ALIVE Exclusive: Damian Kulash of OK Go Discusses New Music and Elvis Costello

By Katie Davis
In Culture

ALIVE caught up with Damian Kulash, lead singer and guitarist of the alternative pop-rock band OK Go, to talk about the group’s new work, what types of music he likes the best and what fans should expect from the band’s show at Old Rock House tomorrow night.

OK go

OK Go. Photo courtesy of okgo.net.

ALIVE: What was the motivation or inspiration behind OK Go’s recent album, “Hungry Ghosts?”

Damian: Well, we create music in a different sort of way. I’m not really sure we had a motivation for creating this album, or that we ever really do, as much as we just get together and see what clicks. Usually, it takes a long time. We play a lot of different chords over and over, layer different sounds and try different things before something works. Then, we run with it, perfect the sound and put the song together.

ALIVE: What’s the most difficult part of this process?

Damian: The music is usually a lot easier to put together than finding the right lyrics to match afterward. Sometimes, once we’ve found this perfect symmetry with the music, and all is going well and in sync with all of us, I kind of wish we didn’t have to add lyrics. I get worried about having the music be attached to something so specific or it coming off as too trite.

We really try to take a more direct approach with lyrics. For me, it doesn’t feel comfortable to write something that’s too abstract or open-ended. Some pull it off well, or it makes sense for them. But we want to be clear about what we’re saying and have it come off as authentic.

ALIVE: In your opinion, what signifies great lyrics?

Damian: You think about topics of songs and how—because romantic loss is usually one of the greatest sad moments of peoples’ lives—love is the theme of so many. There are a few really great love songs, but then because of that, there are so many terrible ones as well. Oftentimes, something like “I love you” becomes oversimplified or loses its meaning. But if you’re extremely talented you can sing something like “I love you” or “I want you” in such a way that is totally believable and honest – like when Elvis Costello sings. You just believe it.

ALIVE: Are some of your favorite musicians those who are very direct in their approach then?

Damian: I mean, I love direct artists like Morrissey and Elvis Costello. Those guys are amazing but then, at the same time, I also really love listening to The Pixies. I’ve been a fan of that band since I was little. But they’re totally abstract and all over the place with their lyrics. I’m not sure I even know what their lyrics mean, to be honest. But it works for them and for their music.

For me, I just don’t think I could do that. I have to go the direct route.

ALIVE: What should fans look forward to with this upcoming show at The Fox in St. Louis?

Damian: Plan on it being a huge party—there will be tons of confetti, crazy lights and new music. We also record a bunch of sounds from the audience and then play it back at different parts of the show. It’s awesome. Don’t miss it.

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