Since 2010, American pop duo Karmin aka Amy Noonan and Nick Noonan have been serenading fans with their unique takes on chart-topping hits. Now, with more than 1.5 millions subscribers on their YouTube channel, rings on their wedding fingers (true story!), and a 2nd full-length album on the way, Karmin is ready to take it to the next level.
Amy and Nick met while attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, where they formed Karmin. The name “Karmin” is a portmanteau made from the Latin word carmen meaning “song” (also a Spanish female name), and the word karma. The duo’s musical chemistry would later turn into a romantic relationship and in March 2016, they announced on Snapchat that they were married.
In case you didn’t hear, Karmin is in town to celebrate Sephora Malaysia’s 5th anniversary! And lucky us, got to meet with them just this afternoon real quick for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
Here’s what went down:
Welcome to Malaysia and congratulations on getting married!
Amy: We’ve waited a long time to come here. It has been about 5 years or so. There’s so much support from our Malaysian fans, like really strong supporters.
You’re #YouTubeGoals for many people. How’s married life treating the both of you?
Amy: We actually didn’t announce anything but we do have photos and stuff..and I did change my Twitter name. And I like “thenoonans”.
Nick: That’s what our Snapchat is called – “thenoonans”. #YouTubeGoals! Totally.
Amy: Married life is amazing. We’re actually celebrating our 11th year anniversary, not marriage but dating. We’ll be dating for 11 years on 9th September, and our next album comes out on the same day, so that’s cool.
Nick: Married life is not much different because..since Karmin started on YouTube, we’ve just been together all the time so that hasn’t changed.
Over the years, you’ve done numerous covers and have dabbled with various styles/genres. What made you decide on your current genre?
Nick: That kinda happened..I think our genre now is a little bit..we’re actually focusing on what exactly the sound is..
Amy: We were very unique in the beginning, very ethnic with all the rapping and stuff. The label was very like, “Let’s get some hits!” so that was great and we learnt a lot. But we just left our label and signed with a new one, an indie label with Sony and they let us do our thing. We do 100% of the writing and production ourselves for this new album. You’ll hear it. It’s a little bit different.
Nick: We kinda closed the doors and were just like, “Okay, who are we? What do we sound like? What do we want to sound like?”..so now with this new album, you’ll be getting a lot more music from us.
Amy: It’s still pop but it’ll be unique.
The magical thing about Karmin is that you release covers that have got your personal touch to it. On average, how long does it take to learn and perfect one cover?
Amy: We usually spend 2 days working on it.
Nick: I can never learn the words! If I have to sing, it’ll take me a month.
Amy: It takes me an hour to learn the song like, I try to study and learn it the way the artiste did it, then we kinda try to put our own interpretation and flavour to it. And Nick is great, he sits there and programs everything, and plays the instruments..
Tell us more about your partnership as Karmin – is it hard to juggle between your romantic relationship and working relationship? We’d love to hear some tips!
Nick: Oh sure, sometimes! What happens is one kinda takes over the other one so there’s never a time for us to..
Amy: It’s hard to turn off business and personal sometimes. They mix. So we have to take days off where we’ll be separate like Nick will be in the studio working and I’ll be doing a makeup tutorial or something, just try to stay away from each other.
Nick: We’ll set rules like, you know, at 7 o’clock we’re done working. Stop Karmin and be normal people.
Amy: Yeah! Like watch TV or watch a movie..
Nick: Exactly. Since we’re both in it and we’re both so excited about it, it’s easy for it to take over and be the conversation all the time.
Amy: I remember a time when we would wake up and be like, “I haven’t talked to you for like a month!” because we’re just always working, you know?
Amy, I noticed that you experiment with your looks. I really loved your “Super Bass” cover look! How long do you usually take to doll up for a video and what are some of your go-to products?
Amy: Ooh. My go-to hairstyle is the suicide roll, which is something I haven’t done for a while. I went blonde for a little while for the “Pulses” album. I have to have red lipstick. NARS’ velvet matte lip pencil, “Dragon Girl”, is my favourite. I also do love Tarte because Tarte uses all-natural ingredients and my skin is pretty sensitive. And I love lashes too! As for dolling up, I have it down to probably 30 minutes now because I just got really good at doing it.
Nick, how about you? Does Amy take on the role of your personal stylist?
Nick: Yeah she does my hair! She kinda was my stylist but I’m starting to get better. I’m starting to branch out.
Amy: He’s from Maine, which is almost Canada..it’s so cold there.
Nick: It’s not that style is not an important thing to me, but in Maine is more about how I can survive through winter.
Karmin is one of the rare few artistes/groups that have successfully made the transition from being YouTubers to recording artistes. What would you say were some of the most valuable lessons your journey has thought you?
Nick: You can’t cheat anything. Everything..you have to let things happen, you have to let things go their path. One of the biggest things that we’ve learnt is that you can’t force things to happen.
Amy: You have to trust the timing of the universe, you know? Sometimes you’re like, “Why are we struggling so much?” but then something else happens very easily. So just be like water and just flow..
Nick: For us, that’s very important for us to create our art.
Amy: Yeah that’s the biggest thing. When you have somebody very important telling you, “You have to do this!” it’s like, but that’s not what we enjoy the most. So I guess, be yourself.
Nick: It just comes down to making sure that it’s honest. It’s a lot harder than it sounds sometimes.
Is it fair to say that you now have more creative control over the originals that you put out?
Amy: Now we just make an album and give it to them and say, “Here you go!” whereas before it was them telling us, “Okay, go in with this producer, do this..”
Your next record, “Leo Rising”, is set to be released in September. What can you reveal about “Leo Rising”?
