OK Go’s third studio album, Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky, came out at the beginning of 2010, and spawned multiple music videos, the popular single “This Too Shall Pass,” a Grammy nomination, and the band’s first live album, 180/365, released in summer 2011. The album also marked a stylistic change compared to their previous efforts. It was less raw than their previous Oh No, and a lot slicker with more synths, dance-worthy tunes, and falsetto vocals. The Blue Colour Of The Sky era lasted two years as the band continued putting out more innovative music videos until spring 2012. But finally after all the success, OK Go was ready to go back into the studio to craft their next masterpiece.
It took a couple of years, but finally in October 2014, OK Go released their fourth studio album, Hungry Ghosts, and it was well worth the wait.
Slow Start Getting Into the Studio
OK Go first mentioned their plans to record a 4th studio album in summer 2011. As they retired their colorful “End Love” suits, Bonnaroo interviewed frontman Damian Kulash. He revealed that OK Go would be recording a new album very soon:
We are starting to record a new OK Go record as soon as we can. We haven’t written very much material for it yet. But we have so much material from the last record that we didn’t use, that there are many good starting points – although it’s never that exciting to go back to old songs, even if you still haven’t recorded them. My guess is we’ll have something to play for the world in the spring, maybe next summer.
You can see him talk about the new album at 1:06 and again at 2:05 below.
As it turns out, OK Go did not release new music in 2012. However, they did release three more music videos from Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky between November 2011 and March 2012.
Instead, the band official began working on their 4th studio album in September 2012:
“Tried posting this from ‘gram to fb the other day, but it didn’t work. We’re back in the studio.”
“I’m Not Through” & A Partial Tracklist
After 6 months in the studio working on their 4th album, OK Go decided to share a taste of what they’d been working on. On March 27th, 2013, OK Go uploaded a song called “I’m Not Through” to their SoundCloud and YouTube, and made it available for free download. It was released on iTunes a month later.
To go along with the new single, OK Go partnered with Saatchi and Saatchi for a Music Video Challenge, in which contestants had to submit a video for “I’m Not Through” for the chance to be used as OK Go’s official music video. There were many entries, but the winner was by Nelson De Castro; you can see his video below:
Meanwhile, Damian Kulash and the rest of OK Go continued working on their 4th album. On May 28, 2013, Damian posted two pictures on Instagram:
“InstaFriends, another apology for my silence, but it’s for good reason. I’m in the last crunch to finish lyrics for the next record. To get myself to concentrate I came to the little lake in NH where my great grandparents, and then also my grandparents, met. And it’s too good not to share a little n”
“My view while trying to write lyrics. It’s hard for them not to sound like Wordsworth.”
On May 31st, he shared a behind-the-scenes shot from the studio: “Danimal takes notes on the new jams”
On June 14th, Damian posted another, more telling picture on Instagram:
“I think we’re done.”
The picture reveals 4 new song titles: “Bap Bap,” “Come What May,” “Fight Song,” and “Fire Under The Ashes.” It also shows that the band has 17 song, and that the total album length is approximately 60 minutes.
Announcing Hungry Ghosts to be Released in October
Months passed with very little news on OK Go’s new album. In March 2014 they told fans that news was just around the corner:
On May 2, 2014, OK Go also revealed that a song called “The Writing’s On The Wall” is featured in the new Spiderman movie:
Not only that – “The Writing’s On The Wall” would also appear on their new album as well:
@amandawhitbeck4 It will! So many announcements on that front so soon. Like, next week soon…
— OK Go (@okgo) May 2, 2014
And they didn’t lie about the news coming soon. Only 4 days later OK Go announced everything: The album title, its release date, the tracklist, and even pre-order were all up on their new PledgeMusic website.
OK Go’s new album was called Hungry Ghosts, and would be released on October 14, 2014. In the video, shown on OK Go’s PledgeMusic project website, they revealed a partial track listing:
|Turn Up The Radio|
|Another Set Of Issues|
|I’m Not Through|
|I Won’t Let You Down|
|The Writing’s On The Wall|
|The One Moment|
|The Great Fire|
|Upside Down & Inside Out|
|Bright As Your Eyes|
Fans that pre-ordered the album could see exclusive content, including videos, pictures, and other behind-the-scenes goodies. There were many pr-order bundles, from a simple digital download, to a signed vinyl, to OK Go including you in their music videos, to a private concert. There were dozens of options to choose from in a range of prices.
