- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

OK Go’s story sounds like every band’s dream: Rock group plugs away for several years, building its fan base and attracting media attention bit by bit, then makes a low-budget music video that becomes a viral Internet phenomenon, and then another. The band becomes an overnight sensation.

Those videos, of course, were for “A Million Ways” and “Here It Goes Again,” both tracks from the group’s second album, 2005’s “Oh No.” Both showcased the choreography of frontman Damian Kulash’s sister Trish Sie and the ironic beauty that is four stiff white guys in suits executing Broadway-style moves. The second video even won a 2007 Grammy Award.

Following these two Web hits of 2005 and 2006, respectively, the band’s momentum surged. OK Go toured for the better part of 2½ years to both satisfy and stimulate demand for its tunes.

While out on the road, Mr. Kulash began to notice a serious drawback to living out “every band’s dream”: Playing practically the same show every night for so long had all but extinguished a lot of his creative spark. “My own music had started to feel like an assembly-line product,” he says, speaking on the phone from Manhattan.

A much-needed antidote came this past spring in the form of a trip to New Orleans for a benefit concert and “artist activism camp” sponsored by the Future of Music Coalition and the nonprofit organization Air Traffic Control.

Mr. Kulash says that while he was there, he fell in love with the Crescent City and felt inspired by the local music scene’s spontaneity. “They just pick up instruments, march through the streets and play songs,” he marvels. “It’s this incredible music culture and one of the only ones left in America.”

During his stay, Mr. Kulash did more than simply listen to the New Orleans sound; he collaborated onstage with a native brass band called Bonerama. Brass is “so huge and so visceral and so exciting,” the frontman says.

After the performance, Mr. Kulash and the Bonerama crew knew they had something worth recording. The result is the OK Go/Bonerama EP “You’re Not Alone,” which includes new interpretations of three tunes from “Oh No” (“A Million Ways,” “It’s a Disaster” and “Oh Lately It’s So Quiet”) plus covers of David Bowie’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” and Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” The sound might be described as funked-up, pumped-up brass power-pop.

All proceeds from the album (due out Tuesday on ITunes) go to Sweet Home New Orleans, an organization that helps musicians and other artists displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and to Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, a fixture of the New Orleans music scene who also was hit hard by the disaster.

In conjunction with the record, OK Go and Bonerama played a benefit show at the Crescent City hot spot Tipitina’s on Jan. 11 and will reprise the act tomorrow at the 9:30 Club (www.930.com). Mr. Kulash says the bands may add more benefit concerts later, but these two dates are the only ones scheduled so far — which makes Washington-area OK Go fans very lucky indeed.

Why did our city get this honor? Three reasons, Mr. Kulash says: It’s his hometown, it holds symbolic value, and it’s one of OK Go’s “favorite stops.”

“Playing with Bonerama is so exciting,” he says. “There is something so magnetic about the chemistry. I’m not sure how to describe it, but we meet somewhere in between what they do and what we do … This is one of the few experiences that’s definitely gotten me really fired up and excited again. In that sense, it’s been a great turning point.”

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