Amy: We saw an astrologer and we didn’t know anything about astrology, and it was like a birthday present. And I remember thinking, “Wow, how does he know about us?!” because it was just based on where we were born and what time we were born. We’re both Tauruses but we’re nothing alike. So it turns out that you’re affected by all the signs in different ways. We thought, “That’s a really cool concept. Let’s write a song for each one of the signs!” So the whole album is based on different zodiacs.
Nick: We took a long time to work on it. It was done for a while but I think we were writing and recording for close to..13 months or something like that.
What would you say are the biggest differences in terms of musically between “Leo Rising” and your debut album, “Pulses”?
Amy: “Leo Rising” is less processed.
Nick: We really wanted to..we never had the opportunity to kick everybody out of the room and just the two of us make music since the covers. And the last time we did that with the covers, we felt that there was something there because it was very raw and very minimalist. So we just focused on the raw talent. That’s what we wanted to get back to, focus on the raw vocals, focus on the vibe, make the energy real and more of an emotional connection.
Between the both of you, who handles your social media platforms? Do you read through the comments?
Nick: Amy does most of it.
Amy: I do it all! I like talking to the fans directly like, there are probably 150 fans that I know personally like my friends. They keep me posted on stuff, they got Gwen Stefani to follow me the other day, they make things happen! They voted us onto the cover of Rolling Stone I mean, it’s a really close relationship that I have with them. And then Nick is always the one to tell me, “Oh no don’t say that” or “Post something funnier” (laughs) But Snapchat is really fun because that’s where we get to be ourselves, be totally goofy, and do whatever we want.
Because you put yourselves out there in the virtual world, it’s also a very vulnerable position where people can say really mean things to you. How do you usually deal with them?
Nick: You know what it is now? It is a..it’s gonna happen. There is literally nothing in today’s world, in today’s comment-friendly or internet-friendly world..if you become successful in any way, shape, or form, you will have hate. That is what’s going to happen. From Adele, to Kanye, to Kim Kardashian..you name it. It doesn’t matter, you cannot escape it. It is a rite of passage, it is there. So it’s up to you whether you want it to affect you or not. And since we started on YouTube, we really got a taste of that prior.
Amy: Imagine calling your mom and explaining to her, “It’s okay, they don’t really want to hurt me. They’re just mean. They’re just saying scary things.”
Nick: When we first started, there was a lot. And we would notice too that when there are a lot of views going up, that’s when we would get a lot more mean comments. You just have to separate yourself. It just is what it is.
Aside from putting out music, covers, make-up tutorials, you also play shows and film vlogs/web series..although the last time you did a vlog was a long, long time ago..
Amy: I know!
Nick: Gosh this year has been really intense but yes, so each song in “Leo Rising” is based on a zodiac sign and Amy will be doing a make-up tutorial video for each one.
Amy: I’m trying to take time to figure out like, what would a Scorpio do with her make-up, or his make-up..I’m excited though. I love doing those. And hair too! I gotta start up again.
But all of that takes up so much of your time. What do you guys do when you’re not in front of the camera or a crowd at a show?
Amy: We watch Netflix..and chill!
Nick: Oh, and also we’ve been renovating. Amy..we have a very interesting backyard. Amy made a town in our backyard. She put like a sidewalk, a street, a bank..you have to see the pictures! But we’ve sold it and now we’re renovating our new house. We’ve been doing that the last 4 months and that’s an intense process.
Amy: I love it! I’m picking wallpapers right now so if you guys wanna help me..
Show us the options and we will! On another note, which artistes would you say are some of your dream collaborations?
Amy: Oh man, well we love Kanye. He inspired us so much to start rapping, actually.
Nick: Yeah! Hip hop has become what rock n’ roll was back in the day. It’s the new creative alternative pop music. That’s really what we’re into at the end of the day. We love good pop music but what is pop music today? You go from Adele to Lil’ Wayne, to Lorde, it’s like..what genre is it? It doesn’t matter. If it’s good, it’s good.
Amy: We really love band this band Phantogram. They’re great. They’ve worked with the guy from Outkast, Big Boi. So they make some really interesting hip hop-infused indie pop music. We love the marrying of genres. If we could collaborate, I mean..
Last one for the road..best moment of your YouTube/singing career so far?
Amy: This has been 5 years in the making, I mean..I would say that the best moment for me was when we uploaded “Look At Me Now”, this cover that we did where I was rapping, I remember waking up and having like 1,400 e-mails. Because I had set it to send me an e-mail every time somebody subscribed. Before that we had like 10,000 subscribers which was great and we were so excited. And we woke up the next day and we had 11,400 subscribers overnight and I thought, “This is crazy!”
Nick: We thought there was something wrong, like it was an error.
Amy: But by the end of the day it had a million views. We were like..we have to quit our jobs. I was running down the street where Nick was working at a boxing..we had weird jobs. I was a wedding singer. I was running down the street crying like, I don’t know what’s happening. The whole world was calling my cell phone because my phone number was on the website. So it was like, Kanye calling, Ellen (DeGeneres) calling, and were like, “Hey is this Karmin? We wanna have you on the show”. Overnight. It was like Cinderella.
Nick: It was literally overnight. It was very strange.
Amy: I didn’t eat for 3 days because it was just so..stressful. It’s like you have been waiting for this your whole life and then it happens all in one day. That’s bizarre. What about you, Nick?
Nick: Oh the best moment for me would be..so there was this pizza that I had..
Amy: Jerk! (laughs)
Nick: For me it was probably playing for Paul McCartney and then hanging out with him after the show.
Thank you Amy and Nick for the fun chat! And special thanks to our friends from Sephora Malaysia for making this interview happen.
Don’t forget! Karmin will be meeting their fans at Sephora KLCC from 12:30pm – 2pm tomorrow (29th July 2016, Friday). The event is open to public so drop by and say hi :)
Featured image: Alice Baxley @ livenation.vice.com.