NNAMDÏ TALKS JOY, HOPE, AND ‘KRAZY KARL’
By Nathan Leigh
July 17, 2020
Singer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer NNAMDÏ is on a creative high right now reminiscent of Stevie Wonder circa 1973. His endlessly inventive full length BRAT, appeared in April, followed closely by the singles “IMPATIENT” and “Stressed Out” each of which flanked the deeply excellent and urgent punk EP “Black Plight.” Now in July, he’s dropped a new full length, the mostly instrumental KRAZY KARL. The record hits the genre experimentation that’s been at the heart of NNAMDÏ’s output into left field—delivering a largely instrumental album that is at once joyful and surreal. Shades of the bliss of technical mastery that pervades Thundercat at his best collide with Zappa-esque guitars, and an overall sound that desperately cries out for animated visuals. We recently checked in with NNAMDÏ about how he finds joy in the whirlwind and his hopes for the future.
It seems like you’re on a bit of a creative high right now when a lot of artists I know are really struggling to find the space to create. What’s driving you?
I have an overactive mind, so I’ve been creating a lot right now as a means to calm that down and maybe escape that part of my brain. I think subconsciously I’m tryna kind of grasp on to the thoughts that will help me be proactive because it’s definitely easy to be overwhelmed and become stagnant or crippled with anxiety by all of the things happening in the world. There’s an overload of information and I think making music makes me feel in control of some aspect of life, even if sometimes it is a temporary illusion, It clears my mind enough to get to a place of vulnerability that allows me to really feel what I need to feel and approach other issues or problems more clearly.
How has the current omni-crisis impacted your creative process?
I’m more focused at the times when I’m creating. There’s a sense of urgency in those moments. I have a lot of ups and downs regarding when I actually feel ok enough to get into making music, but when it happens it has definitely been less of a relaxing process and more, “I need to do this, in order to be able to relax.” The relaxation is my reward. It doesn’t always work that way, but most of the time these past few months that has been the case for me.
What are your hopes for your life post-pandemic?
I’m hoping live music returns to some semblance of normalcy. I hope people look at me as a positive influence and source of joy during this time. I hope to read and learn as much as I can during this time and to continually inspire creativity and critical thinking in the people that come in contact with my music. I believe those things are en route if I continue to follow my heart. On a bigger scale, I hope our government and people step in to prevent more people from losing their jobs and income. I hope people hold on to their anger with how things are being run in the world and do everything in their power to make it better for us and for future generations. We’ll see.
One of the things I love about Krazy Karl is that it’s like a reminder to take a breath and feel joy at a moment when that sometimes feels like a luxury. What sorts of things do you find joy in right now?
I enjoy social distance one on one hangs with friends. Whether it’s chilling in my backyard, going on a long walk or bike ride, these small things are usually monumental in increasing the positivity of my mood. Also, spicing up the meals is a must. Trying to eat a few different things every week.
You’ve written that Krazy Karl was inspired by Carl Stalling’s music for Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. If a studio gave you an essentially unlimited budget to make the project it was the soundtrack for, what would that look like?
Whoa! The accompanying visuals would be a mixture of standard Looney Tune style animations mixed in with several different artists’ styles. Definitely a freaky amalgamation of all sorts of animation styles, 2D and 3D, and also like some surrealist comedy in the vein of Tim and Eric but with darker humor and rather unsettling political and socioeconomic overtones.
Which Looney Tunes character did you most identify with when you were 6, and which is it now?
I used to like Pepé Le Pew, but now when I see his scenes I’m like “Yikes! Pepe, you gotta chill!” lol. I think my favorites are Speedy Gonzalez and Slowpoke Rodriguez. They’re the yin and yang. Kind of conflicting personalities. I’m sure folks will read that and go “How very Gemini of you.” Lol fuck off.
What’s next for you?
I’mma put out another record in the fall, but after that, I’m good on music for a while.
NNAMDÏ is on Twitter @NnamdiOgbonnaya