Artist of the Week: Andrew Karnavas
Each week, usually on Wednesdays - the music awards has thrown everything off this week - Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band that isn't awful? Email their particulars to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One guy stood above the rest, though. This week, we're totally digging singer-songwriter and near-med student Andrew Karnavas. On our patented Indie Music Rating System we rated Andrew two and three-quarter cardigan sweaters out of four.
We actually spotted Karnavas at a Bar Boheme open-mic a few weeks ago, singing about whales or some nonsense like that. We got back in contact with him earlier this week and he was kind enough to answer the following questions:
HP: So, what's the backstory? How'd you get started? How long have you been performing?
AK: I bought my first acoustic guitar when I was 13, with birthday money and played a little here and there growing up. I was focused on soccer and school until my freshman year in college, when I heard Neil Young's albums Harvest and Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.
In 2005 I studied in Milan my junior year [of college] and met an Italian woman whose fiancé ran a little digital recording studio out of his house. At that point I had written six songs, and I got to record them (guitar/vocals, no click tracks) in five hours for 40 Euro and a homemade lasagna lunch on a Sunday.
HP: That's so weird, we heard 50 Cent got started the exact same way. Tell us a little about skipping out on medical school to pursue your music. How pissed were you're parents about that? We mean, it's friggin' medical school. We didn't even get in to bartender school.
AK: I declined acceptance to medical school for music and writing. It's important to keep writing in there! I finished writing a suspense/mystery novel this year, and when I'm not working on music, I'm working on getting that published. Hospitals are great places to develop empathy, which I think is the most important quality for a songwriter.
My parents are very supportive. They want me to love what I do and to do it well, but they also don't want me to fail, so there are plenty of encouraging phone calls with phrases like, "Andrew, you better…" and "Trust me, guys!" I don't think my decision was surprising to them, but I think any sane parent would ask, "Are you sure that you don't want to be a doctor?"
HP: We totally know what you mean about the parent thing. Whenever we call home, they're always like, "Stop calling us," or, most recently, "The number you're trying to reach has been disconnected or is no longer in service." As a solo act, what are you thinking right before you start? Are you nervous? Scared? Do you have any little superstitious things you do?
AK: Before every show I have a spoonful of olive oil. I like to think it helps my voice, but I am Greek, so it might just be an innate, involuntary reflex. I also spend 15 minutes looking for my car keys (which are in my back pocket). Then I get there, really excited, but then I realize that I forgot my set list in the car or the harmonica holder/orthodontic headgear at home.
HP: Olive oil? Blah. We heard scotch is way better for your voice. And it smells better. So what's Runaway Sun? We saw it all over your MySpace page.
AK: Runaway Sun is the blues-rock/Americana band I started in March with Marshall West (drums), Daniel De Luna (Lead Guitar) and Brian Del Castillo (Bass). We have a self-titled EP due out in September, the first set of mastered recordings I will have ever released.
The biggest influences on my writing for this band are Tom Waits and Neil Young, so we are dipping into several genres, but I think the main sound resembles Tom's blues and Neil's rock. Our current set is 12 songs I picked out with the guys from the 60 or so songs that I've written, but with the demo almost done, we are now starting to write songs together and it sounds promising.
HP: Have you released any albums? Anything upcoming?
AK: There are some burned copies of unmastered solo tracks floating around out there and on MySpace, but the Runaway Sun EP due out in September is the first release I've really had the time and money to adequately nurture.
I have plans to record a solo album of music I describe as "introspective folk" early next year with acoustic guitar, upright bass, cello, violin and percussion. This project is mellower and has a feel similar to guys like Ray LaMontagne, Amos Lee ballads, and Cat Stevens (fellow Greek).
HP: Give us three things that your music would make a good soundtrack to. For example, Jodeci is good if you're having sex and Michael Jackson's "Beat it" is good if you're about to have a dance fight; what is Andrew Karnavas's music good for?
AK: My music is good for singles on the prowl/drinking alone ("This Evening"), kicking off a Greenpeace rally ("All the Whales in the Ocean") [and] breaking up and moving on ("A Closing Window").
At my last solo show, I watched a couple break up while I was tuning my guitar. I then opened with "A Closing Window" to set the mood. The guy took a picture of me with this Polaroid camera. The girl approved of the photo, and he gave it to me. - Shea Serrano
Karnavas plays 9 p.m. Friday, August 8 at Avant Garden, both solo and with Runaway Sun. He also plays monthly at Salento in Rice Village and frequents open-mic nights at McGonigel's Mucky Duck.