BWW Exclusive Interview: Pop-Duo KARMIN Rocks to the Beat of New Album 'Pulses'
After skyrocketing to fame via YouTube, the pop-duo KARMIN is ready to prove they are more than just your everyday cover band with an original album and continuing tour. The duo appeared in concert last night, February 11th at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis, MN.
Below, check out an exclusive play-by-play of the night followed by an interview with the artists themselves!
TUESDAY NIGHT: 6:32 PM
It smells like a healthy combination of pubescent teenagers and over-served twenty-somethings in here.
I'm standing in the Varsity Theater--nestled in the heart of Dinkytown, Minneapolis--waiting for KARMIN to take the stage for their Pulses Tour. The crowd isn't particularly packed but it's certainly a lively bunch and there's definitely enough room to bust-a-move or two when the mood strikes, which is quite appealing for a guy like me. The pop-duo who recently made quite the splash on the music scene may not be a household name just yet but it's only a matter of time before these two stake their claim in the playlist hall of fame.
Back in April 2011, the two posted a YouTube cover of Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now" and the world went wild. The video erupted and before too long it was clear this team had more than just good looks and a love of linguistics--they had star potential. Now signed with Epic Records, they've proven they are more than just a cover band, have been featured in quite a few nationally syndicated commercials--think Dasani (yes, the water) and Sony to name a few--and are finally releasing their long anticipated album Pulses this March, or so they hope.
The opener and Act One (as I like to call it) BRYCE VINE is on stage engaging the anxious crowd with some surprisingly catchy tunes. I'll admit, I'd never heard of the band until this evening but since then I've purchased the album and have been humming their songs ever since. And if you've never heard of them, it's definitely worth a Google search and a few minutes on YouTube. But at the end of the day, no matter how much they encourage to the room to wave, clap and sing-a-long--we're all here to see KARMIN. Sorry, fellas!
It's about half past seven and BRYCE VINE is long gone when the lights dim and room buzzes in anticipation. In only a few seconds, KARMIN will take the stage and the audience can barely contain themselves. The band blares and we see our first glimpse of the attractive duo. Nick Noonan hits the stage in a blue tank looking like a dark-haired musically gifted Adonis. The crowd cheers. Then the fairer, estrogen charged, and current blonde-bombshell Amy Heidemann takes the stage. The crowd loses their minds. In an instant the pop-duo known as Karmin has us in the palm of their hands. And within a few minutes, it's a sea of mobile devices, stretched high and striving to capture ever second of this high-energy concert.
KARMIN hits the ground running and doesn't look back as they take us on a fast-paced, body-rockin' trip through their new album Pulses. Along the way, they even manage to throw in a few classic covers including their viral sensation "Look At Me Now." Yeah, they perform all the chart-toppers, "Acapella", "Hello" and "Brokenhearted" but it's some of their lesser-known tracks that really drive the evening. From start to finish, the concert balances a fine line that not only gave the people what they wanted but also left us craving more. There's a point somewhere in the middle of things when I wish I had a significant head of hair to fling. Heidemann is rapping wildly while flipping her blonde locks to and fro, while Noonan is all over the stage playing instruments, singing and engaging the crowd--from their very first steps on stage, the two are giving it everything they've got.
MONDAY: ONE DAY EARLIER
Between the two of them, it's quite obvious that KARMIN is "hot" and not like, "damn, those two are hot right now, we need to buy their album..." more like these are two really attractive people--so when the duo agreed to answer a few of my questions, the shy little boy in me blushed just a teeny bit. Before they hit the land of 10,000 lakes we took a few minutes to talk Pulses, life on tour, expectations for the Twin Cities and a few other random questions-here's what they had to say:
BWW: Where did the name Pulses come from?
KARMIN: Pulses came from having such an up and down progress since coming from YouTube-the first EP hello was just a party cause that's what we were going through. But we've had much for of a wake up call recording this album-a lot of highs and lows-and that's what is represented in the music. "Pulses" is also the title of the opening track, and one of our favs. :)
Which song resonates with you the most?
The answer changes every week-each one was written to represent a time that we were feeling while recording, but there's one called "Tidal Wave" that hits us both pretty hard.
If you could redo the process would you change anything?
We would love to say yes, but then we wouldn't have the knowledge we have now. Failure is the best teacher.
Have you been to the Twin Cities before? What are your plans while you're in town?
We have, but usually during summer! Since the tour has been so intense up to this point, we plan on staying relaxed, and hopefully seeing a movie!
Which tour stop has been your favorite? Which are you looking forward to?
Honestly, they've all had something special about them-Silver Springs, Maryland, the fans cut out 500-600 paper hearts and handed them out before the show. So when we started Brokenhearted, all of a sudden there was a flood of paper hearts in the audience! We had no idea it was coming-it was very cool.
What's it like working with your partner? And how often are you asked that question?
Next question. Haha, no. Honestly, it's pretty intense-it works very well a majority of the time thank god, but we definitely butt heads once in a while. We're also both Taurus's so personality wise were very similar-which again is good and bad, haha.
Do either of you have any weird quirks or pre show rituals?
Nick does push-ups or jumping jacks, and we both say, "yes" 10 times to each other right before we go on. Also, we have a pre-show prayer and walk through with the band.