Moreover, OK Go would also release and EP called Upside Out on June 17th. It would contain 4 songs that are also on the full album.
You can see OK Go’s official statement below.
Friends we are extremely excited to announce that we finally (finally, finally) made a new album. It’s called Hungry Ghosts and it arrives in the world in October via our beloved record label/thing-making company, Paracadute. And if you aren’t big on words or reading, you should just click the video above, where you will hear short clips of (almost) every song from it. Good news, no? We think so. But that’s only the tip of the proverbial 21st century, wifi-enabled iceberg.
Because starting today you can pre-order the album right here, with the digital version starting at just $10. That $10 also gets you a steady stream of exclusive behind the scenes videos and messages from us along the way, plus a standalone EP (called Upside Out) comprised of four songs from the forthcoming album when that comes out on June 17.
But let’s talk about the iceberg in the room, and why this is so much more than just your average pre-order. Ever wanted your very own Converse sneakers hand decorated by by us? Or fancied a custom OK Go analog synth kit? Maybe a ride to a gig on our tour bus? Or to star (in the background of) one of our music videos? Well today is the day, friend. Just have a look below.
Oh and in full disclosure, we are holding back some particularly bizarre exclusives until a bit further into the campaign. Just to keep things interesting. And also because lawyers for major bio-engineering firms sometimes take longer than you’d like to approve stuff. But fear not. Since no exclusives ship until October, you can buy now and if something else comes along later that you’d prefer, simply exchange for it.
Thanks, and we hope you enjoy the ride.
– OK Go
You may notice that the official tracklisting above did not include some of the song titles from the “Final Mixes” picture from June 2013. Some investigation revealed that the leftover tracks could be released in other ways:
@amandawhitbeck4 Some were working titles. Some didn’t make the cut. Some will be released in other ways…
— OK Go (@okgo) May 6, 2014
“The Writing’s On The Wall”
OK Go asked fans for opinions on a first single:
After some informal voting on Facebook and Twitter, the band selected “The Writing’s On The Wall” as the lead single from Hungry Ghosts. They made it available for immediate download for those who pre-ordered the album, and put it up on SoundCloud for everyone else to hear:
OK Go has begun filming their new video for “The Writing’s On The Wall,” and have shared some updates throughout the process.
“OK Go are working on a new video.”
“The new ok go video is happening in a big big warehouse.”
OK Go has also shared additional content that is exclusive to fans that pre-ordered the album. In one of the videos, they discuss whether “The Writing’s On The Wall” is a breakup song.
On June 17th, the music video for “The Writing’s On The Wall” came out to huge success.
It got plenty of news coverage due to it optical illusions. OK Go always does great making innovative and interesting videos!
Upside Out EP
The same day, June 17th, also marked the release of OK Go’s new 4-track EP, Upside Out. It includes four songs that will also appear on the Hungry Ghosts album in October – listen here:
It’s great EP, and only makes us more excited for the full album! You can buy Upside Out on iTunes or listen on Spotify now.
Official Hungry Ghosts Track Listing Revealed!
On July 22nd, OK Go finally revealed the full track listing for Hungry Ghosts. It included all of the songs previously confirmed, plus two new titles: “If I Had A Mountain” and “Lullaby.” The album will include 12 songs:
01. Upside Down & Inside Out
02. The Writing’s On the Wall
03. Another Set of Issues
04. Turn Up the Radio
06. I’m Not Through
07. Bright As Your Eyes
08. I Won’t Let You Down
09. The One Moment
10. If I Had a Mountain
11. The Great Fire
“Another Set Of Issues” & An In-Depth Interview
On October 2, 2014, OK Go decided to unveil a new song a couple of weeks early. Alternative Press had an early stream of OK Go’s new song, “Another Set Of Issues.” It’s a mellower song, and one that grows on you with each listen.
Along with the song premiere, Damian Kulash also sat down for an in-depth interview about the new album. Here are some highlights from the talk:
I understand the songs changed quite a bit over the course of recording Hungry Ghosts. In one case, you brought in a song, “The Great Fire,” that producer, Dave Fridmann, said he’d need to “destroy” if it were going to make the record. It seems like it’d take a strong constitution to hear that about something you’ve worked hard on.
Yeah, it could take a strong constitution. I have a pretty nice recording studio. I have some decent equipment. I can make a record on my own. And I have a great version of that song. If I ever wanna release that, I can release it. The more finished something is, the less I have to worry about it later. We live in a fairly non-destructive world. As I’m talking to you, my computer is sitting here backing itself up from the last week. I can literally go back in time a week. So it’s really not that scary. Especially working with people that you know so well, and love so much.
