June 17, 2014 at 2:58 PM ET
Past OK Go videos have featured everything from dancing dogs to an extraordinarily complex Rube Goldberg machine, but their latest clip for "The Writing's on the Wall" is stripped down — relatively speaking. The video — which Rolling Stone premiered today after a sneak peek earlier last week — features the band's four members moving through a Brooklyn lot, where a series of perspective illusions have been painted and prepared. In one shot, an arcing camera finds bassist Tim Nordwind's face in a pile of trash; in another, the song's title appears in real writing that forms what is revealed to be a fake wall. Everything you see is actually a trick of the eye.
Taking nearly three weeks to assemble and 50 takes to get right, the video attempts to add motion to the geometric paintings of artists like Felice Varini and Dan Tobin-Smith (who designed the cover of Jay Z's Blueprint 3) while remaining true to the track that inspired it, a pre-break-up report from a relationship in which two people keep seeing things in different ways. The connection becomes explicit during the bridge, when a rolling camera deciphers a message that reads, "I think I understand you, but I don't."
"It was important to me that we didn't add a layer of meaning that's not already there," explains frontman and co-director Damian Kulash. "We wanted to be able to have messages in there, but I didn't want them going throughout the entire song in way that would make you feel like you were reading the whole time.
"Getting people to not overlook or discount the music can be a challenge," he admits. But even if some people miss the symbolism and continue to overlook the music, the singer isn't worried. "When the treadmill video broke we suddenly were a much bigger band than we were the month before, but we also knew that now people were gonna see us as a kind of a one-hit stunt band," Kulash recalls. "We could go in two directions: We could either try to out-cool it — try to out-run it like Radiohead did with 'Creep' — or just embrace it and go, OK, what really worked here."
OK Go's new album, Hungry Ghosts, is due in October.