OK Go likes taking chances 

Artistically, it’s difficult to pigeonhole Damian Kulash, and that’s how the kinetic OK GO bandleader likes it.

In June, his band – which plays The Independent this week – issued the EP “Upside Out” in advance of its fourth full-length recording “Hungry Ghosts,” a breakup-themed CD being self-released.

He also led work on the inventive video for OK GO’s current single “The Writing’s On the Wall.” Based on anamorphic illusions by artists Felice Varini and Georges Rousse, the graphically elaborate video took two months to perfect.

Those are just a few patches on the crazy-quilt career of the head of OK GO, which won a Clio award for its Chevrolet Sonic-sponsored video “Needing/Getting” and has a new wordplay app, “Say the Same Thing,” slated to become a TV game show.

Kulash, 38, started branching out in 2008, when he presciently testified before Congress on Internet neutrality, and wrote an op-ed on the topic for the New York Times.

Lately, he has been speaking at art and technology conclaves, including the EYEO Festival in Minneapolis, the FOO Camp in Sebastapol and the ICON8 illustration conference in Portland. “I’ve been meeting a lot of really smart, talented people in a lot of different fields,” says the Grammy-winning Chicagoan.

“And that’s the most satisfying part of my job, because we have so explicitly done away with the constraints of last century’s creative categories and made a point out of saying, ‘Look, we’re going to chase our ideas wherever they go, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be done with a guitar.’ We’ve opened the floodgates to really interesting collaboration with really interesting people.”

Other backers of OK GO’s efforts are Sony, Google Chrome and State Farm Insurance.

In 2002, when OK GO issued its self-titled alterna-rock debut on Capitol, Kulash’s inner voice warned him against experimentation.

But he learned to ignore it, and to ignore expectations: “It’s this boring, repetitive chant, like ‘Stay in your box, musicians! Stay in your box!’” says the Brown University-educated iconoclast. “I’m so happy that we don’t have to live our life by those rules anymore.”

Interestingly, “The Writing” features OK GO’s quirky hooks, even though it (and an album’s worth of “Hungry Ghost” outtakes deemed too somber to release) concerns Kulash’s pending divorce.

But Kolash remains upbeat. If he hadn’t stopped playing it safe, he says, “We’d still be on a major label, having our videos directed by other people, and relying on record sales for income – even though no one is buying records!”



Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Tickets: $22 (sold out)

Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com

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Tom Lanham

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