What's on your playlist?
Ha! Right now, Pulses!! We're just finishing up the mixing and mastering process, so we've been listening to those songs a lot. Besides that, it's totally across the board-Nick is a classic rock, hip-hop listener, and I love R&B and the divas like Celine, Mariah, etc.
KARMIN continues their Pulses Tour (#pulsestour) now through February 22. karminmusic.com
In April of 2011, Karmin's Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan ignited the blogosphere when they posted a cover of Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now" on YouTube. The clip instantly went viral, racking up millions of views after being Tweeted by such hip-hop heavy hitters as The Roots' Questlove, producers Diplo and Jermaine Dupree, and rapper The Game, each of whom marveled at the astonishing spectacle of Amy spitting Brown's, Lil Wayne's, and Busta Rhymes' raps at warp speed. Her verbal dexterity alone would be jaw-dropping coming from anyone, never mind a young girl from Nebraska styled like a '40s film star in a black corset and ruby-red lipstick. One critic, writing on MTV.com, raved: "Homegirl is a master emcee. Seriously. Don't let the Charlotte-from-Sex-And-The-City-façade fool you - this girl can THROW. IT. DOWN. No offense, Busta Rhymes, but I think this girl just schooled you."
"People look at Amy and expect her to be a straight-up pop singer, but she busts out a rap and she just slays it," Nick says. "I also think the attitude is what throws people, she completely embodies it." "We hoped that people would like our version, but we didn't expect all this," Amy says of the pandemonium that followed. In short order, the Boston-based duo (who met as freshmen at the prestigious Berklee College of Music) were invited to perform with The Roots at Tufts University and appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and On Air With Ryan Seacrest, which led to their subsequent signing with Epic Records, now headed by veteran talent spotter L.A. Reid. "We performed several of our original songs for him live, just us and a piano, and we knew right away," Amy says. "It was something about his energy. He felt music the same way we did."
Although they are already adored by fans around the world for the pop and hip-hop covers they have posted on their YouTube Channel Karmincovers (178 million views and more than 780,000 subscribers as of February), Karmin are ready to show the world what they can do with their own original music. Their first shot across the bow was a high-profile appearance on Saturday Night Live in February, during which they showcased two new songs: the irresistibly addictive current single "Brokenhearted" and the blazing, rap-fueled "I Told You So." "Doing SNL was totally surreal," Nick says. "We grew up watching the show so to have been asked to perform was completely mind-blowing."
"Brokenhearted," which Amy says tells the story of how she and Nick first met, and "I Told You So" are just two of the stellar tracks that appear on the duo's upcoming debut album, Hello, which Amy describes as "an introduction to Karmin. It's a new sound - we like to call it 'swag-pop.' You're going to hear the catchy hooks and the crazy rap verses with lots of wordplay. There's humor, but there are deep, meaningful messages buried within the playfulness. I think people will be really entertained by it."
Working with such top-notch hitmakers as Claude Kelly, Stargate, Tricky Stewart, Dr. Luke, Jon Jon, and The Runners, Hello showcases Karmin's versatility and far-reaching talent. Nick delivers bright harmonies and skilled accompaniment on piano, guitar, and even trombone (he's a trained jazz trombonist) to Amy - a vocal powerhouse who glides effortlessly from singing to rapping.
"Lauryn Hill is a huge influence as a female artist who both raps and sings," Amy says. "I also love Brandy, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, and Alanis Morissette, although her album had a parental guidance sticker on it, so I wasn't allowed to own it growing up. I would sit there with my tape recorder when Casey Kasem came on with the Top 40 and record her music off the radio."
Both Amy and Nick were raised modestly in small towns, which probably accounts for their down-to-earth friendliness. Amy grew up in Seward, Nebraska (pop. 6,000). Her mother is a first-grade teacher and her father sells fiberglass and storm-damage supplies. "My dad plays guitar and would have loved to be the fifth member of The Beatles," says Amy, who discovered her own voice in sixth grade after performing for her classmates who thought she was lip-synching. "I remember when [Swedish singer] Robyn's debut album came out and thinking, 'Oh, white girls can sing soul. It's okay that I sound like this.' Because growing up in Nebraska, everyone listened to country music." Amy was accepted to Berklee on a scholarship to study songwriting, performance, and business, and worked as a wedding singer at night and on weekends. "My mom was like, 'You're going to make $125 a night singing with a wedding band in Boston?' It was like I'd made it."
Meanwhile, Nick, a chiropractor's son from Old Town, Maine (pop. 7,840), was working his way through his parents' collection of classic rock albums, everyone from Billy Joel and Elton John to The Beatles, Queen, and The Doors. When he was required to learn an instrument in fourth grade, he chose trombone because no one else did. "My big thing was I could play really high, loud, and fast, especially for a little guy," he recalls. After winning several awards, Nick was also accepted to Berklee on a scholarship. He performed with such luminaries as Paul Simon and Herbie Hancock and seriously considered becoming a professional Jazz trombonist. After the two graduated, Amy tried her luck with a girl group and kept performing as a wedding singer until it finally dawned on her and Nick that they should be making music together.