They originally met at Berklee’s College of Music and have been making beautiful music together ever since. After the Internet success, they were signed to Epic Records as part of L.A. Reid’s return to the company.
Speaking of returning, Karmin is returning the Chicago for the B-96 Bash this summer along with the Fantabuloso show in a week and we talked to them about it.
Jerry Nunn: Hello, Amy and Nick. I heard you are coming back to Chicago.
Nick Noonan: Yes. We are definitely coming to Chicago soon, man. We were there a
little while ago and then we’re coming back at the B96 summer show.
JN: Can you tell our readers what a live show is like from Karmin?
NN: Absolutely. It’s just going to be fireworks and we’re going to be up on an elephant. We’re going to be bringing an elephant up on stage. No, I’m kidding. It’s going to be a lot of live instruments, so it’s me and Amy, obviously. We have a guitar player, a bass player, and a drummer and they’re all killing it. They’re ridiculous, so good.
It’s them and we have a little bit of track too just for all the stuff like strings and stuff that, obviously, we can’t do live. It’s a lot of energy, and it’s definitely a lot more kind of like in the Maroon 5 type vein as far as like the live stuff but still a lot very, very hip hop based.
JN: Where did the name Karmin come from?
NN: Karmin is actually a combination of two words. We’d bee searching for a long time about trying to find the one thing like Coldplay, the Beatles. It’s something that’s just like simple and just big and you get iconic and you can just hear it and see it.
We were going through all these different names and we were trying to find some meanings in other languages or Latin or something like the root languages, things like that. Karmin in Latin spelled with a ‘C’ and ‘e’ means song, so we took that and the word karma and put them together to get our own version of Karmin.
JN: After exploding on YouTube, how did the writing process for the new album go?
Amy Heidemann: It was a challenge, we have to say. We started posting original music on YouTube before the covers became a reality and nobody was really searching for a little duo out of Boston with a wooden box and a piano. We always knew that we had to come with original music that competed with the Lady Gagas and the Katy Perrys of the radio mainstream world, so we were writing songs that kind of would sound good in any genre. By the time we got signed with Epic Records, we had a lot of those songs ready to go with producers. We would go in and they would make them, of course, sound a million times better.
There were some songs we composed solely for the purpose of the album when we went into the studio. A lot of them were collaborations with some of these amazing producers and a songwriter called Claude Kelly, who you might remember wrote Grenade for Bruno Mars and Circus for Britney, amongst other huge songs. We were definitely very careful and we made sure to preserve as much of the Karmin sound that we could while making it compete with what’s out there in the mainstream world.
JN: How did you get to be such an amazing rapper?
AH: I grew up loving rap music but coming from a conservative Christian household, I wasn’t allowed to listen to a lot of what we would consider legit rap music. The parental advisory sticker really kind of limited my abilities to listen to that, but I always wanted to be a part of that world.
Looking the way I do and coming from a background where I didn’t necessarily curse or know much about the lifestyle, I just didn’t know the world would like my rapping so it was actually Nick, my band mate, who convinced me to post a video on YouTube. At the time, it was our biggest reaction we had ever gotten, so I’ve only been rapping for about a year.
JN: Are you big Nicki Minaj fans?
NN: Yes, we are.
JN: What is the message for the title track “Hello?”
NN: We wanted it to kind of tell our story. We had gone through a lot of stuff and we can’t bring our fans and supporters with us every step of the way, so we tried to tell the story in the verses. In the choruses, we kind of wanted to get some of our pride out because we were like, “You know what? We actually could be like the next big thing and we want people to know that.”
JN: What about the song “Broken Hearted?”
AH: Well, we’re super, super happy with how everything is going with the song and just really happy that our fans and supporters are liking our original music. We wrote the song because Claude Kelly was in the studio with us, the songwriter that worked on a lot of the album with us, and he was like, “You guys really need a love song.”