We frequently get ourselves into situations where we all know that we don’t know. “Is this better than the version that we had before? I’ll sleep on it and tell you tomorrow, because I really can’t fucking tell.”
As you say, we live in such a non-destructive world—we live in a world that’s post-remix culture, where there’s always that question about when something is really “finished.” It sounds like you guys confronted that head-on with Hungry Ghosts, by recording so many different versions of songs. That must take a lot of trust, too—trying to be sure that the version you pick is the right one, at least for this project. I don’t know if a new band could survive that.
You really never know. We did, like, 10 mixes of some of these songs. Which one goes on the record almost becomes a coin flip at some point. “I like this one because it’s louder, and I like this one because it’s more sensitive, and I like this one because it makes me wanna dance more.”
We really wanna have categories that make sense. We want the music to fit in this box, the video to fit in this box, the art to fit in this one and journalism to fit in this one. But all of those categories are really arbitrary constructs, you know? It’s sort of the same with our output. Is it done? Is the Pachelbel Canon finished? I mean, Pachelbel wrote the Canon, and it’s finished—but how many rock songs are built around those same four chords? How many commercials have you heard it in? And the context changes every time you hear it. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad and sometimes it’s glorious. Are any of the Beatles’ songs done? They keep changing around, and the world keeps changing them around. We would love for these things to be stable ideas, but they’re not. You have to pick a line in the sand, and say, “This thing is done, and it’s going out.”
We recently worked on revising part of our live show. We’ve come up with this really crazy production that requires us to go back and listen to our old recordings as a reference point. I’m listening to stuff off our first record and thinking, “Is that really my voice? I don’t sound anything like that!” I’ve probably sung “Get Over It” probably 4,000 times in my life at this point. We play a couple hundred shows a year, and we’ve been around 15 years. But I haven’t listened to the recording in, probably, five years, because I don’t sit around and listen to my own recordings. I hate hearing them. It’s like reading your papers from college—you would never do that! But the truth is, we’ve been working on that song for the past 15 years. And I don’t even remember what the words were about—I sing them every night without thinking about what they mean. It changes and changes and changes a little bit every night. That’s what happened in the studio, just at a greatly accelerated pace.
I read a piece where you described this record as dealing mostly with relationships. Certainly, something like “The Writing’s On The Wall” could be interpreted that way. But is that too reductive?
Well…this is kind of a cop-out, in a way. But what songs are not about relationships? I mean, it’s always about relationships, you know?
But I’m always surprised at how other people interpret these things. “This song is so uplifting and hopeful!” No, that song is angry and depressing. But relationships are exactly that confusing.
There’s a filmmaker who was documenting us in the studio, and he interviewed all four of us separately about “The Writing’s On The Wall.” And the funniest moment is when he’s sitting there talking about this—and [bassist] Tim [Nordwind]’s talking about what inspired the demo of that song, and [guitarist] Andy [Ross]’s talking about the death of a relationship, and then [drummer] Dan [Konopka] is like, “This is a breakup song?” [Laughs.] We’ve probably played that song 100 times in the studio at that point. But relationships are universal, and then they’re small and confusing at the same time.
But each song exists in a universe all its own. There’s no narrative when you’re writing. And then when you’re done and you listen back to them, it’s like, “Oh, wait—this is really a reflection of who I am right now. Holy shit!” [Laughs.] It’s like looking at a photograph of yourself from five years ago or something. At the time, it just looks like you. But now it looks like such a different person.
Is it too reductive to call it a relationship record? Well, everything is a relationship record. And about this record…I don’t yet know. Personally, I just went through a really shitty breakup, most of which happened after the record was written. When I listen to the album, I hear this stupid me, that didn’t know what was going on. But then I listen, and I realize, holy shit, I really did know what was going on. Because I’m talking about it on the whole fucking record!
On October 14, 2014, OK Go released Hungry Ghosts. It was their 4th studio album, and one that continued the sound they introduced on Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky. But this time, the songs aren’t as expansive and larger-than-life as in the previous record – instead, they are tighter, and wound with more energetic detail than before. This makes every fresh listen a new experience, in which you uncover more layers in each song. Hungry Ghosts is an incredible album that will be enjoyed for many repeated listens. Listen to it below, or, if you prefer to own your music, buy it on iTunes. You can also check out our track-by-track review of Hungry Ghosts here.