This Mardi Gras (February 5th), OK Go and Bonerama will release You're Not Alone, a five-song digital EP. OK Go spent the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina recording with the New Orleans soul trombone band at Piety Street Studios deep in the city's Upper 9th Ward. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the EP - available exclusively at iTunes - will benefit members of New Orleans' music community such as R&B legend Al Johnson, who are still struggling to rebuild their homes and their lives in the aftermath of the flood.
"New Orleans is one of the last places in America where music is truly a fundamental part of everyday life," says OK Go singer Damian Kulash. "People get together on the weekends and parade through the streets just playing songs; 12-year-old-kids learn funk on the tuba; everyone dances. Life elsewhere in the world simply isn't as celebratory. If we allow the culture of New Orleans to die by leaving its musicians marooned around the country, America will have lost one of its great treasures."
OK Go and Bonerama will also team up for two benefit shows: a January 11th gig at New Orleans' Tipitina's (as part of the legendary club's 30th anniversary celebration) and a February 2nd show at The 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, which will be streamed and podcast by NPR. Bonerama will open the DC show, then play material from You're Not Alone with OK Go, who will close the evening with a full set.
Engineered by Mark Nevers (Bobby Bare Sr., Calexico, Bonnie "Prince" Billy), You're Not Alone is an astonishing collaboration, with Bonerama lending its loud, trombone-and-tuba New Orleans swagger to OK Go's bombastic rock. Together, they re-interpret three tracks from OK Go's most recent album, Oh No: "A Million Ways," "It's A Disaster" and "Oh Lately It's So Quiet." A pair of covers - David Bowie's "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" and Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" - round out the collection. Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, who wrote "Carnival Time," the unofficial anthem of Mardi Gras, contributes haunting vocals to the latter.
Johnson's Lower 9th Ward home was washed off its foundation by the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina and later demolished by the city without his knowledge or consent. He has been living in Houston, TX for the past two years. Proceeds from You're Not Alone will go towards building a new Habitat For Humanity home for him as well as to Sweet Home New Orleans, an organization dedicated to helping repatriate and support the thousands of local musicians who were scattered by Katrina.
Enthusiasm for the project has proved contagious. iTunes has agreed to waive all proceeds from EP sales, and digital distribution powerhouse IODA is servicing and promoting it free of charge. In addition, free freight shipping was provided by EFM Worldwide/Horizon Cargo, and Music Travel Management contributed free airfare for the two benefit shows.
You're Not Alone is OK Go's first independent release since its self-titled, 2002 major label debut on Capitol Records, and the first new recording from the band since its hit-filled, 2005 album, Oh No. The foursome created an innovative series of homemade videos for Oh No's singles, many of which set internet records. The video for "A Million Ways," which simply featured the band dancing in its backyard, ranked as the most downloaded video in music history before the release of "Here It Goes Again" ("the treadmill video") which logged upwards of 30 million views on YouTube alone and won a Grammy award. OK Go is currently working on its next full-length album for Capitol Music Group.
OK Go will also perform at a special Barack Obama concert event at New York City's Bowery Ballroom on February 4th, the eve of Super Tuesday. The evening - which aims to inspire young voters to turn out at the polls - will be hosted by comedy group Stella (David Wain, Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter) and will also include performances by Craig Wedren and Nathan Larson (doing Shudder to Think material), Nina Persson of the Cardigans & A Camp, as well as numerous surprise guests.