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Karmin discusses 'Pulses' of the industry & how that impacted their debut album

Karmin chats with me about the creative process and challenges behind the making of their debut album, 'Pulses'.
Karmin chats with me about the creative process and challenges behind the making of their debut album, 'Pulses'.Used With Permission From Ken Phillips Group

Karminites waited patiently for almost two years to hear the release of debut album, ‘Pulses'. The duo, comprised of Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan have openly admitted that the record was as much a labor of love as it was a challenge and opportunity for growth. In hindsight, it was their viral hit, ‘Broken Hearted’ that fortuitously cut a path in the industry for the talented combo of musical ingenuity. It was a charming offering that opened doors for them, almost as quickly as it tested their strength and creative resolve. In the end, they emerged from the studio with a body of work that Amy said they are super proud of and ready to utilize to establish their identity as a band.

With a packed schedule for 2014 and plenty in store for their patient and loyal Karminite fans, the duo is hitting the stage and the industry with fresh vigor and determination. I recently caught up with Amy and Nick to advance their show in my home city of Denver, CO which takes place Wed., May 7th at Summit Music Hall. They confessed up front their enthusiasm and appreciation for the state saying, "We friggin’ love Colorado!" And that they've even considered settling down here some day. But they had much more to say about the creation of their album, their tour to date, as well as the side projects they are currently working on.

Marian: I’m intrigued by the premise behind this album so I want to start there. From what I’ve read I understand that the album title and title track resulted because of the ups and downs you experienced in the industry. The highs are obvious, can you elaborate on the lows and how you've managed to equalize it all?

Amy: When we started recording the album, it was about a year of recording and LA Reid of Epic Records asked us to go back into the studio for more single options. Before that there were a couple postponements of the release date. It felt like it was a really long process and we were really hungry to get our first full length album out. We were basically surviving off an EP. And then there were some creative differences. There was a point where they were asking us not to rap anymore. So it was just kind of a strange. We come from a very DIY world. So we were not used to people coming in and telling us what to do. But we got through it and we made an album that we are super proud of!

Marian: What was your creative process and criteria for making ‘Pulses’?

Nick: We wanted to be as open to as many things as possible. One of our main things was we wanted to make sure that it translated into an amazing live performance. We wanted to make sure that the energy and swagger was there to really go in on it live.

Marian: When creating a debut album, you’re really setting the tone and pace for your artistry. How would you describe and define this body of work?

Nick: Honestly I think its back to those same things, its back to the live show. We are most proud of our live show. That’s what blew us up with the covers in the first place. We were just doing a live takes of each song. We were not doing editing and chopping up and stuff and that’s what people really reacted to. We had that in mind and basically the duo feeling. We wanted to make sure that people knew that Karmin is a band, it’s not just a pop act.

Amy: I think speaking to the visual side of things, I had this idea that we would do everything monochrome. So every look, every image that we have, I think is all monochrome from head to toe. We tried to simplify on that level and bring it back to the roots and show off our musicianship a little bit more.

Marian: ‘Broken Hearted’ created quite an energy around your music early on. Is it hard to go into the studio on the heels of having such a successful hit like that?

Nick: What’s kind of interesting about having a hit like that, is that you don’t want to get in the mode of chasing it because then you’re just going down the wormhole. We wanted to make sure that we established a better sound, like a more continuous feel. The first release, ‘Hello’ was kind of a collection of singles. We recorded like 30-40 songs and we put out seven. So we wanted to get to where it was a whole continuous thing that had kind of the same vibe.

Marian: What was it like having Nick at the helm producing and in essence doing twice the work? Was it hard to juggle or a freedom that allowed more creative liberty to exhale?

Nick: It was definitely a freedom we had to indulge in. There was a lot of co-production. I’m still learning now how to engineer so, that was kind of my big handicap in recording this, that I couldn't actually do everything myself. But as far as kind of steering the ship, absolutely, I had to take the reigns on it. It’s great actually! We are total control freaks so it helped us out.”

Marian: I know it’s hard to pick and this is ultimately one of the worst interview questions of all time, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Is there a defining track for you on this album or a few that seems to resound more with the audiences you've performed it for?

Nick: There’s a couple. I think for the live show ‘Pulses’ gets one of the biggest reactions. There’s a song called ‘Puppet’ that we love to play and then there’s a ballad, ‘Neon Love’ that’s also one of my favorites.

Amy: Those are the extremes. ‘Pulses’ is kind of a hip hop extreme. ‘Neon Love’ kind of teeters on country almost and ‘Puppet’ is just crazy. That’s our very experimental track. Those are definitely the favorites. And I like one called ‘Gasoline’ because I’ve always wanted to put more of a reggae vibe into some of our songs.

Marian: You’ll be in my home city, Denver, CO this week. Talk to me about your tour so far. What do you have in store for the Mile High audience?

Nick: First of all, we are pumped! We friggin’ love Colorado! I’m from Maine originally, so it’s like Maine plus bigger.

Amy: We've talk about moving there someday.

Nick: Having the album out will effect a little bit of the set-list. The first leg of the tour, the album wasn't out so we were playing a lot of music no one has really heard.

Amy: But I thought the reception was great! Now people are showing up and actually singing along.

Nick: People actually get the music now, so that’s a good start.

Marian: Changing gears a little, I read that Amy was cast in the animated film, Rio 2. What was her experience like working on an animated feature?

Amy: I was! It was a bucket list item. I've always loved animated films and I've recently become obsessed with the life of Walt Disney and what he did to revolutionize entertainment, even down to the theme parks. I’m crazy about it, so when they called me I was like, ‘Yes! I will be a voice. Whatever you want me to do.’ The director had seen our speed rap and he wanted to essentially create a character that was in the jungle, auditioning for a talent show that had narcolepsy and would just wake up and rap really fast. It ended up being a spot and its adorable! A must see movie. You’ll definitely know when it is me, it’s very obvious.

Marian: What’s next once the spring tour wraps and the album drops? More touring this summer? Side projects?

Amy: Both, I think we are going to continue to tour around this music as long as we need to and allow everybody to hear it. Then I think our side projects are, like Nick said, he’s getting his hands on the computer so he is learning to produce fully on his own. And I am starting a beauty blog called ‘Karminology’. I've always been crazy about hair and makeup and lifestyle type stuff. I had a couple of hair tutorials on YouTube that did really well so I just thought why not go in with this and see what happens.

Marian: What is the expected launch date?

Amy: We’re shooting for a July launch of the website.

Marian: In reflection, of your ups and downs in the industry to date, what is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced or overcome?

Nick: There’s so many things! I think one of the biggest things is probably just coming from YouTube. I think that is kind of the biggest challenges. No one had really had a viral hit and then had a hit on the radio after that. So, we like to think of ourselves as making the model for that and since there is no model, it’s crazy hard.

Amy: There’s still some people we are trying to win over. I think our live show is our bread and butter. When people see us a lot of minds are changed. A lot of people think we’re just a cheery-o happy show. But its more like a rock show thing. I think our future challenges are to continue to establish the perception of what we are and to stick around. They say perseverance is one of the best qualities to have in this industry.