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Hotstar


12:00 AM Monday, 1/20/03 |   |

This article's big question is to Capitol Records: Why didn't POLLSTAR get a mini ping-pong table?

Apparently, the label sent out mini ping-pong tables as part of a publicity package for the power-pop band OK Go. POLLSTAR got a press kit. It included an article that had pictures of some editors of another magazine volleying in for a kill on their precious ping-pong table.

Of course, that was an important question to be asked of the band's songwriter, Damian Kulash.

"Oh man, I only got one myself recently," he told POLLSTAR. "I couldn't even get one for my family. I mean, I didn't spend a lot of time looking for it, but I think they made 50 or a 100 of them, so it wasn't like they were oozing out of the pores of Capitol, you know?"

At the time of the interview, Kulash had just done his impression of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who played a football game on a broken ankle.

"I jumped off a stack of speakers into the audience in Madison, Wis. Luckily, it was the last song so I didn't have to go much longer," he said. "I actually thought it was a really bad bruise or something and just tried to keep my weight off of it for the rest of the evening."

The ankle turned out to be broken and Kulash played several shows sitting down because of the cast.

"It's been sort of fun," he said. "I do like to move around a lot, but sitting down offers me a chance to concentrate on things I normally don't. If you listen to live tapes of our shows, it probably has been a lot tighter. I'm not sure if a normal fan would actually catch the difference, though."

OK Go is known for being a tremendous crowd pleaser. Even though the songs alone, which can be best described as fun with a heavy influence on '70s harmonies (like Queen), are built for live performance, the band also has a reputation for hamming it up between songs. The members have been known to do a choreographed boy band dance that rivals the real thing or even to reenact an entire scene from "Les Miserables."

"Our show isn't full of trickery," Kulash said. "But, at the same time, we just enjoy ourselves up there and there's a synthetic quality to any performance. I think musicians uphold this myth that what they're doing is like opening a window into their soul every night ... (but) it's a practiced and rehearsed event. ... From our perspective it's, like, why not take the extra steps to actually perform something?"

OK Go has been an up-and-coming band for quite some time. Soon after Andy Slater was tapped as CEO of Capitol in 2001, he mentioned to the Los Angeles Times that a group to watch out for was OK Go. It seemed the band had been poised for stardom nearly two years before its self-titled debut showed up last summer.

"Every kid who makes a record wants to see it come out the minute they're done with it, see it soar to the top of the charts and tour the universe," Kulash said. "But Capitol wanted to make sure we could be a top priority and if we came out the same month as Coldplay, we would have been the second topic of discussion on a lot of phone calls. So, we were actually happy."

It worked out quite well, with the band's album debuting at No. 1 on SoundScan's new artist albums chart.

When Frank Riley left Monterey Peninsula to form High Road Touring, OK Go went with him. Kulash said the band was careful to choose a support team that would help build a long-term career.

"I know everybody says this cliche, but we're trying to run the marathon, not the sprint," he said. "At the end of the day, for all the wrangling and finagling that a manager or label or a booking agent does, all of that can only happen if people actually care. Figuring out who the people who care are is sort of the root of what makes the whole thing run."

The band was introduced to its management company, The Hornblow Group, through They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh, who at first wanted to co-manage the band. It turned out that Flansburgh's own rock career took up too much time for him to start a second one as a manager.

At about this point in most articles about OK Go, there is a mention of Kulash's matriculation at Brown University as a semiotics major. Also mentioned is how he and bandmate Tim Nordwind met: playing table tennis at summer camp when they were 12 years old.

And, hence, we come full circle. Not only is "the little tennis" in the band's press kits and videos, but there's a ping-pong video game on its Web site. And, if that's not enough, the band put together a very witty instructional movie about the game for the Web site that even includes a sub-reference to "The Catcher In The Rye."

"Making that movie did require a lot of extra time on tour for editing things and shooting little bits here and there," Kulash said. "But, at the same time, any musician worth their salt is doing it because they love making things."

OK Go is currently co-headlining a tour with The Donnas, then will make runs through Europe and Japan. According to High Road Touring, most inquiries for the band come from colleges and the agency is considering a college tour for the summer.


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