This week, WPGU’s Alleya Weibel got to sit down with Tim Nordwind, co-founder and bassist in OK Go, ahead of their show this Saturday, September 13th at The Canopy Club.
Alleya: What’s it like starting a band in Chicago?
Tim: Chicago was a great place to start, for us. There were some very healthy indie rock music scenes in the late 90’s when we started. All the bands were very supportive of one another, and all the club promotors were very supportive of the local bands. It was also a very affordable city to live in at the time. You didn’t have to have 5 jobs like you sometimes do in New York City in order to just be able to have a practice space. We were able to have jobs that were sensible and allowed us to rehearse and tour. So yeah, Chicago was a great place to start.
Alleya: In what ways do you think the scene has changed since then?
Tim: It’s hard to say. I moved away from Chicago about 11 years ago. I live in Los Angeles, now, and it’s very hard for me to know. Obviously a lot of my friend’s bands aren’t playing anymore, although a lot of my friends in Chicago are still playing music. I wish I did know the answer to that question, but I don’t.
Alleya: Has moving to LA influenced your music as a group?
Tim: It’s always hard to know. We actually usually don’t make our records in Los Angeles. We do a lot of our writing in Los Angeles, but the record got made in Sweden and Upstate New York. It’s always hard to know how much your environment affects what you’re doing. I will say that a lot of our songs are often times inspired by the people we know and the experiences that we have with other people, so I’m sure that, in some ways, that influences what we write, but it’s hard to truly know.
Alleya: I’m a musician myself, so I’m always curious: What’s your songwriting process like as a group?
Tim: Usually we write on our own, at least initially, just kind of getting ideas together. We all have little demo studios at home where we can work. We’ll come up with a lot of ideas and then we’ll sit-down and play them for everybody and just sort of see what strikes people. From there, we tend to work on things as a band, and arrange the parts that we like in the actual songs. Then we get into production either by ourselves or with a producer. But yeah, it usually starts from one individual person and then kind of grows into the rest of the band. By the time the songs come out, everyone in the band has had a chance to get their fingerprints on the song.
Alleya: I like to think of Social Media as the new frontier of my generation, which I’m sure has helped your band’s outreach through your very famous YouTube videos, and I was curious what it’s like to work on projects like that and where you get the inspiration for the videos?
Tim: Well I’ve known Damian, the singer, since I was 11, and he and I have been friends and creative partners in crime for a very long time. We’ve been making things together since we were very young, whether it be music, or videos or art projects. With the coming of the internet and social networking, it’s enabled us to share things that we always made in a much easier way. We don’t have to go through any type of middle man anymore to share our ideas, and that’s been the best thing of growing up in a band in the age of the internet. We’re always making stuff together. I think generally we just chase our best ideas as far as we can take them, and we enjoy doing that whether it’s with music or with video or some sort of art project or whatever. We enjoy making things
Alleya: I’m curious about the This American Life Live tour; it seems like the ultimate experience for your group because you’ve got a live performance which is also interactive with the audience. What was it like to put that together?
Tim: That was great. Ira Glass kind of gave our band our first sort of major break, as it were. We toured around with This American Life several times. We toured around with them in the states as their house band, basically. We’re huge fans of the program. It’s probably culturally one of the best programs out there in America, probably in the world but certainly in America. It was fantastic. I think his show is amazing because there’s always one theme, and you always get different emotional sides of one scene, and it’s amazing to be able to understand that with a theme, say, like, summer camp, there can be the funniest thing you’ve ever heard, and also the saddest thing, and then the craziest thing you’ve ever heard all wrapped up in one show. He’s such a wonderful and curious person, both on his show and real life. He really just has an insatiable curiosity for people, and why people are the way that they are and they story they have to tell. It’s incredible to even be in the house band in a program like that. It’s an honor to share the stage with people who are able to communicate experiences that make you feel like you’re alive and remind you why it’s amazing to be alive. I hope that, in some way, our band inspires that kind of feeling in other people with the things that we make. This American Life definitely inspires that type of feeling in me.
Alleya: What can Champaign-Urbana expect from you in your show this Saturday?
Tim: We’ve put together a completely new live experience that’s pretty new from what we’ve done in the past. It’s a lot more of an experiential type of event and it’s very multi-media centered. We make a song with the audience, and it’s a party with a real emotional arc to it. It’s somewhere between a party, a piece of theatre, a parade, and a rock and roll show all rolled into one. It’s fun!
Alleya: What can we expect from you guys in the future?
Tim: We have a record coming out on October 14th called Hungry Ghosts, and we have a video coming out right around then, in the fall, for a song called “I Won’t Let You Down.” We’re gonna be touring in the States for the rest of the year, and then we’re going overseas for next year. We’ve got a few more videos that we’re developing at the moment, and then couple of crazy science projects we’re hoping to announce, soon, as well.