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OK Go Dress Me 

Getting off the jeans-and-T-shirt treadmill

Wednesday, Mar 28 2007
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Photos by Garik Gyurjyan Hair and makeup by Samantha Roe

What’s up their sleeve? Tim Nordwind (left, front), coat, Ted Baker; shirt, vest, slacks, Duncan Quinn; hat, Penguin. Damian Kulash (right, front) in Duncan Quinn. Andy Ross (left, rear), suit, Duncan Quinn; shirt, Ted Baker. Dan Konopka (right, rear), shirt, Ted Baker; pants, Duncan Quinn; vest and hat, Penguin. All brooches, Polkadots & Moonbeams; all ties, ascots and pocket squares, vintage.


We’re in the basement of Hollywood’s Magic Castle, and members of the band OK Go are in various states of decency. Their stylist pal Christopher Kreiling mans the large metal clothing rack, moving a symphony of button-up shirts, jackets and slacks. Cocktail tables are strewn with ties, cuff blings, handkerchiefs and hats. Each member — lead singer Damian Kulash, bassist Tim Nordwind, drummer Dan Konopka and keyboardist Andy Ross — dresses in whatever Kreiling hands him, then waits for his final stamp of approval.

“You need a different tie,” he instructs one.

“Try this shirt instead,” he tells another.

After about an hour and a half, and the addition of some hair-care product, OK Go are finally photo-ready, dressed in clashing stripes, polka dots and paisley. They’re a boy band like the Temptations were a boy band, but with the energy of the Monkees. They have style but look authentic and fresh — it’s hard to imagine them in anything like the formulaic heartthrob fashions of the more recent Backstreet Boys variety.

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Kreiling is proud and exhausted as we make our way up into the Houdini séance room. He kind of fell into this work — the accidental stylist. A Chicago native, he started off doing wearable art, or what he calls “sculptural crazy fashion.” He went to college with bassist Nordwind, though Kulash remembers first meeting Kreiling dancing on a pool table at a party. When OK Go signed with Capitol and moved to L.A., they looked to Kreiling for help.

“I’ve done them lots of fashion favors,” laughs Kreiling. “In the beginning, being a new band, it’s hard to establish yourself unless you’re very stylish. Otherwise, it’s hard for marketability. Teenage girls won’t like you unless you look hot, or if you’re just, like, wearing jeans and a T-shirt.”

There, he’s said it. Most people don’t want to admit it, because it sounds shallow or superficial, but the fashion and style of a band have always been important to the success of that band. From the Temptations in the ’50s, with their matching suits, to the long, hair-sprayed locks of ’80s metal bands, having a “look” has always been important. Even with grunge in the early ’90s, not having a style became a style.

These days, music and fashion are so bound in a reciprocal swap of art form that many bands are taking style to a new level.

Of course, OK Go’s style didn’t start out on a high plane. Odds are you saw them dancing on treadmills in that music video on YouTube. (see end of story for video)

“Fifteen to 20 million people saw us on YouTube,” says Kulash, “but I don’t mistake that for a giant fan base or think that means we were universally liked. The thing that was cool about it was it wasn’t cool. It was fun and inclusive, and it spread by word of mouth. People sent it to their friends.”

Kulash had asked his sister to come up with a dance routine, to confuse their fans. They came up with the “A Million Ways” backyard dance to, as Kulash says, “break the format of a hipster rock show by giving joy.” That first dance was downloaded so much they decided to raise the stakes and came up with the treadmill dance.

“The difference between music videos and Internet music videos is that Internet videos make you like people,” Kulash says. “They don’t feel like an armature of promotion, like in MTV videos. They’re not this big and glossy thing over a band.”  {LAW_PAGE_BREAK}



Here they go again ... Shot on location at the Magic Castle, 7001 Franklin Ave., Hollywood. For membership info, call (323) 851-3313.

After the treadmill dance, OK Go had to come up with something equally catchy and inclusive. So they had their pal Kreiling design a set with suits. The background was covered in furniture upholstery, and he designed suits with hoods that covered the wearer’s face in the same fabric.

“We got our friends and a few dancers to wear these Hazmat suits made out of this ornate brocade and dance,” Kulash says. “They’d blend into the background and disappear. We liked the suits so much we got Chris to make us new ones for the Grammys.”

Those were the suits the band wore when they lay down on the red carpet at this year’s Grammys.

As Kulash explains, “We looked down and thought, this carpet is totally copying our style.”

Kreiling says creating the band’s suits has really pushed him into designing again. “It’s so great to work with these guys,” he says of the band, “ ’cause they’re so crazy. They can pull it off and be pranksters.”

Well-dressed pranksters, of course. The band is outfitted in designer labels like Valentino, Ted Baker, Costume National, Penguin and even Juicy Couture.

Kulash says he got tired of what had become the musician’s straitjacket of jeans and a T-shirt. In 2004, when the band played down the street from the Republican Convention, they thought it would be fun to dress like Republicans, so they all wore suits as a joke.

“That was the turning point,” says Kulash. “We’d added a theatricality to the show, and it was a natural fit. From then on, I just started dressing like this all the time.”

Except today. Just back from touring Germany, Kulash sent all his clothes to the cleaners, which has forced him to show up to the shoot in the dreaded jeans and T-shirt.

Nordwind laughs, “When I saw him, I said, ‘Wow, you’re so 2000 right now.’ ”

The band is touring with Snow Patrol in Japan and Australia, then going to the studio to record their next record. Kreiling will continue to help dress them for videos and shoots.

“It’s so great having someone who knows what you like, and gets it for you,” says Kulash.

“Yep,” says Damian, listing what each band member likes as if he’s reading a grocery list: “Damian always has to have his shirt cuffs come out from under his jacket, Tim likes sweater vests or a vest underneath things, Dan doesn’t want to wear a tie, and Andy is like a big kid — he doesn’t care.”

Beyond dressing the band, Kreiling is now ready to make the leap to designing custom suits for the public. He designed the suit Kulash wore on the cover of Rolling Stone, and he just got a new studio in Echo Park and is setting up with patternmakers.

“First,” he says, “I’m going to have prototypes to fit or make crazy brocade pieces, if people want them.”

But this is all in the embryonic stage. “There is a part that’s enjoyable about styling, but there’s a lot that’s not. It’s fun when you can make things look good and follow through an idea, but chasing 10,000 items and, you know, trying to find a diamond in the shag carpeting is not fun. I think designing will be nice.”


Ted Baker, 131 N. Robertson Blvd., L.A., (310) 550-7855; Duncan Quinn, 8380 Melrose Ave., No. 100, L.A., (323) 782-9205; Penguin, 8215 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 655-0401; Polkadots & Moonbeams, 8367 W. Third St., L.A., (323) 651-1746

For tour dates and other info on OK Go, check www.okgo.net/shows.aspx. For bookings and more information, e-mail Christopher Kreiling at Rockoriginal@gmail.com.


OK Go – Here It Goes Again
Reach the writer at limmediato@laweekly.com

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