The Namby Pamby come out strong on debut
Year-old band already veterans on live scene; release album Nov. 12
The Namby Pamby have come a long way in a short period of time.
Formed just a year ago, the trio of McKenna Parks, Emily Parks, and Payton Knerr have come out of the gates as they say “guns a blazing,” playing more than 50 shows with another to come Nov. 12 at The Brass Rail as an album release party for their debut, Marketplace. Joining them at the show will be Loveseat! and Streetlamps for Spotlights.
“I wrote these songs as a solo project,” vocalist/guitarist McKenna Parks said. “I was just going to have side musicians come in and play parts, but when we started practicing together, they were both putting in their own input and their own parts, and creativity. So, it didn’t even feel like they were the songs that I had written. They were more of our songs. It turned into The Namby Pamby.”
Growing up, it was the older sister McKenna that got a head start in music over Emily. McKenna said she got into it at about 11 years old since she was “always singing, a little performer.”
Her sister responds, “She was a showboat.”
With a mother who played piano and sang, the sisters were guided into different hobbies. However, that approach only lasted so long.
“I was the dancer of the family,” Emily said. “Our mom didn’t want us to compete as children, so she put us into opposite fields, which I respect. That means McKenna got the head start on music. When we were 10 or 11, my dad wanted to play bass, so he got this Fender Jazz and s—– practice amp. He played for a few months, but was just too busy to learn. It was kind of collecting dust, so McKenna and I were playing acoustic stuff together, so I figured I’d just pick it up and figure it out.”
With Emily on bass, McKenna found their drummer while working at a coffee shop in Huntington, where she attends Huntington University. The friendship expanded beyond the workplace, and with Knerr trained by her grandfather from a young age, she joined the sisters and The Namby Pamby began to take shape.
hitting the studio
It wasn’t long after their formation that The Namby Pamby began playing shows, beginning Jan. 28 at The Brass Rail with Swell Time. Since then, the three have been common sights on the local scene.
“I was just going through my Instagram to get a rough estimate of how many shows we’ve played, and I think we’ve gone past 50,” Emily said.
All that time playing helped when they visited Jason Davis at Off the Cuff Recording Studio at his new spot in the East State Village to record their debut album in April.
“They had been playing a lot of shows, so they came in well-prepared,” Davis said. “They came in ready to do the work, not to settle, and to let the song to be the guide.”
While most of the songs had been sorted out, “Chardonnay,” which ended up being the first single, took some work in the studio.
“I feel like we wrote it in the studio,” Emily said. “McKenna had the bones, but when we got in the studio, we really had no ideas on what we wanted to do. I wrote the bass part in the studio, we figured out what we wanted the drums to do in the studio, which is unlike the rest of the album.”
Despite it taking until they were on studio time to compose the song, they thought enough of it to make it the first single.
“It was a song that came really natural to write,” McKenna said. “It was meant to be written for a specific project, and I think it was just one of the songs we felt most proud of in the studio. We got to work and collaborate with other musicians, and that helped on the album. We released that as the first single, because I think it’s going to define our sound. Not only that, but it’s also one that we were really proud of it.”
And as Emily says, “Chardonnay,” which is the opening track on Marketplace, is a warm welcome to an album that features song titles you equate to grocery shopping like “Peanut Butter Spread,” “Chewing Gum,” and “Sardines.”
“We’re setting up like, ‘Welcome to our kitchen, our home. You’ve heard this before, you’re welcomed here.’ ” she said.
The warmth of the song can also be attributed to its recording at Off the Cuff, where analog is king — or queen — and you won’t find any AutoTune.
“There are no plug-ins on their records,” Davis said. “There’s no pitch correction. What you hear is what they produced. It’s real people making real human noise.
“I am, and the people that work here, are into the human-ness of what music is,” he added. “If it needs to be fixed and tricked and tweaked, you’re just better off to cut it again. It’s quicker to just cut it again than to try to make something that’s not real sound real.”
With the Instagram announcement that the second single, “Poached Egg,” would be released Oct. 29, it was quickly evident of how popular the band was thanks to an outpouring of “likes” and supportive messages.
“We have been talking about that constantly, about how lucky we have felt to be supported by all the other bands,” Emily said. “They kind of took us up immediately.”
“We are excited every time,” Knerr added. “The support is unreal.”
The support is warranted, as McKenna’s lyrics seem to speak to a lot of people.
“McKenna is a genius, she’ll say she’s not, but she is about writing songs that are so vulnerable and everyone has felt that emotion that she’s talking about,” Emily said. “Whether it’s to a little bee-bop drum bit where we can bounce our heads or tap our feet, or whether it’s McKenna on a stool with her acoustic guitar and we’re in the tracking room crying.”
“I heard this from Michael (Morgan) of Middle Names,” McKenna said. “He came to one of our shows, and he said, ‘Every time you go to a Namby Pamby show, they’re going to bring you up, then tear you down.’ I just absolutely love that. The sound, whether it’s more upbeat, rock, or ‘Chardonnay,’ the sound, we just want it to be a safe environment. I want people to feel like they’re not alone.”
“It’s more of an emotion than a sound,” she said.
getting into the mood
With everyone in the group being in their early 20s, it’s easy to see that many of the songs of have a “coming of age” theme, as McKenna said. Davis is pleased that the group opted to go into a studio.
“The first thing you put out is very, very important, so why would you want it to be less?” he said. “It’s your first step forward, your calling card. It’s like, ‘Don’t you want it to be the very best?’ ”
The trio does feel they did their best on the “moody” album, which will be released on streaming services Nov. 12, with physical copies on hand for The Brass Rail show, as well as new T-shirts designed by Caleb North. They also plan to release vinyl albums and sweatshirts in time for Christmas.
“There are a lot of quiet and unique things that they do that I think we preserved on the record,” Davis said. “It’s definitely moody, but, I mean, there’s some rockers on there, too.”