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OK Go’s Tim Nordwind talks weightlessness and a fear of public gyms

Photo by Flickr user Kris Krüg used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
Photo by Flickr user Kris Krüg used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

Back from a tour of the Midwest, OK Go bassist and vocalist Tim Nordwind said his band has moved past its “Here It Goes Again” days to a more synthesized sound. Below, Nordwind discusses the band’s fall schedule, creative tendencies and forthcoming album, “Hungry Ghosts,” to be released in October. OK Go will perform Sept. 16 at the 9:30 Club. The interview, conducted last week, was edited for length.

Where in the country are you right now? What have you been up to?

Tim Nordwind: I am currently home for five days in Los Angeles. We just got home from a Midwest tour. I’m trying to relax and catch up on sleep as much as possible. We have a show [Aug. 24] in Cleveland, and then we’re headed to Japan after that to work on a new video. It should be cool. Then we come back in September and start up our tour on the East Coast.

I want to talk music videos. Fans have said they see a conflict between OK Go as video producers and music makers. Over the course of your career, how have you seen that perception change, if it has at all?

TN: I’m happy to be seen either way because we do both things. [Music videos] are projects. I also think as we’ve come into the 21st century, it’s an antiquated idea that musicians can only make music and artists can only make art and filmmakers can only make movies. Especially now that everything exists online, everything is blending into the other thing, and I think we’re a good and early example of that. But I also don’t want to apologize for the fact that we’re making films as well or that we’re interested in doing a collaboration with an art museum or interested in making a TV show. We just like to make things. I feel like we don’t need to fight anymore about what we are. It’s clear at this point that we do a bunch of different things, and I feel lucky that we can do all of them under the OK Go umbrella. It’s kind of a dream come true, in the sense that I grew up doing theater and always loved music and art. I feel lucky that we can continue to chase all those. It’s insane. People can see us how they want to see us, you know?

Do you think music videos are slowly making a comeback, that the more well-rounded artists are becoming more normalized in pop culture?

TN: Maybe people are slightly more accepting of different definitions. It’s hard for me to tell. But it’s funny to me because I also don’t see it as mutually exclusive. If you look at the Beatles, there’s a really good, early example of a band that makes amazing music but also really awesome music videos, like “A Hard Day’s Night” or something like that. They have their own record label and they did crazy art projects on top of all that. I feel like it’s not such a new thing, in my mind. Maybe it is new for indie rock.

What have you not done in a video that you would love to try?

TN: Weightlessness is interesting. What else? Somehow having ourselves or our bodies manipulated. That could be interesting. I dont know, I mean most things seem interesting, but those are the things that also seem like a lot of work (laughs). Or very uncomfortable. Cool videos can be made from those things.

You’ve said before that recording is probably what you enjoy most. What was the recording process like for your upcoming album “Hungry Ghosts”?

TN: Dave Fridmann, who people might know from MGMT records, lives in upstate New York outside of Buffalo. For two weeks out of every month for about five months, we would go there and live in a converted Amish barn, which was made into a studio and recording space. Basically we’d live in New York, start work at noon and end around midnight or 1 a.m. A lot of the record-making process was actually us at our respective Pro Tools computer stations. A lot of this record was programmed and was very electronic. Not in an EDM type of way, but just sort of synthesized. It definitely felt like a very modern way to make a record. It’s a much more isolated experience for us in that sense. But it’s really fun. I love recording and writing.

One of my favorite live OK Go performances was at Art Basel Miami. Do you see yourself doing more one-off creative projects like that, or are you just focused on the tour?

TN: Art Basel is great. Moritz Waldemeyer made us guitars that shoot lasers, that were decked out in white leather. He’s a technologist for Fendi. Those are definitely the kind of projects that we love and make us geek out: the things that blend technology with music and fashion. The interesting gray areas are places where we’re curious to explore. There’s actually a Japanese artist who lives in Tokyo named Maywa Denki, who makes these really amazing musical machines, who we just met a couple of weeks ago and gave us a tour of his studio. I’m hoping we can collaborate with him and do some really fun stuff and work with instruments that can do choreography.

Like a throwback to “Needing/Getting”?

TN: Yeah, kind of. Somewhere between the “Needing/Getting” and a Rube Goldberg type of machine. He makes super cool stuff, really theatrical and musical.

Do you ever work out in public gyms, and has anyone ever asked you to perform the choreography to “Here It Goes Again”?

TN: I’m very shy about exercising. I always have been, even pre-treadmills, and feel like I always look stupid when I exercise. So I don’t work out in public. I keep it pretty private, and I think that speaks to a much deeper problem within me that actually has nothing to do with the treadmill video.

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