The veteran indie-rock band OK Go has four studio albums on its résumé and reliably fills nightclubs when it tours. But the arena where the four-man band, which formed in 1998, truly reigns supreme is YouTube.
In 2006, two of their no-budget, shot-on-camcorder videos—“A Million Ways,” which had them performing a dance in a suburban backyard, and “Here It Goes Again,” which included a more ambitious routine performed on treadmills—went viral. Each video documented a live performance in a single, unbroken take. If one performer got one step wrong, they’d have to start all over. In an age when Auto-Tune pitch correction software and computer animation can erase any evidence of human error, there’s a primal power in the group’s ability to sustain virtuosity for an entire…well, 200 seconds.
OK Go videos have featured increasingly spectacular stunts over the years. Witness the warehouse-sized Rube Goldberg contraption they built for “This Too Shall Pass” in 2010, or the choreography filmed via drone for last year’s “I Won’t Let You Down.” Or the truly taxing (for the band, that is) time-lapse video for “End Love”—for which they remained on camera, dancing and lip-syncing in Los Angeles’s Echo Park, extremely slowly, for 18 hours. (They even lay down for a nap while the camera rolled.)
The band’s latest video, released yesterday, interprets a song called “Upside Down & Inside Out” with gleeful literalness, packing the foursome into the cabin of an S7 Airlines jet that allowed them (and two of the Siberian airline’s “air hostesses,” Tatyana Martynova and Anastasia Burdina, who also happen to be trained acrobats) to dance, and eventually pop balloons filled with paint, in microgravity.
As with NASA’s “vomit comet,” the flight freed passengers from the bounds of gravity for up to 27 seconds at a time. So the band worked around that limitation, carefully planning a routine that had them seated during periods of normal gravity, but floating free during the zero-g maneuvers. In a press release, director Trish Sie (who is also OK Go lead vocalist Damian Kulash’s sister, and the person who choreographed their first breakout videos a decade ago) explained: “Because we wanted the video to be a single, uninterrupted routine, we shot continuously over the course of eight consecutive weightless periods, which took about 45 minutes, total. We paused the action, and the music, during the non-weightless periods, and then cut out these sections and smoothed over each transition with a morph.”
That’s more digital slight-of-hand than we’re used to from this bunch, but given that they could not actually leave Earth’s atmosphere to make their video, we’ll allow it.
The press release goes on to say that the band spent three weeks at the Roscosmos (Russian space agency) Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center “playing, testing, and filming. In total, they flew 21 flights, with 15 zero gravity parabolas per flight, for a total of about two hours and fifteen minutes in weightlessness. Roscosmos provided the Il-76 MDK airplane and cosmonaut training staff.”
A refrain in “Upside Down & Inside Out” goes, “Gravity’s just a habit that you’re really sure you can’t break.” Turns out you can kick the habit, if only for 27 seconds at a time.