Some quick questions with Karmin
Karmin's rise to success is a now classic 21st century story. The pop duo started off on YouTube, recording chipper covers of top 40 pop and hip-hop hits. With the help of nifty arrangements and Amy Heidemann's unique singing voice and surprisingly adept rapping skills – as well as her often audacious hairdos – Karmin's videos snagged millions of hits.
Eventually, the group's online success became too great for the music industry to ignore. The duo was signed by Epic Records, who released the debut EP "Hello" in 2012 and released the duo's first full-length album "Pulses" in February. It's no longer simple covers for Karmin; now the two have become the hitmakers future YouTube sensations will attempt to cover in the hopes of following in their footsteps and making it big.
The duo is currently on tour, making a stop at The Rave on Sunday, April 27. Before hitting the stage, however, OnMilwaukee got a chance to ask the duo about the new album, balancing a real-life relationship in and out of the spotlight and Nick Noonan's plans for his birthday – which happens to fall on Sunday.
OnMilwaukee.com: When did you guys decide you wanted to go with a proper, full-length album?
Nick Noonan: Probably when we were about six years old. (laughs) But it's kind of always been a romantic thing for us. When we first released the "Hello" EP, it was supposed to be a full album. We recorded about 30 songs for that, but it was only an EP. We think of ourselves as an album band. We're not there yet, but that's how we think of ourselves, and that's how we write.
OMC: What did you want to do differently on this album than what you did on "Hello"?
NN: We wanted to make sure that it was a little more cohesive, that it kind of made sense as a whole piece. "Hello" felt a little more like a collection of singles. This has much more of our feel in it. We are self-proclaimed genre whores, so we try to get into all the different genres that we dig while still having it make sense as one single piece.
OMC: What were your overall inspirations, musically and lyrically, for "Pulses"?
Amy Heidemann: I guess the theme of "Pulses" is the up and downs of life. We had a photo shoot for the album cover, and they brought in a bunch of giant pieces of red paper. When we stacked them against each other, it made all these really cool different tones of red, which is where the monochromatic dressing came from. We've been wearing one color for about a year now, which has been pretty fun.
We saw a symbol in the paper that was like a pulse symbol, like a pixilated pulse symbol from like a hospital bed or something. So we thought what better way to kind of summarize the whole album. We were going through a lot of different things, a lot of ups and downs, in the last year so we called it "Pulses," and that's the theme throughout.
OMC: The album was held back for a little bit of time. I read there were rumors of a feud going on between you and Epic Records. What was it like going through that, especially considering you guys started off small and unaffiliated on YouTube?
NN: It's definitely been a learning curve. We were used to doing something, talking about it and deciding to do something about it that day. Obviously, there are so many positives about labels, but there are some negatives. It's more of a committee. So to each their own. Getting pushed back was definitely frustrating for us at times, but at least we got it out.
OMC: Amy, you just provided a voice for "Rio 2." What was that experience like?
AH: That was a bucket list item for me. I have always been crazy about animated movies. You're supposed to grow out of them at some point, and I never really did. I learned to appreciate them now in a whole different way. I actually got pretty obsessed with the history of animation and Walt Disney specifically. When we were working on our house this last year, we actually built this Main Street U.S.A. type of thing in our backyard, so it kind of feels like Disney in our house. Then I got to voice this rapping sloth in the movie "Rio 2," so it was a really fun year in that aspect.
OMC: You guys have been talking about the ups and downs of what you've been going through, and the track "Tidal Wave" kind of talks about that in terms of a relationship. What is it like being a part of a relationship while at the same time being in the industry as a unit?
NN: It is what it is. It's interesting because we're out on the road right now. So there are so positive things to it. We're always around each other. It's not like one of us is at home, waiting for the other to call every night or something; we're right here next to each other the entire time.
But on the other hand, we can never turn it off, so it can be a pain in the ass that way too, like too much of a good thing. It's everything, and we have to just make sure that we try to have good communication. It can very easily fall out of whack, so it's tough to balance.
OMC: The song is very honest about relationships and how you talk, but you don't talk and stuff like that. Was it hard to come together and sing a song like that?
AH: The lyrics in that song were really special to us, but I remember we were in a room with LP (Laura Pergolizzi) – she's an incredible songwriter – and she was pulling it out of us. We didn't want to write that song.
AH: Yeah, it was kind of uncomfortable. But now that it's out and the honesty is there, we're really proud of it.
OMC: How did she kind of pull the song out of you guys?
NN: That was probably about the third concept we had written on those melodies. We really loved the melodies and the feel and everything, but we just couldn't find something that kind of did it justice. We just kept trying to go a little deeper, go a little more raw. It's pretty much this concept of being torn apart by this wave of something, which for us was the covers and all of the popularity so fast. Too much of a good thing can kind of leave you stranded.
OMC: Also on this album, Nick, you get to step up to the vocals a little bit more. How was that for you?
NN: It was great! From the "Hello" release, everyone still thought that Amy's name was Karmin, so we're like, "No, this is a duo." So we decided to get back to old school harmony and different parts and the whole thing. We made sure that that was a top priority.
OMC: I don't want to say it was nerve-wracking, but how was it heading back behind the mic and having some solos?
NN: Oh, it was fine and all good.
AH: He was very comfortable. I had no doubt that he would be comfortable doing it. It was just weird; on the last EP, it was never intentional that I would sing most of the songs. The way we work creativity, it's so tight that we just don't think about those things. It's so funny; we never thought that people would think my name was Karmin when we picked the band name. It was just like, "It's a cool name, and it's the both of us!"
It's been weird having to consciously think about portraying ourselves as a duo because we always felt that way I guess.
OMC: Have either of you been to Milwaukee before?
NN: We have, and we've had a blast. Both of the times we've been there it's been a lot of fun.
AH: This time, it's going to be Nick's birthday.
OMC: Any special plans for that?
NN: I might have a couple of beers. (laughs)
AH: We're gonna find a cool bar or pub to hang out at, and then we'll probably have to drive to the next city to be honest, but we can't wait to share Nick's birthday with the Milwaukeeans.
This is bound to be such a fun show. I can't wait.
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