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In 2005, three former employees of PayPal, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, launched a small video-sharing website called YouTube. That same year, the power pop band OK Go, who were about to release their second album for Capitol Records, gathered in lead singer Damian Kulash’s backyard in Los Angeles to have some fun recording the lo-fi music video for their viral hit song “A Million Ways.”

Nirvana’s famous video “Smells Like Teen Spirit” not only changed the career of the band, but also ushered in a new generation of grunge music. In fact, Samuel Bayer, the director of Nirvana’s 1991 video, later told Teen Spirit magazine that the video played a significant role in ushering in the grunge era. Now, Go OK is embarking on a concert tour, playing their famous videos including the Grammy-winning “Again, It Goes Here” and the internet-famous “Treadmill” video, which has racked up more than 100 million views on YouTube.

In the pre-pre-YouTube era, neither Ways Million A stop nor Capitol Records attempted to spread the interweb, and they had no idea what a silly backyard game changer their camcorder choreography would become. However, Go OK age had no concept of social media.

Kulash remembers, ‘We unintentionally created a music video.’ It began receiving tens of thousands — and later hundreds of thousands — of downloads on a website known as iFilm.Com. We shared it with some acquaintances as a sort of Christmas card, a way to showcase our foolishness, and there was something absurd and amusing about the “A Million Ways” clip.

Laughing, Kulash remarks, “We would visit Yahoo and say, ‘You did not acquire this homemade DVD from us, but…'” OK Go went against the rules, covertly showcasing the DIY video for media platforms and encouraging influential individuals to distribute it among their acquaintances. “‘That’s not the standard music video. MTV will never broadcast that,’ Kulash recalls being told,” they were informed. However, Kulash states that they were informed, “‘That’s not the standard music video. MTV will never broadcast that.’ … I believe I can disclose this now because we are no longer signed to that major record label.” Subsequently, OK Go persuaded Capitol to officially release the “A Million Ways” video, which was directed by the band and Kulash’s sister Trish Sie. (Below is a screenshot of the email with some very outdated links that unfortunately now lead to 404 errors, but were widely shared at the time.)

“He said, ‘Let’s give this YouTube individual a shot,’ and he was the one who ultimately decided where to upload our next video. Jorge, my closest companion from Chicago, served as our webmaster during that time. The internet had the potential to be a multitude of different things. It seemed like everyone was starting their own thing, and there was a significant amount of that happening at the time. ‘Hey, I’ve come across your content all over the internet. Please share it on my website as well,’ wrote Chad — Chad@YouTube.Com — the creator of YouTube. It was because of that initial backyard dance that Hurley, who was searching for content to populate his growing YouTube database, eventually contacted Word.”

In 2011, Time magazine named one of the best 30 music videos of all time as “Here It Goes Again” by the band OK Go. During its first six days on YouTube, the video became the most favorited music video of all time and the seventh-most-favorited video on YouTube. The video features the band performing an elaborately choreographed dance routine on eight treadmills set up in lead singer Damian Kulash’s house. It took a week of practice and 19 takes to perfect the one-shot clip. Kulash says, “We made the treadmill video with the purpose of showing what we can accidentally make if we decide to make it.” Although it may have been an accident, the video has now been viewed by more than one million people.

A brilliant concept, not one that was initially well-received, but I tried my best to convince them. They attempted to take down all the blogs that were criticizing it. They were the first ones to try it, and it took them a few years, but eventually they realized it was a good thing. “They,” says Kulash. “The reason they tried so hard to take it down was because it allowed people to listen to my music for free. The first thing they did was try to get it taken down.” The reason they tried so hard to take it down was because it allowed people to listen to my music for free. The first thing they did was try to get it taken down,” says Kulash. “It took them a few years, but eventually they realized it was a good thing. And now, every time people play it on the proper YouTube page, we get paid more. We were like, ‘We did the right thing.’ And it paid off when we won the Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video with “Here It Goes Again,” trumping big-budget videos like “Dani California” by Red Hot Chili Peppers and “When You Were Young” by The Killers. It marked a true change in the music video landscape.”

As Kulash expresses, “It somewhat evolved into a component of our creative endeavors,” it expanded and transformed in a peculiar manner as that enjoyable, imaginative opportunity for us to engage in further activities, and as we unintentionally found ourselves involved in the process of producing videos, we definitely did not think, ‘Alright, let’s enroll in film school.’ In pursuit of their increasingly ambitious videos, they have obtained six additional Grammy nominations for Best Video, two accolades from YouTube, three Webby Awards, and three MTV Video Music Awards, accumulating recognition as the “video band” ever since they became independent and eventually separated amicably from Capitol Records.

Among the highlights of OK Go’s videography, there is a single-shot clip titled “Upside Down & Inside Out” featuring the band performing aboard an aircraft in reduced-gravity, along with an intricate giant Rube Goldberg machine. This clip showcases 14 adorable rescue dogs and the band members, including “Knuckles,” “Bunny Carlos,” and “Goat,” performing various tricks.

“To maintain surpassing their own achievements,” Kulash chuckles while describing the band’s internalized stress, “we find ourselves trapped in a situation where I believe it would be quite challenging for us to return to frolicking in my backyard.”

Kulash exclaims, amazed. “We receive individuals informing us, ‘I adore you because my 4-year-old observed your videos’ or ‘because my physics instructor informed me about you.'” (OK Go recently co-established a charitable organization, Sandbox.Org, that offers educational resources for educators to utilize OK Go’s videos in schools.) They also conduct question-and-answer sessions with their spectators, which consist of numerous young children who value the educational, imaginative elements of OK Go’s visuals. One method OK Go are surpassing their previous achievements is by taking their videos on tour with their innovative synchronized-video concert revue.

It’s pretty difficult to win the war for a kid’s attention in the bedroom these days. Technology has advanced so much that these major agencies on Madison Avenue specialize in maximizing all of these things much faster and much better. So, you can’t avoid the kind of fight that we’re still fighting — AT&T says that you should be able to buy into people’s brains and channel faster. The idea was that everybody should be able to do it, but now he says, “It’s less impossible and more internet-breaking.” Essentially, it was possible for a bunch of us dorks to set up a video camera in my backyard like it was the Wild West days of the early internet. Kulash testified a few years after Congress changed the internet, saying that his concerns were that it would essentially break the internet. Since then, creativity in video has taken an even higher level, which will be important for the next generation.

“So the tape is most likely still inside,” Kulash remarks with a chuckle, adding jokingly, “‘Our guitarist recently relocated … And he stumbled upon the video camera on which we recorded [‘Here It Goes Again’].” Damian Kulash, the Treadmill Guy,” he continues, “‘We are ‘the Treadmill Guys,’ which is what my tombstone will read.” Kulash now realizes the significant impact that OK Go’s backyard and treadmill choreography had on internet culture, considering how much has changed since Chad Hurley was merely a former PayPal employee with a vision. I would assume that video is likely the sole purpose for which that camera was ever utilized, so the tape is probably still inside.”

The conversation’s audio can be accessed on demand through the SiriusXM app, on Volume channel 106.

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