OK Go has gone and done it: turned the band’s “White Knuckles” video into a dog fest of a YouTube sensation with a little help from a goat.
The video received a million hits in a day after it debuted on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and was posted online Sept. 20.
Sure, the band’s popular, but this time its owes a debt to Riot, Spike, Justice, Jury, Sequel, Zuni, Kash, Bunny, Peanut, Tin Tin, Kobie and Dazzle. And Ranger, a feisty goat who makes a cameo pulling at a leash in the 3½ minutes of bouncy music, frantic stacking of plastic buckets and canine tricks.
Fame came faster for “White Knuckles” than OK Go’s Grammy-winning “Here It Goes Again” treadmill video, which has over 50 million hits in five years, said Bobbie Gale, the band’s publicist.
Playing stagehands to the dogs are the band’s Damian Kulash, Tim Nordwind, Dan Konopka and Andy Ross. Dressed in white from head to toe, they sing “White Knuckles” from their album “Of the Blue Colour of the Sky” as they twirl dogs in chairs and hoist them on planks, tables and into moveable cubby holes by twos and threes.
The band didn’t want a bunch of stupid pet tricks or one amazing dog, but a lot of dogs doing basic things together, said Kulash, the guitarist and lead singer.
“You take any two simple things and make them move in sync and suddenly they have personality. Something comes out of it. There is a gut emotional response to having things moving that way,” he said.
OK Go should know.
The band’s goofy treadmill routine is one of the most watched videos ever. OK Go has also collected nearly 20 million hits on a Rube Goldbergesque video featuring tumbling dominoes, nearly 5 million hits on its first one, a backyard dance, and over 3.5 million hits on January’s Notre Dame Marching Band swamp thing video. The animal video has been viewed by more than 6 million people so far.
The backyard, treadmill and animal dances were choreographed by Trish Sie, Kulash’s sister. She and the band won a best short form music video Grammy as co-directors of the treadmill piece.
“We were in New York eating sushi and drinking sake at a restaurant across the street from Radio City Music Hall, getting ready to perform this thing (the treadmill dance) in front of Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera at MTV’s Video Music Awards, saying, ‘What has happened? What universe are we in?’ But it begged the question, what are we going to do now?” Sie said.
That’s the night they decided whatever it was, it would involve dogs. When the time came, she said the dogs were the biggest challenge and the greatest reward. “Dogs don’t understand the concept of a beat or an eight-count. It’s all one big game to them,” Sie said.
For example, Kobie does a high five in the video, she said. “The problem was getting him to do it just once. He would run out and do it 20 times.” They couldn’t change his behavior so they had to change their timing, she said.
The blueprint was drawn up a year ago during two weeks spent around a table in a Los Angeles warehouse. The band and Sie met with Lauren Henry and Roland Sonnenburg of Talented Animals, playingwith dogs and brainstorming. They decided to shoot in Corvallis, Ore., because Talented Animals has an office there, dogs and trainers were available and they had donated warehouse space. Kulash’s own pet, a brown dog named Bunny, mixed it up with the four-pawed pros.
The dogs underwent two weeks of training. In the warehouse, humans used stuffed animals to rehearse. They built tables and furniture, painted 2-inch-by-8-inch boards and practiced bucket building. The choreography included the trainers moving around the room to guide the dogs through each trick with hand or voice signals, clickers, toys and treats.
On the first 48 tries, mistakes by dogs or humans stopped the work short. They got all the way through take 49, but they wanted to improve it so forged ahead to shoot 124 takes over four days. Around the 50th try, the dogs were so used to their parts they sped up and trainers had to spend time correcting them. The group decided on take 72 for the video.
“Some takes felt more joyful and less focused and stressed but I liked the stress. It communicated how difficult it was to do this. You could see the tension in the guys’ faces. The dogs look playful and carefree, they are having a good time. But the guys kind of look like overworked stagehands hauling stuff around to make the dogs look good,” Sie said.
The video reminds people to support animal rescue, and the band will do just that by donating net proceeds from website sales to the ASPCA’s Rural Rescue Dog Fund, set up to help smaller rescue operations and shelters around the country. The video can be bought for $2, $2,000 or $2 million at okgo.net.
Michael Barrett, senior director of grants management for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the organization was grateful to the band for “showing younger generations that there’s more than one way to help animals in their community.”
Now that the video is a success, the dogs and trainers are all home, the band is on tour and getting ready to release another video (involving food and animation).
Sequel, a red and white Australian shepherd who’s one of the stars, was Sie’s favorite because he most embodied the spirit of the video.
“He could go and go. He didn’t need to be given his cues. He picks up the bucket. Even when we’d be eating lunch, he’d be out there doing his part by himself with a big, happy, goofy grin on his face.”
She also liked Ranger the goat and tried to bond.
“I spent time with him every day. After 10 days, I was determined to make him love me,” she said. “He was polite but he wouldn’t bond with anybody. He was playing hard to get. He was enigmatic, inscrutable. I guess I was drawn to his mystique.”