiar with their material.
Even though their new video for "Do What You Want" appears to have been made on a much bigger budget, Norwind says, "It was actually done fairly cheap (compared to) what most videos get made for." The biggest expense turned out to be making the outfits for everyone.
The video features the band and a series of dancers and acrobats all clad in suits with their distinctive trademark wallpaper pattern performing in a room covered in the same paper. A bit dizzying, it is almost visual overload, and a worthy entry into the OK Go video library.
The band considers doing these types of promotional shows with their can't-buy-em-gotta-win-em tickets another opportunity to reach a new audience. Besides the obvious perks ("free alcohol"), it also provides a chance "to play for some people who haven't heard us before." Additionally, Norwind says, "It's a show, and we never shy away from playing shows as you can tell from the fact that we have been on tour for two and a half years."
While my first memory of OK Go is from early in their career when I saw them open for They Might Be Giants at the Barrymore, Nordwind's fondest Madison recollection comes from the start of this long-running tour and their first show with new guitarist Andy Ross. "It was kind of a rowdy crowd, when all of a sudden this girl came on stage and started doing this stripper-type dancing all over Andy."
Welcome to the band. After the show, they had to explain to him that doesn't happen every night.
As the interview was drawing to a close, I just had to ask. Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that bass players are nothing but trouble, so is Norwind trouble or is he the exception? "Probably a little bit of both," he laughed, "depends on what time of the year... where my astrological signs are...." He hesitated before confessing, "I can definitely be trouble."
Yep, I thought so.