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|The Tour Q&A Game with OK Go’s Tim Nordwind
OK Go hits Neumo’s this Saturday with Motion City Soundtrack, Plain White T’s and The Spill Canvas
by Ashley Graham
Remember that song that was all about the radio and MTV back in 2003? “Get, get, get, get, get over it!” it went. Remember? The band behind its creation was OK Go, and now well beyond the hit that made them, the band is currently braving the sophomore curse with their second full-length, Oh No, released last August. This month they embarked on a national tour with fellow pop rockers Motion City Soundtrack, Plain White Ts and The Spill Canvas. Before it began, though, and in the midst of their European tour, OK Go’s bespectacled bassist Tim Nordwind took time out of his jetlagged existence to answer a few Q’s for The Wig on his then-upcoming tour.
Ashley Graham: 'ello 'ello, how goes it?
Tim Nordwind: Ahhh, pretty good. We’ve been playing shows the past few weeks that don’t start until 11 or 12 and don’t get done until 4 or so. My body doesn’t know what time it is anymore…
AG: Maybe it’s for the best.
TN: Yessss, all it knows at this point is whether it’s awake or it’s asleep… then at some point I have to eat. It’s confusing.
AG: Well let’s distract it… Let’s talk a little bit about this tour you’re going to start next week. Have you played with any of these bands before?
TN: No, we’ve never played with any of them! I recently met Motion City Soundtrack at an MTVU awards show in New York, and they seemed very nice. I’m trying to remember if we knew we were going to tour at that point—pretty sure we did, and they were really nice guys. I know of the Plain White Ts because they are from Chicago, so I’ve heard a lot about them because we’re from Chicago as well.
AG: But you’ve never bumped into them before?
TN: I definitely don’t remember…? I wonder if when I see them they’ll look oddly familiar to me… Chicago has such a huge music scene that it’s totally possible to be in two fairly well-known bands and never have met each other. I remember being on tour in the UK, we toured with a band called the Wet Brothers and they’re from Chicago and it took us touring together in the UK for us to meet. Strangely enough we’d hung out at all the same places, it’s weird. Anyway, then there’s the other band on the tour… Spilling Canvas?
AG: The Spill Canvas.
TN: Embarrassing! Shows how much I don’t know about them.
AG: You’ll know soon enough.
TN: YES! This is crazy because, even when we tour with just one band, it always takes me the entire tour to remember everyone’s names and now I’ve got three band’s worth of people to remember.
AG: You may very well be in serious trouble.
TN: Flashcards or something! Maybe I can have a teleprompter wherever I go… pictures on it?
AG: That’d be sort of obnoxious.
TN: But perhaps more realistic for my needs. I’ll think about that teleprompter thing…
AG: Is this a normal tour position for you guys—being in the middle of a line-up like this?
TN: This is a slightly different thing than what we normally tour as. We don’t usually do a large package bill. So it should be interesting.
AG: How do you have to change things up as far as your performance or your setlist to work with those other bands?
TN: As far as what the other bands do, I don’t think we have to change our set that much this time around. I think they’re all pretty rockin’ bands, so we’ll try to stick to a fairly rockin’ set. Push some of the slower songs out of the set, but other than that we should be able to fit in with the bill. We have a very high energy show, and I think most of these bands are pretty comparable. Obviously in a shorter set we can’t play everything in our repertoire—but I’m a fan of that. There are very few bands that I personally would want to see play for more than 35 minutes.
AG: I quite agree. So how would a headlining gig differ?
TN: We’d play a slightly longer set, but not much really. We’d add in all those fan-favorites which aren’t usually the most universally-liked songs. Since this isn’t necessarily our crowd—I mean, there maybe a fair percentage every night, but we’re going to be playing to a lot of Motion City Soundtrack fans—we kind of want to give that crowd what we’ve got, and acknowledge that not everyone is going to know that one song on the early EP. So yeah, headlining—inject in some of those more obscure OK Go songs, as far as OK Go songs get obscure, and, well, they don’t really get that obscure…
AG: Do you have a preference then? Or do you like to switch it up?
TN: I like to switch it up. There are benefits to doing both. I think when you open up for a band like Motion City Soundtrack that plays to 1200 people every night, you often feel like you’re really making progress… if they like you!... You often feel like “Wow! We just won over this whole crowd, they totally didn’t know what was coming!” That’s really satisfying. Also, playing a lot of your own shit and having people there specifically for you, singing all the words, that’s also really fun. Both of them present their own challenges. When [it’s your show] there’s a lot more pressure to keep attention. That’s so exhausting for an audience to have to wait through two bands to see you—and then when you come on they’re tired or hung over or whatever…
AG: I’ve noticed the profile of the band’s changed a little bit as this new album has come out—both in sound and in appearance—and I wondered if you would agree with that.
TN: Definitely. This new record is a lot more raw and a lot more live sounding, and that was definitely purposeful. Our first album is very studio-oriented, and we felt like kids in a candy store and made something that was very high-production and, well, candy-coated. We toured on that record for two years and did nothing but play live. Our tastes changed too. We’d given new life to the songs on the album and almost related more to them live than we did on the recording. We really wanted to capture the energy of what we do live. As far as the image thing goes, yeah we wanted to have something more recognizable and more theatrical to present. Our first record we blended in with a lot of other indie bands at that time, and we were bored with it. We wanted to have more fun with getting dressed in the morning!
AG: Did it change the live show at all then?
TN: I think so. It’s like when you start dressing a certain way, you start acting a certain role, you take on a new character in a way. It’s hard to say, it might be subtle for someone who’s not paid attention to us before, but I do think the live show has gotten a lot more theatrical and in some ways a lot more bombastic. It’s easier to play a character when you… look like a character!
AG: And how’s the new material being received out on the road?
TN: Great, totally great. We have so much more fun playing the new material live. And I think that’s largely because we wrote a record that was largely conceived of, written more as, a live record and less as a studio thing… so playing them live, they translate so much better. I have loved playing them live and they seem very well received… so far!
The Motion City Soundtrack/OK Go/Plain White Ts/The Spill Canvas tour hits Neumos on February 25. More info. on the show can be found at www.neumos.com, and more info. on OK Go can be found at their website, www.okgo.net.