Saturday, May 2, 2015

Three things I learned from OK Go

Sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected sources. When I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I tend to throw on some music and get lost in it. For example, if things are feeling a bit impossible, my band of choice is OK Go.

In 2014 I was one of many fans who pledged to support OK Go in development and release of their latest album, Hungry Ghosts.

Even if you’re not into their music, which is brilliant, their music videos are stand-alone works of art. Like this one  and this one . They even made a clip starring rescue dogs which on first sighting moved me to tears.

The thing I love about OK Go is they have these big ideas, then put a team together and instead of whittling the ideas down into some more practical format they just go all out to execute them. They’re not scared of a long lead-in time. For example, the collaboration behind the “I won’t let you down” clip started two years before filming did (for those in the academy, that’s a master’s degree worth of time right there). You can watch the making of video here. White Knuckles had a FIVE YEAR incubation period (that's a PhD- or at least a sizeable chunk of one - worth of time).

As a pledger I got to help chose the line-up of songs and even have a say in the cover-art, as well as get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how hard these guys work – the less glamorous side of being a world-famous muso. 

The highlight of this process was chatting to band members via skype. Yes, one morning Phil and I were sitting in the lounge room and boom! There were Damian Kulash and Tim Nordwind, two amazing artists, currently on tour in the middle of the US, looking right back at us onscreen (unfortunately it had been a busy morning and no time to iron the ballgown, so I was in my p-jayjays).

We talked about everything – from whether dogs elicit an oxytocin response in people (a band, on tour, were across the latest canine study!) to the substitution of commercialism for democracy and, naturally, iconic Aussie species like kangaroos, koalas and saltwater crocodiles.

But we also talked about their work ethic (they spend a lot more time on their clips than most other artists) and how they create the awesome stuff they do.

So in the interests of continuing professional development, here are three things I learned from OK Go:

  • Be committed to “chase your ideas no matter where they go”. If you’re enjoying mucking around with an app or a drone or a camera or whatever you enjoy mucking around with, don’t put it down. Pursue it and see where it takes you.
  • Do something else. According to Damian, “the best moments for your brain are not when you’re directly attacking a problem”.
  • Roll with the punches. The bigger the project and the more people involved, the tighter everything has to be scheduled – and that can be felled by a disaster. Like when they were about to film “I won’t let you down” and unseasonable rain hit. Or a drunk driver knocked out the power eleven hours before they were due to film “This too shall pass” (see the finished video here).  Be patient, wait it out, find another way, it will happen.
  • Oh and one more thing.
  • Behind every great muso there’s a great dog – or two. Both Damian and Tim have canine companions and love spending time with them. On the day that Hungry Ghosts was launched, Damian took the dogs to the beach.

Thank you Damian and Tim. Hoping there’s a chance for you to make a film clip in Australia one day.