Starting March 6th, OK Go are hitting the road to preview songs from their next album, the follow-up to 2005's Oh No. On this upcoming third full-length, the band is looking to some unlikely influences: Aretha Franklin, Al Green and Prince. "I was in a heavy classic-soul/Purple Rain phase — that's why there's not that many guitars on the album," says frontman Damian Kulash of the LP, due out this summer. "Those songs make guitars feel redundant and sledgehammer-ish. If you need a loud, heavy guitar to make your song rock, there's a problem with your song."
Rather than become pigeonholed as power-popping treadmill rockers (thanks to their viral hit "Here It Goes Again"), the band traded their guitars for timpani, trombones and synthy strings to churn out orchestral, chamber-pop style tunes that Kulash says juxtapose club-ready beats and angsty lyrics. "It's like Purple Rain through broken speakers," he explains. "Maybe that's a little unfair — obviously we're not fucking geniuses — but it's dancey and anthemic and expansive."
Recorded with Flaming Lips' producer Dave Fridmann, the tentatively titled Help Is On the Way focuses on metaphorical plotlines: "In the Glass" ponders the consequences of trading places with one's reflection ("not a la 'Man in the Mirror,' " Kulash says) and "Shooting the Moon" is written from the point of view of an astronaut who's involved in a conspiracy and doesn't know what to do."The songs are sort of sad," says Kulash. "But instead of it being, like, 'This is what happened to me in real life,' the emotions are spelled out in a more surreal way."
The band will road-test the tracks when it launches that 13-date U.S. tour in March. Until then, they're soaking in the scenery around Fridmann's studio, a converted Amish barn in upstate New York. "It's the middle of nowhere, but it's not exactly idyllic," says Kulash, whose car has been chased by hunting dogs. "When we got here, we thought, 'Oh, we'll be taking walks through the woods,' and Dave was like, 'Make sure you wear a bright orange jacket and take the air horn so people don't shoot you.' "