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updated: 2/7/2012 12:44 PM

Elmhurst native, OK GO up for second Grammy for video

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  • OK GO, including its drummer, Dan Konopka of Elmhurst, left, were tapped to do an update of "The Muppet Show" theme song last year.

      OK GO, including its drummer, Dan Konopka of Elmhurst, left, were tapped to do an update of "The Muppet Show" theme song last year.
    courtesy of OK GO

  • Members of OK GO, including Elmhurst native Dan Konopka, are pictured in their Grammy-nominated video, "All is Not Lost."

      Members of OK GO, including Elmhurst native Dan Konopka, are pictured in their Grammy-nominated video, "All is Not Lost."
    courtesy of OK GO

  • OK GO drummer Dan Konopka, at age 14, sporting a "glorious mullet" and playing on his first drum set in the basement of his Elmhurst home. "I had it set up in the basement -- I used a kitchen chair!" he said. "I wish I still had that kit. Stupidly, I traded it in for a way-less-cool-looking other set of drums."

      OK GO drummer Dan Konopka, at age 14, sporting a "glorious mullet" and playing on his first drum set in the basement of his Elmhurst home. "I had it set up in the basement -- I used a kitchen chair!" he said. "I wish I still had that kit. Stupidly, I traded it in for a way-less-cool-looking other set of drums."
    courtesy of Dan Konopka

  • Dan Konopka

      Dan Konopka

  • Video: Dan Konopka interviews Animal

  • Video: 'Here It Goes Again' video

  • Video: OK GO "This Too Shall Pass"

  • Video: 'All Is Not Lost' video

  • Video: OK GO's Muppet Show theme song

  • Video: Staring contest with Animal

 
 

When OK GO remade "The Muppet Show" theme song last year, drummer Dan Konopka spent some quality time with Kermit the Frog (who thought their song "kicks it"), did interviews with Miss Piggy (she critiqued his clothes and ordered him to get her coffee) and had a staring contest with Animal (Konopka lost).

"It's such a trip to be in the same room with these puppets," said Konopka, 37, who grew up in Elmhurst, watching the Muppets on TV. "You can't help but think that you're in the room with a major, huge celebrity. Like, 'Oh, my God, it's Kermit the Frog!' ... It was just an awesome experience."

Also awesome was OK GO's Super Bowl commercial for Chevrolet, remaking their "Needing/Getting" video by speeding down a dirt road in a Chevy Sonic, striking 1,100 instruments as they passed them.

What might be more awesome, however, is if the York High School alumnus and his band take home their second Grammy Award on Sunday.

OK GO's kaleidoscope-styled dance video, "All Is Not Lost," is nominated for Best Short Form Music Video and will go up against videos by Adele, Radiohead, Memory Tapes, Skrillex and "Weird Al" Yankovic.

The video, done in collaboration with the Connecticut-based dance troupe Pilobus, uses mirrors and special effects to make their modern dance -- done in skintight aqua bodysuits -- mesmerizing.

It's one of many creative videos band members have done since their first Grammy Award-winning video in 2007, "Here it Goes Again," a one-take, low-budget treadmill dance that became a pop culture phenomenon.

The video solidified OK GO as a band that emphasizes its visual product as much as its music.

"We're sorta more known as a video band. But every time you see one of our videos, you're getting the music. I think it's a good marriage," Konopka said. "When they hear OK GO, people get excited for the visuals."

While a student at York in the early 1990s, Konopka hung out more in the art department than the music department. Outside of school, though, he played in a band called Shaka Guru that did Metallica and Iron Maiden covers, and he held a variety of odd jobs, including gas station attendant, usher/concession stand worker at the York Theatre and a pharmacy deliveryman.

"I would bring Depends undergarments, medications and cartons of cigarettes to people," he said.

Konopka wanted his future to be in music, so after high school, he enrolled at Columbia College Chicago and took music classes and drumming lessons. There, he met up with Tim Nordwind and Damian Kulash, who would later become his OK GO bandmates.

OK GO toured and played clubs like Metro, "postering-up" every place they'd play with fliers between midnight and 4 a.m.

"It was a full-time job. And we weren't making any money at all," Konopka recalled. "It wasn't easy, but we were a lot more ballsy about trying to get ourselves out there in the public eye."

They tried a different "getting ourselves out there" tactic in 2005. That year, for fun, they shot a dance video to their song "A Million Ways" in someone's backyard. It was choreographed by Kulash's sister Trish Sie and became an instant hit with fans.

"It just sorta got out there, and it did so well. It got 200,000 views right away," Konopka said. "Our fans seemed to really enjoy it, so we thought, maybe we'll try this. I don't think it's bad to promote yourself more by doing video blogging. For the most part, it was fun stuff."

That stuff included videos featuring a Rube Goldberg machine, dogs, brightly colored paint and dance numbers choreographed by Sie.

"The ideas come from one of us in the band," Konopka said, noting that their ideas to make videos using hot air balloons and a giant water fountain never came to fruition. "We write our songs and record our songs without videos in mind at all."

The band has put out three studio albums, toured the world and collaborated on projects with everyone from Sesame Street to NASA.

Konopka, 37, and his wife just welcomed their first child, a boy named Cohen. After the Grammy Awards, when not changing diapers, he'll be at home in Los Angeles, writing music for OK GO's new album, which they just started working on.

"It's just a totally open universe," Konopka said.

-- Jamie Sotonoff

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for suburban people in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make a good feature, send a note to dgire@dailyherald.com and jsotonoff@dailyherald.com.

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