It's always seemed like the sky’s the limit when it comes to the spectacle of OK Go music videos, productions that over the past decade have seen the band pull off delightfully quirky stunts like dancing on treadmills and filming with drones. This time, the band decided to actually stage the whole thing in the sky.
The new video for the band’s song "Upside Down & Inside Out," which premiered Thursday on Facebook (and has already racked up more than 2 million views there), captures their performance in zero gravity while flying over Russia in a special plane that’s used to train cosmonauts.
The result of months of planning and sponsored by Russia’s S7 Airlines, the video features the familiar ingredients of an OK Go shoot like intricate choreography, bright splashes of color, and a trippy visual twist. That twist this time is the result of filming inside a plane flying parabolic maneuvers, climbing and diving at such high speeds that guitarist Andy Ross says at certain points the occupants stop moving relative to the plane, creating brief periods of weightlessness.
"The physics of this thing are wild," Ross tells Fast Company about the new video, which was co-directed by lead singer Damian Kulash’s sister Trish Sie.
In it, Kulash can at one point be seen effortlessly flipping into another seat in the cabin. The bandmates start off banging away on laptops and then fling them away, the laptops floating lazily through the air around them.
As the video unfolds in what appears to be a fluid, continuous take, the view pulls back to include S7 air hostesses Tatyana Martynova and Anastasia Burdina, trained aerialist acrobats who help Kulash twirl around and later join the band in spinning and flipping through the air.
The end result is made possible thanks to a handful of quick stretches on the flight—none longer than 27 seconds—when the fliers experience weightlessness. Those half-minute bursts were all essentially strung together to create what seems like an entire gravity-free plane ride.
The implications of staging the shoot give some indication of why Ross says this video, premiering 10 years after from the release of the band’s first, the treadmill-centric "Here it Goes Again," which debuted on YouTube in 2006—was "probably the hardest to pull off."
For one thing, he explains, it was one of the most physically demanding. There’s a reason, he laughs while recalling the band’s time at Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center for Roscosmos (the Russian equivalent of NASA), that this kind of plane is nicknamed a "vomit comet."
"This one was very difficult," he said. "The flight is really taxing on your body. But really, all of our videos are sort of, like, endurance tests to some degree."
As anyone who’s followed their career is probably aware, the band's videos have also served as a kind of unconventional billboard for a group that’s used them to carve out a place for itself amid the music industry’s noisy zeitgeist. Conceived around intricate gimmicks, optical illusions and the like, the productions have turned the musicians into YouTube stars, pushing the official OK Go YouTube channel past 213 million cumulative views, and ensured that each successive premier is a kind of splashy media event.
All of which is to say, the new video is but the latest reminder that OK Go is a band, yes, but also something more. Ross says the band sees itself a kind of freewheeling creative factory, where catchy songs exist alongside viral videos, and things like collaborations with airlines and experiments like OK Go working to encode its latest album, Hungry Ghosts—from which "Upside Down & Inside Out" is taken—onto strands of DNA.
"It's a question we get a lot, how do we come up with these ideas," Ross says. "In a way, the idea is the easy part. We have a list of a million ideas. What we bring to the table is a process by which we can eventually come up with something great. It's about playing around with as much stuff as you can and looking at what works. We pick out the things we like and just go from there."
The band actually had "make a weightless video" among the more far-out ideas on its to-do list for years. Things accelerated after playing shows in Russia last year and getting connected with an agency that connected the band to S7.
"We went to Russia in September to kind of test things out on the flight," Ross said. "We actually didn't know if we all could handle it. We didn't know what types of movement would look good. So we played with a lot of things in zero gravity. We came back to L.A., planned a bit more, and then went back to Russia for two and a half weeks for the shoot."
The result was like nothing the band has tried to film before, sure, but how the group got to that end product is also thanks to the same approach it's always relied on: "We're always trying to stretch ourselves," Ross says, "always trying to push the limits."
See the full video below: