Reporting Sara Pelissero
Look at ‘em now. The latest YouTube sensation turned mainstream success story is showing the world, they’re much more than just covers.
Karmin — derived from the Latin word meaning song (Carmen) and a nod to the word Karma — will head to Minneapolis this weekend to perform at the biggest fashion event of the year, Macy’s Glamorama.
It was only a little more than a year ago that they posted a cover video of Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” on YouTube and soon after, watched the performance go viral. Millions of views later, this little duo — made up of engaged couple Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan — found themselves on the beginning of a crazy journey.
Since then, they’ve performed on Saturday Night Live, released a debut album called “Hello” and are in the midst of a summer tour.
We chatted with the pair before they head to Minnesota this Friday.
Q: You’re heading to our great state this weekend to perform at Glamorama. Have you been here before?
Nick: Oh, I love Colorado. (laughs)
Amy: I’m from Nebraska, so I’ve definitely been to Minnesota. It’s a great spot.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in performing at Glamorama?
Nick: What are we not looking forward to? Anytime we can … we haven’t been with our band in maybe a week or so, it’s weird. We’re feeling anxious. We usually play with them at least once a day, it feels like. So it’s going to be really good to get in with them and do a performance and we’re very excited to do that.
Q: Obviously the emphasis of Glamorama is the fashion. How would you guys describe your style?
Amy: We’re definitely known for our kind of retro-edge that we have. Like, I wear a lot of high-waisted pants and skirt silhouettes and Nick is kind of like this little, mini James Dean but as of recently we’ve kind of changed our hairstyles for our upcoming single, so our fashion has changed just a little bit. I think we’re getting a little more modern these days.
Q: What inspires your fashion?
Amy: Oh, gosh. What a great question.
Nick: She’s going to ask me now. Um, we definitely go through a lot of vintage magazines, like a lot of stuff from the Rolling Stone’s back in the 1960s and 70s. Then just a lot of McQueen and she was saying James Dean for me, so I like kind of old school stuff but also throw in some new hip-hop because we a lot musically and stylistically from hip-hop.
Amy: I always name my style icon as Gwen Stefani because I loved the trends from the 1990s. So that’s something we try to pull into the mix, which makes it unique.
Q: A lot of people are familiar with you guys from YouTube. When you were recording those videos, did you ever think it would bring you to this point?
Nick: Well, I mean, we felt like we had something cool and something unique, which was the most important. And we did dream big. We hoped and we worked really, really hard but we had no idea it would kind of get to this level this quickly. We were kind of in it for the long haul and when it blew up, it kind of blew up. So when it happened, we were absolutely not expecting it.
Amy: We’re just so grateful. We feel really blessed for all that’s happened. It’s so fun, too, because you just never know how it’s going to all unfold.
Q: Amy, you said you started singing when you were really little but didn’t start rapping until more recently. Did you ever think rap would be a part of your repertoire?
Amy: You know, no. I think if you would’ve told me I was going to be taken seriously as somebody who can rap, 10 years ago, I would’ve thought you were crazy. It’s definitely … I mean, a white girl coming from Nebraska, a small town in Nebraska, it’s not exactly … I might be the first one actually. I never thought about that.
Nick: You might be the first one in the entire state of Nebraska, period.
Amy: It’s pretty much an honor, but I grew up very shielded from a lot of the real rap music. I wasn’t allowed to listen to the good stuff, just because of my Christian base. Mostly because of the cursing and the content but when I got to college, that was when I really got to unleash that. It was all kind of just for fun until the YouTube thing got started and we were covering these songs and most of them had rap. And we just started doing it.
Q: How did you make that rapping discovery that, ‘Hey, I’m really good at this?’
Amy: I think it was when Nicki Minaj first came out, of course she was the first woman rapper in a long time, we covered one of her songs and we were like, ‘Oh, you could just sing her rap part, just add a melody to it.’ But I was like, ‘Well, that’s not authentic, that doesn’t sound cool.’ So I tried to rap it and (Nick) told me I sounded good but I didn’t believe him, I was terrified about posting it. But when we did, it ended up being one of our biggest videos we had at that point. And then it was the “Look At Me Now” cover that went viral last year — that was the one that tested my skills, for sure.
Q: How long did it take you to get that part down in “Look At Me Now?”
Amy: We heard it two days before that so two days. I spent most of those days practicing it.
Q: A lot of people got their introduction to you guys through youtube. How does your album “Hello” help bring that audience into who you are, beyond the covers?
Nick: We kind of think of it as, “Hello” is kind of like, covers on crack. We were covering all these songs and we were covering Top 40, so we were covering a lot of pop and it was kind of interesting to research the charts — see what was doing well and what wasn’t. It kind of helps our selection process and it also helps our writing. So it definitely lives in the pop world. It’s very, very heavily influenced in hip hop and a lot of urban drums, of course rapping and things like that. So it’s kind of a mixture of all of those cover elements, just put in better quality in a real studio.
Q: You guys are currently on tour, how’s it been going so far?
Amy: It’s been so much fun. We thought we were going to get a tour bus and go to each city but this has been so crazy — we’re literally flying everywhere. And in between shows there might be a TV show we’re doing or recording sessions, we’re still creating new music wherever we go. It’s a dream come true. We’re really lucky to have a really incredible band that feels like a family when we’re out on stage. So it’s been really great.
Q: Obviously you guys are pretty busy right now but have you had any time to plan a wedding?
Nick: That’s right, next question please. (Laughs) I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Uh, my mom asks that questions about every 13 seconds. (Mimicking mom) “Hello Nick? Are you eating? Are you planning a wedding? What’s going on?” But we have not planned a second one yet — we had the first one planned, which was obviously postponed, and that was supposed to be on 9-10-11. And everyone’s saying, now you have to do 10-11-12. And that’s coming up quicker than we had anticipated. I think we’re both looking for something maybe in the winter, maybe early next year or something like that. But right now, it’s kind of a unique situation because we’re both in the band so we’re just going to play it by ear.
Q: Your name Karmin comes from the Latin meaning for song and a nod to the word Karma? How did you decide on that?
Amy: That was kind of a longer process. We wanted something really short and being a duo, we didn’t want to just be “Nick and Amy.”
Nick: I was really drunk. That was pretty much it. No, we wanted a name that could kind of be bi-gender with a guy and a girl. And like she was saying, we didn’t really want “Nick and Amy” or this or that. So we wanted a one-word thing and we looked at all these different Latin to English, Spanish, and whatever, trying to find some meaning and then Carmen in Latin means song. So we took that and Karma and put the two together, kind of the two biggest things for us. And that’s what worked.
Q:Is there anything that you guys have on your long-term goals list that you’re hoping to someday achieve?
Nick: Um, 40 Grammys and 10 No. 1 songs.
Q: Sounds very doable. So anything else you want people to know about your show before you come to Minneapolis?
Amy: If you’re afraid of tigers, make sure you get a seat in the back. (Laughs)
Nick: No, just make sure you can see the stage.
Karmin will perform at the Macy’s Passport Presents Glamorama 2012 in Minneapolis. This year’s event celebrates “The British Invasion: The Music Then. The Fashion Now!” at the Orpheum Theatre on Friday, Aug 3 at 8 p.m. For more information about the show, click here.