On Set with OK Go: Making the “This Too Shall Pass” Video

Right now at a chilly warehouse in Echo Park, things are down to the wire on the construction of the great mouse-trap like set of “This Too Shall Pass.” Inspired by the wacky contraptions built by inventor Rube Goldberg (see here), this is the music video for the recorded version of their second single. Damian Kulash gave us a careful (there were rigged up pianos and the miniscule risk of electrocution) conceptual tour of the whole shebang, which is filming on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, for State Farm.

OK Go set a high bar for themselves when it comes to music videos—they’ve exhibited smooth moves on treadmills for “Here It Goes Again”, joined the Norte Dame marching band for the live version of “This Too Shall Pass”, summoned trip-tastic visual effects for “WTF?” and—as a personally stupefying experience—played their song “What To Do” with nothing but hand bells. Right, that last one wasn’t a music video, but it was really effing cool. You’d be floored at the amount of competent engineers, set designers, circus workers and artists who are involved (most as unpaid volunteers) in making this whole vision a reality. Oh, and Damian’s dad was clocking hours, too.

Above: A rolling pin, party cups, Damian demonstrating and me, being very amused.

I can’t effectively give you a play-by-play, because it’s something you really have to see with your own eyes—but the video begins with falling dominoes which sets the entire rest of the video in motion. The video is going to be done in one continuous shot, with a steady cam. Let that sink in for a moment.

Above: Ok Go’s Lego land

Part of this ambitious set up includes, but is not limited to: legos, a tetherball, a piano, balloons, a slingshot, puppets, paper airplanes, a globe, a toy crossbow, a typewriter (and some other ‘dead technology’), plastic ponies, mouse traps, a figurine who you might mistake for Jesus but isn’t, spoons, a car, a shopping ‘trolley’, fake flowers, a mannequin, an elevator, lamps, umbrellas, paint guns and of course, the band themselves. Just don’t expect any menial performance shots.

Above: Damian describing the two “arcs” in the video—of small to large objects.

Designed four months ago by the band and a group of excited participants found on Mindshare (a “nerd network” Damian called it), and using mostly household items and found art, this was a vision before there was a song attached to it.

Above: Wait ’till you see this part of the video. It’s so perfect.

Damian described the creative process for a music video as almost identical to making a song—the former being “more social and gregarious” than the introspective songwriting task.

In plain language, OK Go don’t think music videos are about advertising or even literal interpretations. Some of the actions happen exactly on beat, and there are a couple stunts that do align with the lyrics—but that isn’t the goal of the video. After the plans for this two story maze had been laid out, they gave each track on Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky an audtion, so to speak, until deciding on the most bouyant tune, “This Too Shall Pass.”

Above: Andy Ross and his sister

I’m kind of nervous for them. I mean, there’s no doubt in my mind that these four gentlemen are capable of whatever artistic endeavours they set their mind to, but to shoot this all in one take requires every single little moving part to perform with precision. One slightly off-kilter spoon or a less than forceful hammer blow and things will have to be re-rigged and they’re all back at the beginning.

And that, my friends, is what’ll make the finished product such a nonpareil.

Special thanks to the record label for inviting Buzznet out (and letting OK Go make so many videos!) and for the sweet parting gift—signed Dominoes, snacks, pics and pencil sharpeners! My eyeliner will never see another dull day.

I’ll absolutely let you know when the video goes up for public viewing. I’ve got ants in my pants just thinking about waiting for it.