We start writing this song about how Nick and I met, which was at a party in college, and we had no idea that we would hit it off the way we did.
Actually, the next day neither of us called each other, so it was like I don’t know if Nick was over thinking it like I was, but I was pacing around my
room, checking my phone every five minutes like, “What is going on?
Usually I get everything I want.” That’s what Broken Hearted is about.
It’s funny the word Cheerio kind of popped out when we were just recording it and Claude was like, “Hey, Amy I need you to do a really good end to the song this time.” I’m the kind of person that will just say something really silly to break the tension in the room so that’s where that came from.
JN: You are working with a big label now. How do you stay true to the Karmin sound?
AH: Man, it is tough, not from a point where we’re like, “Oh, no. They’re not letting us be ourselves,” but from the point of we have unlimited resources now and it’s so exciting for us to explore those things. We understand our fans and supporters can’t be with us in the studio when we’re deciding to do things so we’re being really careful.
This is a good example. Sometimes people will show up to a photo shoot with a rack of clothing and they’ll pull something off the rack and I’ll look at it and I’ll say, “That’s second album.” I know where we’re headed so we’re able to hold back to a certain extent to keep it relevant for this stage in our career.
Our label, Epic, has been so supportive. L.A. Reid, he signed us for what were, which was a quirky, honest duo that’s musically trained. I think you’ll really enjoy what’s on the album. We’re really proud of what ended up on there and we think it represents us really well.
JN: Who would you want to work with in the future?
AH: We’re hoping that maybe the second album we’ll do some collaborations. L.A. Reid decided that we were just going to do 100% Karmin on this first release, but we would love to work with Kanye West. We love his work. I think Nicki Minaj. Nick would love to work with Chris Martin with Coldplay. I think those are the top three for now.
JN: Tell our readers about your hairstyle, Amy.
AH: My signature hairstyle, the one that I rock most every day, is the suicide roll, which is a 1940’s style. I think when you have two of these things, it’s called the three roll, and it was actually one of my friends at MTV that told me it was a suicide roll. I made a tutorial on YouTube.
I think it has like 1.5 million views at this point. People Tweet me photos of their experience with the suicide roll. It’s really turned into something larger than I ever thought. It’s a fun style. I’m just very inspired by everything vintage.
JN: How as your relationship evolved in a band?
NN: It definitely evolved into a relationship. We never really had a conversation until the very end of our freshman year, but we played in a couple of shows together. I was the trombone kid and they asked me to do a bunch of guys being the trombone guy in the section.
Then they asked Amy to be the singer or the backup singer for a lot of stuff because she was known as being some hotshot singer on campus.
We knew of each other. She always hung out with the gospel crowd and everything, and I always just kind of hung out with the weird horn players.
I was kind of more like the weird jazz head. We knew of each other. She was the hot singer and I was some weird homeless guy.
Late freshman year was the first time we actually had a conversation. We go away for summer and we came back and the first week sophomore year we met and actually talked at a party and really hit it off. That was it.
JN: When are you getting married?
NN: Well, we were planning on getting married on 9/10/11. Clearly, it has passed 9/10/11 and we are not married so that’s kind of true a little bit. It was just a comedy of errors, dude. It was literally ten days before the wedding. I didn’t have a tux yet. We didn’t even know how anything was going to happen.
There was too much going on at the same time. We had I think like a video shoot that week. We were going to perform at the I Heart Radio Music Festival the next day, which is streaming to like 20 million people across the world. There were just all these opportunities and we kind of felt like why put that pressure on the marriage right now. If we’re both in the band, it’s a unique situation. Let’s just postpone it a little bit and kind of sit on these opportunities that are coming by.
JN: Congrats on the engagement and we will see you in Chicago soon.
NN: All right, it was very good to talk to you.
Karmin’s debut Hello drops on May 8. Visit www.karminmusic.com for more information.
Check out www.1035kissfm.com for ticket information for their appearance at Fantabuloso at the Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim Road on May 18.