After an album and EP on Epic Records, Los Angeles via Boston-based duo Karmin (Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan) are back to their indie roots. “We never really had the opportunity to try and do anything alone, just the two of us. Nick is producing now, so it’s a hundred percent Karmin, there’s no denying that, and I think it’s long overdue,” Heidemann tells Billboard.
The pair has positive things to say about their days at Epic, but they asked for their release to have a chance to do exactly what they wanted with their sound and image. “We developed amazing relationships that we would not have today without them, they gave us the radio start. But we just felt it was a different thing [musically] from what they thought it was,” Noonan says.
“We were hungry to try a more musically honest approach. We wanted to be a little bit nerdier than we think they had hoped,” Heidemann adds.
The duo will release their new album Leo Rising later in the year and the band went hardcore DIY — from shopping for the set to building it in the very rare L.A. weather — when shooting the video for their first single, “Along The Road.” “We knew we were gonna shoot the video on a Wednesday, the Wednesday prior nothing was done yet. So we somehow got a thousand sample shoes from Creative Rec, which were amazing, it was perfect,” Noonan explains. “Then we went to Home Depot on Sunday, got all this plywood and paint, painted all the plywood black, made framing and then started drilling them in.”
“And it started hailing, the paint was running everywhere,” Heidemann says.
Despite the rain, hail and running paint the pair came up with a set design that meant so much to them they didn’t want to just dismantle it. So they are putting it to good use. “We built this beautiful set that we would perform in front of and that set ended up really beautiful, meaningful, spiritual and we have our friends over at the children’s hospital in New York, St. Mary’s, so we’re giving it to them,” Heidemann says.
Watch the video for “Along The Road” below, which Billboard is exclusively premiering.
“Along The Road” was written and recorded in the same organic manner they did on the YouTube covers that first got them the attention of major labels.
“We had written the song three years ago, before we even signed with a record label or anything was even happening for Karmin,” Heidemann says. “The song has always been really near and dear to our hearts, but when we brought in this guitar player, who happens to have toured with Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys, he just started playing, I started singing and we basically did the thing in one take. I was like, ‘Wow, when’s the last time we did something in one take that we mixed, mastered and put out?'”
When is the duo planning to release Leo Rising? “Whenever we want,” Heidemann says, quickly and proudly. Though she adds, “We’re thinking fall.”
The release date will depend on when Karmin can finish the short film that will accompany the album. Noonan and Heidemann will write, score and star in a twenty-minute movie they describe as “this crazy Tarantino adventure film.”
Heidemann plays the title character of the film and album, which fans of the zodiac will recognize as an astrological reference. Indeed, the couple got very much interested in astrology, so much so that the twelve tracks on the album each represent a different sign of the zodiac.
While the couple is excited to make the film and the album has a conceptual theme, ultimately Leo Rising the album, which has been inspired by artists like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and Fleetwood Mac, will be about showing the true Karmin.
“Everything is way more musical, way rawer,” Noonan says. “We didn’t want to tune anything. We kept getting this crazy reaction from people coming to our live show. They were so surprised and so excited, ‘Wow, it’s like a rock show.’ And we were like, ‘Why are they so surprised? Why is it not translating from the records to the stage?’ So we thought, ‘Let’s kill all the tunes, try to do vocal takes for one whole pass, way more stripped down, more acoustic feel.'”
“It’s kind of what you would envision to happen from the Karmin pop stuff and the Karmin cover songs we started with,” Heidemann adds. “It’s sort of this great hybrid.”